La Rioja is one of Spain’s best wine regions, producing top quality bottles, which are sold around the world. Wine may be its most famous product, but you won’t go hungry as it has some delicious regional cuisine, too, from hearty bean stews and roast lamb to tasty fresh vegetables and seafood including cod, hake and bonito. Here are some of our top traditional restaurants in La Rioja.
Quite possibly the best restaurant in the whole of La Rioja, El Portal del Echaurren is the restaurant of the gastronomic Hotel Echaurren. The first restaurant in La Rioja to be awarded a Michelin Star, El Portal is headed up by chef Francis Paniego and offers two tasting menus – one based on products from the land and the other focusing on various parts of animals. It features innovative dishes such as cod fillet with a Riojan sauce, and snails and egg yolk with pepper sauce and rooster crests.
Michelin-Starred Venta Moncalvillo is run by brothers Carlos and Ignacio Echapresto – Ignacio a chef and Carlos an award-winning sommelier. Set in a country-style house, in the village of Daroca de Rioja, it offers four different dining rooms which can also be hired for private dining experiences and events. The seasonal menus feature regional products and exquisite plates such as migas (fried bread crumbs) with wild mushrooms and chestnuts, and suckling lamb loin with spiced eggplant and crispy lamb sweetbreads. The restaurant also has its own wine cellar, packed with some of the best bottles from the region.
La Vieja Bodega can be found in the small village of Casalarreina, 6km (3.7miles) from the town of Haro and 50km (31miles) from Logroño – the capital of the region. It’s housed in an old winery and offers a rustic flair with its bare-brick walls, terracotta tiled floors and dark wooden beams. The kitchen cooks up both traditional Riojan and more modern dishes, from baked hake fish in a pepper sauce to stewed bull’s tail with foie gras cream and mushrooms. They of course have an excellent wine list too.
Located in the village of Pipaona in the Ocón Valley, Alameda is a bar and restaurant with a 0-kilometre concept, owned by the couple Blanca and Blas. Focusing on good home-style cooking made with organic ingredients, the menu features dishes such as baby goat, meatballs from Blanca’s mother and cod with a Riojan pepper sauce. The stand-out dish however is the traditional roasted suckling pig, which can’t be missed.
The Marqués de Riscal is an old winery paired with a new age futuristic hotel, designed by the architect Frank Gehry. Its Michelin-starred restaurant uses traditional ingredients but takes cuisine to an avant-garde level with its innovative serving and cooking methods. Head chef Juan Bautista Peñas, under the direction of Francis Paniego, cooks up stunning-looking dishes including sweet ravioli stuffed with pig snout and squid noodles; hake served with vanilla-scented cream and hot pepper air; and artichoke heart with cream of potato, egg yolk and black truffle. These are all of course served with the best quality vintages from the vineyard next door.
La Cocina de Ramón can be found in the lively city of Logroño, known for its excellent tapas bars. Situated right next to the Mercado de Abastos, the city’s central market, the restaurant’s menu features lots of quality market-fresh ingredients. Think slow roasted pork shoulder, roast wild turbot with chilli and garlic, and sausage dumplings with peppers. Vegetarians will also find a few dishes on the menu including sweet onions with a poached egg and soya sauce, beans with summer truffle and grilled leeks with toasted almonds.
Located in the town of Fuenmayor, Mesón Chuchi is housed in a lovely old building, which looks like the crypt of a church, with ribbed vaulted ceilings, chunky stone pillars and elegantly-carved statues. Opened since 1984, it specialises in classic Riojan recipes and produce, as well as roasted meats, such as suckling pig, roast lamb and kid. Start with seasonal vegetables including peppers with anchovies, artichokes with ham or grilled mushrooms, before moving on to the meat or seafood mains. Pair these with a bottle of wine from the restaurant’s own cellar, and end with one of their delicious homemade desserts, from coffee flan to cheesecake, rice pudding and custard.