IT is almost the very definition of a ‘dining secret’.
High in the hills in an obscure location ten minutes from Vejer, Patria is one of those destination restaurants that you really have to make an effort to visit.
Hidden away in a scruffy hamlet, arriving is certainly part of the adventure.
And, once there, the contrast between the humdrum nearby houses and the pretty rural diner couldn’t be more distinct.
For owners Ase and Thomas Donso have created a beautiful escape that wouldn’t be out of place in the Picos de Europa or Provence.
Everything from its flagstone terrace to vine-clad veranda is geared towards seduction.
Surrounded by vines, oleander and olive trees, its candlelit wooden tables and stylish interior draw you in further.
And thankfully your Danish hosts do not disappoint when it comes to the food.
Split into a three-course menu of the month and a more detailed a la carte offering, you will be spoilt with lots of vegetables, and almost all seasonal produce.
As Thomas explains: “The joy of cooking is about what’s in peak season. There is no need to import anything from far away.”
He raves, quite rightfully about the quality of the local produce, and adds: “We work around what our suppliers can provide us local be it wild asparagus, rabbit or bulls’ heart tomatoes.
“It is all about being able to adjust, change and create.”
And this is certainly what he and his Peruvian sous chef Pedro are doing in the kitchen.
The food is as light, fresh and exciting as you could possibly expect in Andalucia.
A tartaki of thinly sliced beef served with pickled Swedish-style vegetables is a wonderful starter and only beaten by the original tomato and mozzarella salad served with basil ice cream and pine nuts.
Smoked sardines come out with pic
kled figs, while thinly sliced duck comes out with a coriander and orange source and delicious balls of foie gras that explode in the mouth.
The red snapper served with asparagus and green beans sautéed in butter and pine nuts, was about as beautifully cooked as could be imagined.
And finally, the ingenious ‘cerviche of Strawberry’ pudding with lime, chilli, crème anglaise and pistachio was a wonderful way to finish.
With an interesting and varied wine list fused with a dozen Sherries and interesting hand-picked wines from around Spain, in particular an interesting red from Cuenca, called Patio, you will be in capable hands.
To use an old phrase of former dictator General Franco ‘Todo por la Patria’!