Jerez de la Frontera is a classy city. The people here actually look down their noses at those from neighbouring Seville. And that takes some doing!
When it comes to eating out, Jerez is equally high class.
The first time I went there I had lunch at Restaurante Gaitan. This is one of those long established, well known restaurants where the walls are adorned with framed photographs of the owner with the most famous people of Spain.
I was a little concerned as the restaurant was empty when I arrived. And, no, I had not got there too early. But there was no reason to worry. I suspect Restaurante Gaitan is just the same whether empty or full.
And the place soon filled up. I suspect most of my fellow diners were regulars. People who have been going there for years. Diners who like consistency when it comes to the food and the service.
And in charge of both is the owner Juan Hurtado. You get the impression that this man has forgotten more about Spanish food than most of us will ever know. But he is not remotely arrogant about it. I noticed that he treated all customers the same. First time visitors and regulars. Nobody was on the receiving end of special privileges.
The food was special. To this day his serving of big and tasty king prawns with sea salt remains the best version of this simple meal I have tasted on my travels around Spain. They were sublime. And they were presented perfectly. Taking that for granted can be a mistake. Food can often tasted better when delivered to you looking good.
At Restaurante Gaitan it not only looks good but tastes even better.
If you are there on a hot day, cool down with a great tasting Gazpacho. The croutons were imaginative, stuffed with beef and a homemade kitchen speciality.
While I enjoyed gigantic langoustines as a main course, my partner spoke glowingly of her lamb confit cooked in honey and local sherry. She was right. I stole a portion and it was very tasty.
Also on the menu were dishes such as a very typical meal of this area, Rabo de Toro (bull's tail), anchovies landed at nearby Sanlúcar de Barrameda and some inventive rice based dishes.
Gaitan has all the appearance of one of those places I might avoid, thinking that the place is living off past glories. Owner Juan is famous himself in Jerez, but he receives fewer high profile celebrity visitors these days. It´s nothing personal. It is because if your are famous in Spain today you are meant to be seen dining in one of the exclusive restaurants in the north of the country.
But Juan and his staff keep alive the tradition of serving top quality food in the province of Cadiz.
Restaurante Gaitan is not the best restaurant in the province. It may not even be the best restaurant in Jerez de la Frontera. But it is consistently good.