Friday, December 31, 2010


Oxtail stew is a well known dish in Britain. However my mother never cooked it, I have never been served it by friends nor have I eaten in a restaurant where it was on the menu. Hence I never ate it.

All of that change when I came to Spain, where in Andalucía at least, it is cooked in many a home and is a common item on menus from the best restaurants to country ventas. Indeed I am now an aficionado of rabo de toro or cola de toro and search high and low for the best in Andalucía and wider Spain.

The best I had tasted was in a venta just outside San Pedro de Alcántara on the road to Ronda. It was a magnificent dish which I ate often but the owners would never tell me the recipe other than to say anis was a vital ingredient. The venta still exists but I won’t tell you the name for it was sold over a decade ago and sadly the superb rabo de toro was not part of the deal.

Over the years I have eaten many rabo or cola de toro sadly good at best more often than not poor – some a disaster. Many of these were in restaurants in the town of Ronda which claims rabo de toro as a signature dish. This is largely because the town of the Tajo sees itself as the home of the modern bullfight with the oldest bullring in the country. However the bullfights only occur at the Plaza Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Ronda over the Pedro Romero feria and the number of bulls slain would not keep a busy restaurant in tails for more than a day or so. So the rabo or cola comes not from the ring but the slaughterhouse.

Now if you had asked me up till this week where you could find a truly magnificent rabo de toro I would have said only at the Venta San Juan in the Genal Valley between Algatocín and Jubrique. It is consistently a delightful feast with a rich sauce that is sublime.

So what has changed? Well on Thursday I ate at the famous Jerez restaurant – Gaitan. Cola de toro a la Jerezana was on the menu and what a treat it was – but was it better that the Venta San Juan?

The meat in both restaurants is excellent, softly just clinging to the bone. The Venta San Juan has a rich country sauce – again the owner would not tell me the ingredients – it’s a secret she said –but red wine plays a major part. In contrast Gaitan has a much clearer, more sophisticated sauce created from the wines (Sherries) of Jerez. It was not an easy decision but I have to say I now think Gaitan serves the best cola de toro in Spain with the Venta San Juan following closely on its hooves.

However I am happy to be proved wrong so will continue my search but for now I toast the Restaurante Gaitan and its talented kitchen for – el mejor rabo de toro en España.

No comments: