Peniscola beach, Spain. | Photo courtesy of Clare Speak
Peñíscola, a historic coastal town north of Valencia, is a natural foodie paradise thanks to its location between the Mediterranean Sea and the fertile farmland of the Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast). As the name suggests, there’s an abundance of fresh citrus fruit as well as all kinds of other fresh produce, including famous artichokes from nearby Benicarlo, and of course plentiful fresh fish and seafood. No surprise, then, that there are some 200 restaurants to choose from in Peñíscola. While it can be tempting to go for the first restaurant with great sea views, it pays to look a little further. To help you find the perfect restaurant we’ve rounded up just ten of our favourites.
Carmen Guillemot de Peñíscola
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
The most highly-rated restaurant in Peniscola, this is a place that really cares about food. The owners, a couple who are both artists, have unleashed their creativity on the simple yet sumptuous menu, where dishes like Roquefort pâté, tuna carpaccio and baked lamb are done to perfection. Everything including the bread is homemade, using locally-sourced ingredients with a focus on slow food.
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For a really special lunch, seek out this cute restaurant in a quiet spot in the mountains, looking down on Peniscola and the sea. Not only are the views spectacular, but chef-owner Sebastien cooks up a varied menu that’s more adventurous than most in town, using the best local produce.
Cream of roasted pumpkin, lemon sorbet and carob biscuit at Restaurante Tio Pepe, Peniscola.
It’s just a short stroll from the beach for lunch at Tio Pepe, the restaurant of a modern boutique hotel. The menu of Valencian dishes with a modern twist is mostly seafood-based, and everything comes well-presented and reasonably priced. Don’t miss their rice with red prawns and clams, and save room for one of their desserts, which are as delicious as they are pretty.
This popular seafood restaurant, or marisquería, offers authentic regional cuisine cooked to a high standard. This is a friendly place where no one will mind you licking your fingers (and possibly the plate) after dinner. Dishes to try include octopus with tomato, rice with lobster and good old seafood paella. Prices are very reasonable.
If you’re looking for fresh seafood prepared with love, this cosy restaurant run by fisherman Dani is the place to go. He’s been doing this for over 30 years, and when he’s not cooking he also organises fishing trips on his boat. Try local specialities like the dramatic-looking baby cuttlefish cooked in its ink, fried sea anemones in crispy batter, or even a sea urchin tortilla.
A view over Peniscola's Old Town rooftops and the sea.
If you picture yourself enjoying dinner while watching the sun setting over the Med, there are plenty of places you can do that here in Peniscola. But while many restaurants have sea views, not all are equal. This is a great pick either for a romantic evening or family lunch, with a great location by the castle looking out to sea and a good-value menu of well-prepared seafood and rice dishes.
Within the old town but tucked away from the busier streets, this popular local spot named after the owner is a great choice for seafood. Unusual dishes such as cazuela de rape or arroz con bogabante are completely homemade, and service is very welcoming.
Another central spot loved for its excellent seafood, here the star of the show is, as the name suggests, the pulpo or octopus prepared every which way. Especially popular is their Galician octopus, cooked atop a layer of crispy potatoes, but there’s also grilled and fried octopus as well as a plentiful octopus salad and large octopus croquettes. Make sure to book ahead.
On the walk uphill to the castle, you’ll pass through a narrow street of blue and white painted houses next to the pretty church of Santa Maria. This is where you’ll find Chiki, a friendly locally-owned restaurant where the owners want to showcase Peniscola’s traditional dishes. The menu is varied and, like elsewhere, there’s a lot of focus on fish and rice dishes. Prices are surprisingly reasonable and the dining room, with its original stone walls, is very atmospheric.
It can be difficult to judge the many restaurants in Peniscola’s Old Town, but this one is a delight. Specialising in traditional rice and seafood dishes, everything from the arroz a banda to the seafood platter is made with care and quality ingredients, but for locals it’s also a perfect stop just for a vermouth before lunchtime. Service is faultless and the price, while not the cheapest, is good value for money.