Casa Montaña is among the more unusual restaurants in Spain, where dining feels almost as though you’re inside a winery. Having opened in 1836, it’s also one of the oldest restaurants in Valencia – where huge wooden barrels overlook diners tucking into plates of classic tapas, such as boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar), patatas bravas and thin Iberian ham. When it comes to drinks, there is a huge selection of vermouths and wines by the glass, including locally produced cava.
If you’re looking for an authentic paella experience in Valencia, look no further than La Pepica – which is conveniently located across the road from Cabanyal Beach. This restaurant has been a local institution since the late-19th century. The food experience begins on entry: you must pass the bar and open kitchen to reach the dining space, which allows time to observe the chefs manoeuvring huge paella dishes around on the large cooker. As with most restaurants, there must be at least two people in your group to order paella.
If you want to try paella in the place where the dish is thought to have been invented, head 17km (11mi) south of Valencia to El Palmar, where you will find a large cluster of excellent paella restaurants alongside little canals. Maribel has a pleasant terrace overlooking the water; the chefs here kindly accommodate solo diners who wish to try the paella. While you’ll normally find a vegetarian paella wherever you go, Maribel cooks up three great vegan options too, including one with bulgur, turmeric, shiitake mushrooms and fresh vegetables.
Palace Fesol opened in 1909 and has changed very little since. The restaurant is in a beautifully rustic old building with bare brick walls, wooden roof beams and clusters of black-and-white photos of famous local luminaries from days gone by. There’s a tile mural on one wall, depicting a rural scene that is reminiscent of El Palmar. The paella valenciana here is particularly quirky – in addition to the normal ingredients of chicken, vegetables and rabbit, you’ll also find snails, whole in the shell.
By bringing Basque Country culinary sensibilities to central Valencia, Sagardi has become one of the more popular places to go for the lighter, tapas-style bites known as pintxos. These creative concoctions pair unusual ingredients atop a slice of crusty bread. Highlights at Sagardi include the tortilla with roasted red peppers and aioli, and anything they do with goat’s cheese. There are plenty of mains, too – with the aged beef tenderloin being a highlight. If you get a taste for Basque cuisine then you can always join our Basque Mini Trip, where you’ll go on a pintxos tour of Bilbao.
Pry open the piggy bank because Valencia’s Ricard Camarena has two Michelin stars. There’s something otherworldly about the presentation and technique on display here, but the best surprise is reserved for the tastebuds. The tasting menus regularly change – the grilled monkfish, toasted coriander, courgette and spicy tangerine give you a sense of what to expect, though. This restaurant has also received a Michelin green star for the thoughtful sustainability that goes into the sourcing of ingredients.
You have to delve into the heart of Valencia Market to find Central Bar, passing stalls packed with fresh fruit, hanging hams and seafood on ice along the way. Although it looks like a simple albeit well-appointed eatery, the work done by head chef Ricard Camarena and his team has given each dish a gourmet twist. Pull up a seat amid the gentle din of market life and try the specialties such as grilled squid and buñuelos de bacalao.
Top marks for the weirdest interior decoration in Valencia go to Gallina Negra. Graffiti-style murals are presented like canvasses on the wall – with one including a particularly creepy clown – but all of this is blended with a vaguely familiar rural chic to create a lively and uplifting atmosphere. The artistry makes its way onto the plate too, with thoughtful and usual dishes such as the pollo asado con carbonara – the chefs who started Gallina Negra trained at Ricard Camarena.
More of a cafe than a restaurant – but a must-visit spot for any food-centric tour of Valencia – is Santa Catalina, an orxateria where you can buy creamy horchata and soft churros dusted in powdered sugar. The classy interior includes marble pillars and beautiful tile murals depicting antiquated pastoral scenes. The horchata, made with crushed tiger nuts, pairs well with a farton, a long thin brioche covered in sugar – with an admittedly hilarious name – that’s perfect for dipping into the horchata.
This is a rewrite of an article by Rebecca Wilkinson.
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