Cantabria is anchovy heaven on earth. Santoña, Laredo, Colindres and Castro Urdiales, along with a few other places along the coast, are the undisputed source of this exquisite product, lovingly and meticulously prepared by hand. The anchovies are caught in springtime when they have the right balance of flesh and fat and, from then on, all the work is done by women. They are the ones who get up to go to work and with expert hands perform the entire production process. Slowly but surely, they salt and press the fish, leaving them to cure for several
months; then they are skinned, washed, trimmed, dried and filleted, and covered with olive oil. Rigorous quality control ensures firm and flexible flesh, with a colour that goes from reddish brown to a brighter, caramelized tone, and a perfect balance in taste and aroma between the fish, the salt and the oil. A joy for the palate, and don’t forget to take them out of the fridge a good few minutes before you begin the feast.
At the upper edge of the Plaza Cañadío, this attractive new tapas bar stands out with its stone, timber and yellow-painted frontage, offering what it claims to be the best anchovies in the world. Striking modern design with many Italian touches – many of their pinchos have Italian names – and a not-so-small boat hanging from the ceiling, there is a panel by the entrance recounting the history of this special local delicacy and the role played by the Oliveri, a family that moved here many years ago from Sicily.
Octavillo (serving of 8 fillets): 11.90 euros
Tins & jars for sale from 7.90 euros
Address: Gómez Oreña, 13 (Cañadío)
Tel: 942 031 158
Closed on Sundays
La Taberna de Santoña
A square bar, appropriately straightforward: they have cured meats, cheeses and a range of tinned preserves: Cantabrian anchovies, mussels in brine, tuna belly meat and more. The anchovies are of the Arlequín brand, a Santoña canning company which also sells its products online.
Octavillo (serving of 8 fillets): 5.80 euros
To take away: 6 octavillos for the price of 5
Address: Peña Herbosa, 18
Tel: 942 054 474
Bar del Puerto
This leading restaurant offers delicious (and generously sized) anchovy fillets that they prepare themselves. Unique flavours and textures, and they don’t come cheap. But go on – spoil yourselves.
Anchovy fillets: 2.50 euros apiece
Address: Hernán Cortés, 63
Tel: 942 213 001
Closed Sunday evenings & Mondays
La Caseta de Bombas
This beautifully designed place with its long bar offers up to fourteen different brands of salted Cantabrian anchovies, listed strictly in alphabetical order and served in tins de octavillo, which means that there are eight inside. A difficult choice to make…
Octavillo: between 7 and 10 euros
Tel: 942 742 668
Open every day