We walked from Frigilana to the tiny village of El Acebuchal. Frigilana is the city where the Moors were defeated. El Acebuchal was the scene of fighting between socialist sympathizers hiding from the Franco fascists, leading to the abandonment of El Acebuchal. Despite all the political and religious chaos of the areas past, it is my favorite of all walks in Southern Spain.
The walk is 14k roundtrip when started from Frigilana, which sits above Nerja 15 minutes by bus. By taking the bus a little into the Sierras we can walk further into the mountains. The hillsides up to and past Frigilana are covered with orchards of avocados, cherimoyas and olives. The views back to the sea and Nerja are overwhelming. The walk is mostly uphill over the first mountain of the Sierra Almijara range and then a short walk down into the valley and El Acebuchal.
I knew it was going to be an interesting day when I saw that one of my heroes, John Keo, was also taking a group to Acebuchal on the same route. John Keo is a mountain climber that settled in Frigilana because of its location in the Sierras. He developed a business of leading hikers and climbers through the mountains. He takes people out to do things they never would have dreamed of on their own. I am not sure that the group knew what kind of treat they were about to have.
El Acebuchal is a town of maybe 30 people, maybe less. It has one restaurant. This is probably the best food I have ever eaten. The famous Spanish chef, Ferran Adria of the restaurant El Bulli, would probably agree with me. In Acebuchal it is simply two brothers and their father. The father was one of those forced to abandon the town. He returned and helped rebuild the town which was in ruins. This displacement may have had something to do with his willingness to experiment with Spanish cuisine. Spanish food does vary greatly by region but usually within a region it does not vary much over time.
One brother brought fresh baked crusty bread from an earthen oven that I saw him bring one minute before. The bread was yellow because it had corn meal and curry, along with flour and yeast. The bread was served with a bowl of their own olive oil, with oregano and salt for dipping. So simple but so flavorful.
The restaurant menu had entrees like wild boar, lamb or ox tail – food of the rural people. We decided to split a dish of venison with vegetable sauce. The venison had been cooked for four hours with vegetables. Then the vegetables were pureed and poured like gravy over the small chunks of venison. Very flavorful. It came with a side serving of “papas pobres” (poor persons potatoes) – potatoes sauteed with peppers and onions. We also had a tapa of three different kinds of croquetas. These are dumplings made with bechamel and then fried. One was a pumpkin croqueta, which I have never seen here, and it was exquisite. We sat outside and washed it all down with a cold beer.
Here is the link for the restaurant.
We purchased some bread and olive oil before leaving. Then it was an easy walk back downhill enjoying the vistas.
As we walked down into the outskirts of Frigiliana, I overheard one man say to another, “This is the closest one can get to heaven without dying.”