El Espejo, in Sanlúcar’s Barrio Alto, is a refreshing alternative to the typical shrimp omelettes and papas aliñás (seasoned potatoes) found in the bars around Plaza del Cabildo in the town centre or the fried fish and king prawns of the restaurants on the shore in Bajo de Guía. Chef José Fernández Tallafigo knows well what’s boiling in the stoves of this restaurant occupying the old stables of an 18th century mansion house which now houses the Hotel Posada de Palacio.
After a formative period that took him to restaurants in Bilbao, Cádiz (Sopranis, where he achieved a Bib Gourmand award), Limoges or Madrid, where he worked with celebrity chef Alberto Chicote, José returned to his native town in 2009 as head chef of El Espejo and became its owner in 2014.
“Since the beginning, the idea was to bring together the excellent sea and land products that we have in the region and pair them with the wines from Jerez”, explains José, who changes his menu every three or four months. He draws on what he has learnt during the years he has spent away from Sanlúcar to infuse his plates with culinary touches from other cultures like spider crab ravioli with green tomato gazpacho (€9) or fried pijotas —a traditional fish from the region— in tempura with tartar sauce (€5.20)
Aside from the à la carte menu, the best way to discover the food served at El Espejo is to try one of its tasting menus —the Short One (€35), with classic flavours in a renewed format or the Long One (€41.5), which includes two starters, six mains and two desserts and can be combined with different wine pairings ranging from whites, red and sweets to manzanillas and VOS and VORS wines.
The wine list, with around 150 brands at very reasonable prices, has been put together with the help of Armando Guerra, owner of Taberna der Guerrita, a must-visit place for all sherry and wine lovers. The list also reserves a small space for the newest productions in the region such as Alba Ancestral, a sparkling wine made in Sanlúcar, Forlong —a blend of Palomino and Pedro Ximénez, the whites made by Muchada-Léclapart or Tintilla Nude by Barbadillo and the reds made by Luis Pérez in Jerez as well as a bunch of classics like Viña Gravonia or Marqués de Murrieta (Rioja) and a good selection of natural wines, José's favorite style.
On spring and summer nights, there is nothing more pleasant than sitting at one of the tables in the outdoor patio —a quiet, relaxed spot without the noise of other restaurants in more central locations in Sanlúcar. In winter and on cooler days, the bar area with high tables and stools and the indoor dining area are a pleasant spot for a fine meal. Y.O.A.