Sweet Montilla-Moriles wines, delectable artisan goat’s cheese, wonderful seasonal vegetables and Spain’s best olive oil are just a few of the gastronomic delights of the Subbética region. In this olive-studded pocket of southern Córdoba province, visit multi-generation olive-oil makers, wander around central Andalucía’s wineries and feast on fresh-as-it-gets meals packed with local produce, before hitting the thrilling walking trails, cycling routes and other adventure activities.
The world’s best olive oil
Carpeted by a sea of olive trees, this beautiful corner of rural Andalucía produces some of the best olive oil in Spain (and the world), with a long tradition stretching back to Roman times. Priego de Córdoba’s endlessly awarded extra virgin olive oil revolves around small-scale producers of the picual, hojiblanca and picuda varieties, many of which are part of the celebrated Priego de Córdoba Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP). The neighbouring Denominación de Origen Baena is another famed Córdoba olive oil region (known especially for its picuda olives), as is the Denominación de Origen Protegida Aceite de Lucena, whose speciality is the hojiblanca.
Visitors can join in-depth olive oil tours at some of the Subbética’s almazaras (oil presses), where you’ll meet local producers and savour Andalucian olive oil tastings. Don’t miss an active trip through Andalucía’s olive oil history by going cycling or walking along the 128km Vía Verde del Aceite, a much-loved greenway made from a disused railway line across Córdoba and Jaén provinces.
The little-touristed Montilla-Moriles wine region, south of Córdoba city and bordering the Subbética, is celebrated across Spain for its range of excellent, sweet ‘sherry wines’. Although similar to Jerez sherries, Córdoba wines have their own distinctive character and are produced only from the sun-toasted Pedro Ximénez grape. Plus, unlike the Jerez wines, these are not fortified wines, as they naturally reach the desired grade of alcohol. You’ll sample Montilla-Moriles wines all over the Subbética – a chilled fino is perfect with some olives or the local goat’s cheese after a hike through the Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas, while a glass of smokey oloroso pairs beautifully with a plate of ham and a syrupy-sweet Pedro Ximénez (PX) makes an ideal night-cap.
And you can also of course visit some of these terrific wineries near Córdoba for wine tastings, winery tours and other exciting wine tourism events, often in atmospheric centuries-old buildings laden with history. The main towns in the Montilla-Moriles Denominación de Origen (DO) include Montilla, Moriles, Lucena, Cabra and Doña Mencía, all with respected bodegas that showcase some of the finest winery tours in Andalucía.
Zuheros goat’s cheese
The prize-winning goat’s cheeses made around the white village of Zuheros are lauded as some of the best artisan cheeses in Spain. Most are produced from the milk of goats that roam the mountains and valleys of the Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas, working with local farmers who put organic practices first. Many Córdoba cheesemakers carry on traditions that have been in the family for generations, and you can learn all about their creations (and taste them!) at small-scale cheese factories such as Los Balanchares in Zuheros and Cortijo La Calzada in Almedinilla. Some Sierra de Zuheros cheeses are dusted with fine herbs or paprika, others are served dipped in olive oil from Priego de Córdoba – you’ll inevitably find a favourite.
And if you’re visiting in mid-September, don’t miss the annual Feria del Queso (Artisan Cheese Fair) in Zuheros, where you can sample artisanal cheeses from all over Spain, washed down with a glass of two of the local fino.
Fabulous fresh produce
Andalucía’s delectable fresh produce fires the Subbética’s kitchens, from Huelva’s zingy spring strawberries and Alcalá la Real’s tasty cherries (May/June), to the Subbetica´s incredible range of summer fruits and vegetables and autumn pomegranates and winter avocados from Granada. Typical local gastronomy revolves firmly around what’s in season and grown on the doorstep, with flavours often influenced by the region’s Moorish history, so no matter what time of year you visit the Subbética there’ll be a signature Córdoba dish on the table.
Many of the region’s best restaurants and B&Bs (such as Casa Olea and Hospedería La Era) buy much of their produce from the local organic farmers association, Subbética Ecológica. The association links up small, organic family growers with eco-minded local businesses, all focused on artisanal products and techniques.
Andalucian cuisine in the Subbética
The Subbética offers a tantalising taste of inland-Andalucía cooking, showcasing traditional regional recipes alongside forward-thinking menus. Local favourites include remojón (orange-and-salt cod salad), salmorejo (a thicker version of chilled gazpacho), savoury stews, flamenquín (serrano ham slices wrapped in pork loin then fried), berenjenas con miel (aubergines with cane honey) and gachas (a creamy anise-infused dessert of Moorish origin), as well as platters of jamón, goat’s cheese and other goodies.
A key delight of holidays in the Subbética is sampling rural Córdoba’s specialities at the local restaurants and tapas bars, such as creative Tres Culturas in Lucena, traditional Restaurante Zuhayra in Zuheros, or Restaurante La Ribera and Restaurante Río in Priego de Córdoba. The region’s lovely rural hotels and B&Bs are also great places for tasting your way through Córdoba gastronomy, and some of them (such as Finca Las Encinas) offer Spanish cooking classes for learning the secrets behind typical Andalucian dishes.
Best restaurants in the Subbética
Tres Culturas, Lucena Deliciously original recipes inspired by the culinary heritage of Lucena’s three cultures – Jewish, Islamic and Christian.
Japanish, Lucena Fabulous Spanish-Japanese fusion cooking, with a southern tapas twist.
Vaquena, Ermita de Cabra Surrounded by the Subbética’s rugged hills, Vaquena is locally loved for its sustainably sourced beef dishes.
Casa Frasco, Luque Fresh local produce fuels the kitchen at this well-established favourite opposite Luque’s Parroquia de la Asunción.
El Rincón Gallego, Cabra Savour the ocean-fired flavours of distant northern Galicia in pretty Cabra.
Best for an outdoor terrace
Japanish, Lucena Dine on imaginative fusion bites under the trees out on Lucena’s lively Plaza de España.
El Aljibe, Priego de Córdoba With an alfresco terraza in the shadow of Priego’s castle, El Aljibe is perfect for typical homemade cuisine.
Restaurante La Muralla, Priego de Córdoba Drink in the town buzz on this asador terrace, where grilled mushrooms are followed by succulent steaks and wood-fired treats.
Territorio Terraza, Lucena Another Lucena gem, specialising in world-wandering plates such as basil-and-burrata salads and zesty falafel burgers, served on a fairy-lit terrace.
Vaquena, Ermita de Cabra You can’t beat the rolling country panoramas from this secluded meat-lover’s dream outside Cabra.
La Tabernilla, Priego de Córdoba Going strong for 120 years, La Tabernilla works up Subbética classics opposite Priego’s baroque Fuente del Rey.
Best for local cuisine
Bar Río, Priego de Córdoba A classic Priego address for expertly prepared traditional tapas and a good-value menú del día.
Casa Pepe “La Pianola”, Priego de Córdoba Whether you fancy a wild-mushroom revuelto (scramble) or a Sunday-lunch paella, long-established La Pionala delivers on superb local cuisine.
Restaurante Ribera, Priego de Córdoba Mediterranean flavours marry Córdoba produce with a splash of fusion-style creativity in Priego.
El Rincón Gallego, Cabra This beloved restaurant brings the fabulous cuisine of Atlantic-hugging Galicia to the Subbética, from grilled octopus to fresh percebes (goose barnacles).
Best for modern tapas
Japanish, Lucena Blending Andalucian and Japanese flavours to perfection, Japanish delights with oxtail gyozas, avocado-and-wakame salads and other innovative creations.
Zyrah, Priego de Córdoba For Priego’s finest experimental cooking (with local flair), try red-tuna tataki with mango, slow-cooked secreto ibérico and much more at wonderful Zyrah.
Territorio Terraza, Lucena From first-thing desayunos to late-night tapas, this original kitchen revolves around season-fuelled cocina viajera (‘travelling cooking’) – pulled-pork tacos, hummus with boletus, mango guacamole.
Vaquena, Ermita de Cabra The sprawling mountain views wow alongside the meaty cooking at this blissfully remote country restaurant, where the sustainable beef comes from its own cows and some dishes have a fun fusion twist.
Tres Culturas, Lucena With a perfect informal bar to tapear (‘eat tapas’), Tres Culturas fuses flavours from Christian, Islamic and Jewish Lucena, all with a contemporary spin.
Best hotel restaurants
Hotel-Restaurante Zuhayra, Zuheros Graze your way through platters of Zuheros’ famous cheeses, honey-drizzled aubergines and more at this popular spot.
Caserío de Iznájar, Iznájar Elegant local wines are paired with seasonally changing Andalucian menus, on a fabulous terrace gazing out on Iznájar’s twinkling lake.
Huerta de las Palomas, near Priego de Córdoba This ancient cortijo has a cosy winter dining room and a sunny summer terrace – perfect for sampling Subbética cheeses, salmorejo and other typical dishes.
Best B&Bs for foodies
Casa Olea, near Priego de Córdoba At this sustainably run rural B&B, home-cooked Mediterranean meals star freshly prepared tortilla, seafood-stuffed paella and platters of jamón ibérico along with the family’s own olive oil.
Best for dinner with a view
Casa Frasco, Luque You’ll be soaking up views across Luque’s Plaza de España and 16th-century church over delectable regional favourites.
Restaurante Los Palancos, Zuheros It’s all about traditional flavours and terrific views across rippling olive groves at Los Palancos, next to Zuheros’ Moorish castle.
Vaquena, Ermita de Cabra Brave the vertiginous road to superbly located Vaquena, which sits 1100m high overlooking the mountainous natural park and breeds its own free-range cows for beef.
Caserío de Iznájar, Iznájar The Subbética’s inland lake sparkles below this charming hotel-and-restaurant, where you can relax over seasonal bites and organic Andalucian wines.
Finca Las Encinas, near Iznájar Fragrant olive trees roll in every direction from ‘delicious B&B’ Las Encinas, which spotlights organic produce in such delights as salt-roasted sea bass or tomato-and-artichoke tagine.
Casa Olea, near Priego de Córdoba Watch the sun sink over an olive-sprinkled river valley while digging into a lovingly home-cooked meal rooted in sustainably sourced ingredients.