Rancho Cortesano: The Most Family Friendly Restaurant in Jerez de la Frontera
Standing in line at gift shop of Rancho Cortesano Museum of Honey and Bees (Museo de la Miel y las Abejas) recently, I started to get teary eyed. We don’t leave Spain for almost a full year, yet it hit me in that moment that I will truly miss this special farm and restaurant. That was the first time I felt that pull about something of this Spanish life of ours. But I guess that’s how special Racho Cortesano is.
I’d almost always choose to eat at home with family and friends than at some restaurant. I love the idea of people making themselves comfortable and lingering over wine and moving from the back porch to the living room. And when kids are involved, I so prefer that little ones can move about and play and parents don’t have to fuss quite as much. Rancho Cortesano is all of that, plus you don’t have to cook or clean.
For the restaurant portion of the farm, there are plenty of tables in and outside and on the big front porch. My favorites are under pergolas and shaded by growing vines and large trees. On most weekend afternoon, large Spanish families and groups of friends fill every table. Adults are able to order wine and coffee and craft beers, while the children run to the playgrounds that inspire climbing and creative play. They wander among the peacocks and visit with donkeys and goats, right up until their food is served.
The food is all vegetarian, and not your typical Andalusian fare. For a reasonable set price, you can serve yourself at the salad bar, and then select a main entrée and a dessert. Because the pumpkin soup on the salad bar is so delicious, I would never pass up the full menu. There is also a children’s version that includes an entrée and dessert. Everyone is always happy and full. There is also a small market shop where you can purchase Racho Cortesano honey and honey products, small souvenirs, and other organic products.
But Rancho Cortesano is far more than just a restaurant and playground. On the weekends, you can take a tour of the beekeeping side of the establishment. After an introduction to bees and honey production, everyone suits up in beekeeping gear. Even preschoolers can join in the fun with child-sized outfits. Afterwards, you get to roll beeswax candlesticks and make clay candle holders. Finally, you pour your own small jar of honey for the road.
On one quiet visit, a waitress came and grabbed our kids to help her feed all of the animals. Then, they went with her to help plant seeds in the greenhouse. It was the first time that I saw how much Spanish our son understood, and how easily he joined in learning and play with Spanish children. While the managers speak English and are most helpful, most of the waitresses stick to Spanish. As they should, especially when they are so welcoming to all.
On some weekends, you can join a potter to mold clay. During the full moon in August, dinner was followed by a free moon watch, complete with telescope and giant hay bales for sitting. It is one of those special places where you are made to feel at ease and at home. Kids are allowed to do the things that kids do best, and adults can sit back to watch and relax.
We have said goodbye to friends here, and welcomed new friends. We have feasted with grandparents, when we wanted to show them the favorite parts of our life. When I map out our remaining months, I account for several more visits, knowing it will be one of our last meals and most precious goodbyes.