You never know what surprises are around the next corner.
I bought my house here in Vejer 20 years ago. In July 2003, I signed, paid, and collected the keys to my new Spanish holiday home.
It was never the plan to live here, but when I started to appreciate the delicious delights of Vejer, I realized, this is where I wanted to be. With all the sensational local produce, the Sherry triangle just up the road, and Morocco just across the Strait, it remains a pretty fabulous place to live.
I have seen restaurants come and go. Many of the old ones such as Arriate & The Pousada (the first place I ever ate in Vejer) have gone and many new ones have popped up. Some such as Califa (it had just opened in 2002), Bar Navarro, Pepe Julians, La Posta Pizzeria, Bar Peneque, El Pelanque & El Conejo still endure. I have visited them all.
But until last night, there was one un-visited restaurant I’d walked past for 20 years, that always held my curiosity. Why was it always empty? How can it keep going? Why does no one ever tell me anything about it? Then recently a chum told me that she had eaten there and was full of praise. So last night, along with a couple of other curious gourmands, and not many places to choose from in January, we ventured forth.
Hotel Convento San Francisco was probably the very first hotel in Vejer. It occupies a prime site on El Plazuela and is one of my favourite spots for tostada con tomate y café. I’ve maybe had one or two copas there over the years. Nothing more.
Originally a convent from the 17th century, initially inhabited by nuns and later monks, its website boasts – ” It preserves the sober and austere atmosphere created by its first inhabitants”. Nice. I might just go elsewhere.
I believe the building is owned by Vejer but is leased to Tugasa hotel chain. It is a unique building with spectacular original features. But it could be amazing, with an injection of cash and thoughtful interior planning/designing. It is a sad place with missing lampshades and a lack of love.
¿Como se llama ? I asked. “Luis” was the reply ¿De donde eres? – “from Vejer. We are all from Vejer. Yo y Ignacio & Carlos, los dos cocineros.” In all these 20 years, I don’t think we’d ever seen each other before.
We were the only 3 people in the dining room. Bright lights and gentle background music. Our table was simply decorated by an empty glass night light holder. A simple lit candle would have made all the difference. A great menu and a short but comprehensive wine list.
All dishes were shared.
- Sashimi of Atun
- Cecina y Payoyo croquetas – dried meat & goat’s cheese. 8 arrived, and none were left!
- Alcachofas con gambas y Jamón – artichokes with prawns & Jamón
Everything was absolutely delicious, in particular the artichokes. Artichokes here are normally preserved and fabulous. I’m guessing they were added to the pan whilst the prawns were being sauteed. Served warm with top quality Jamón atop. This was my star dish. Good quality warm bread to rebañar (wipe your plate clean!).
- Tacos de dorada – a filleted and diced sea bream, battered and deepfried
- Tremendous Ribera del Duero
- Presa Iberica – Iberian pork cut, pink and perfectly cooked with delicious mushrooms & potato wedges
All washed down with a couple of bottles of exceptionally good Ribera del Duero
Total bill for 3 people was around 135€. Almost half of that on the wine………
During the course of the evening, 3 other tables (1 x 4, 2 x 2) came and went. We outlasted them all!
If you are reading this and like me have been thinking of it, but have never actually been brave enough to go through the door, just do it. You won’t regret it. It was all really top quality and had great flavours. Nothing to fault, well maybe the missing night light.
If we give El Convento our attention and support, it might flourish and start reflecting the love.