Already highly regarded as the region that spawned many a famous chef, Valencia also attracts renowned chefs from further afield. Amongst them is Quique Dacosta, the multi-Michelin-starred, Spanish-born culinary legend who started cooking at the tender age of 14 and has gone on to be named amongst the top ten chefs in the world.
In 2015 Dacosta had another reason to celebrate, when his eponymous restaurant in Denia, Alicante was ranked number 39 among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 by prestigious British magazine Restaurant.
As the chef accredited with creating a whole new style of cuisine in Valencia in the late 1980s, it is fitting that the city plays host to three of his restaurants. “Valencia is beautiful, open, and modern, and at the same time culturally unknown,” Dacosta says. “I think there is no city that is comparable.”
Dacosta’s company Daco&Co has pioneered new gastronomic concepts since it was established in 2010, with its first venture coming in the form of Valencia’s MercatBar (www.mercatbar.es). This casual, reasonably priced eatery offers classic tapas with an intriguing twist. While dishes are embedded in the geography and history of the region, they are infused with international flavours, such as the crunchy fideos rice with seaweed and madras curry.
His second outlet comes in the form of Vuelve Carolina (www.vuelvecarolina.com), an elegant gastrobar offering premium quality tapas with an emphasis on both tradition and innovation. Rice plays a key role in the menu and Dacosta acknowledges that it is an ingredient of the region he particularly appreciates. “Not only for the ingredient itself, but for what it represents for our culture, our people, our economy, farmers in recipes and ways of cooking,” he says. While these tapas do not come cheap, their quality is impeccable and the exquisite wine list comes courtesy of an award-winning sommelier.
Completing Dacosta’s restaurant menu is El Poblet (www.elpobletrestaurante.com/). This Michelin-starred, high-luxury location embodies an authentic vintage elegance. Dishes come from traditional Valencia cuisine but Dacosta has taken them through an evolutionary process, to offer a historical tasting menu with such delectable dishes as fried oyster, rose petals and Iberian pork roast, as well as rice with smoked eel and cherries.
For art’s sake
Valencia is also currently showing an exhibition in Dacosta’s honour. Quique Dacosta: Cultural Landscapes will be shown in the Museo Valenciano de la Ilustracion y la Modernidad (MuVim) until November 29th. It takes visitors on a conceptual journey of his career through a closer look at his creative processes, illustrated through video, photography, set design and reproductions of his most iconic dishes.
Dacosta’s food celebrates the ingredients birthed by Valencia’s natural landscape, with the seafood and fish of the Mediterranean and the edible plants and spices of the Valencia region prominent in his cuisine. “I believe that the Mediterranean diet is not just a diet, it is a philosophy and a way of life,” he says, “and it continues to evolve.”