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Restaurante Crepería Santa Fe - Tarifa (Cadiz)

When chef Benoit Mangeon arrived in Tarifa, it wasn’t a baguette he was hiding under his arm. Intent on making authentic Breton crêpes, he came with 25 kilos of flour and two griddles. What started out as a crêperie has grown to become a French-Spanish restaurant in Tarifa in which to savour history in every mouthful. An unexpected voyage to the world of French gastronomy in the midst of the Alameda.

By: Laura Gris

Restaurant and crêperie
Birth: 2000
Founded by: Benoit Mangeon
Location: Tarifa (Cádiz)
Price: € 12 crêpes, € 25 menu
Stands out for: traditional recipes
Did you know? crêpes are made with buckwheat

These days it’s not enough to say a tomato is a tomato or that bread is bread when at times neither of them taste the way they should. When it comes to food, we’ve ended up identifying products for all the wrong reasons. It’s as if our palate has been wiped clean, forcing us to redefine the tastes we experience. In 2000 Benoit Mangeon decided that his crêpes would taste like crepes. Not only did he manage, but a visit to his restaurant will take you on a voyage to Brittany with each and every mouthful.

Mangeon fell for Tarifa [1] on a sailing trip. Like many who fall for its unique charm, he decided to make it his home returning with the firm conviction to open his own restaurant: Santa Fe was born. Over time it has evolved from being the first crêperie in the area to becoming a restaurant offering a wide range of French and Spanish food.

In the midst of the Alameda in the centre of Tarifa [1], locals and tourists come to taste his culinary creations. There are dozens of options, from salads to desserts, all served up on the rustic dining tables shipped in from an old Breton crêperie located under ancient cooking utensils that hang from the walls.

“I’m not a crêpe fanatic, but the person who taught me was. I learned to make them like he did and that’s what makes them taste so good,” explains Benoit Mangeon, a chef educated in Brittany and the Alps. As he describes the history and process of creating his renowned crêpes, he can’t quite contain his enthusiasm: “We make our crêpes in the traditional way using buckwheat. In Brittany this Saracen wheat was the bread of the poor at a time when wheat flour was heavily taxed. They even used it to make soup”.

A more perfumed alternative to conventional wheat flour, buckwheat gives the crêpes at Santa Fe a more intense and rustic flavour. “Some people are taken aback by the difference, but you need to educate your palate and take a chance. I don’t like cooking the same as everybody else. It’s not about being the best, but about offering something different and giving people the opportunity to choose,” comments Mangeon. The star crêpes on the menu include the Tres guarniciones (tomato, onion and mushrooms), Cabra (goats cheese, lettuce, honey and walnuts) and Provenzal (ratatouille served with eggs). Make sure you ask for the chefs recommendations. If they offer you the chance to combine your crêpe with French cider, give it a go. It’s an exquisite combination.

If you feel like something different, there are several options on offer. The dishes created with duck are great: foie, duck salad, magret and confit are just some of their specialties. Don’t miss out on the Tartiflette (a pie with potato, bacon, onion and cheese au gratin), the Gratin Dauphinois or Fondue Pochtronne (made with wine and meat). And leave some space for dessert: all sorts of sweet crêpes including the classic chocolate and caramel, or even the Normande made with flambéed apple and Calvados.

These days it’s not enough to say a tomato is a tomato and that bread is bread. It’s not hard to see that it’s getting harder to find something “different” or authentic. Sitting out on the terrace of the Restaurante Crepería Santa Fe, as the sun sets and the levante takes a rest, or even in its cosy dining room in the winter months, let the kitchen work its magic and discover flavours that seem to be getting lost in the passing of time as chefs utilize unpronounceable ingredients to create dishes with complicated names in neon lit restaurants. Come and savour the taste of Brittany in the centre of Tarifa.