Valencia’s food is simply delicious! Plenty of fresh produce from the surrounding huerta and the sea, washed down with local wines, and prepared in a variety of ways, from the more traditional tapas to innovative fusion cuisine. But would you know what to order, where and when? If you want to mix with the local crowd, here are some simple tips to eat as Valencians do:
- Breakfast is just the start. For many it is just a quick coffee at home before heading to work. At a café, you may add some churros (typical Spanish fried-dough pastries) or a simple toast with olive oil. A typical breakfast will also include a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice – with so many orange groves surrounding the city, Valencians wouldn’t touch the bottled version! Good places for breakfast include Moltto o Bertal in Plaza de la Reina), MiCub en Mercado Colon, or La Más Bonita (Playa de la Patacona)
- Don’t try to do any serious business around mid-morning, that is almuerzo time. Some Valencians may skip breakfast, but almuerzo (esmorzaret in Valencian) is sacrosanct! This is the time to take a break from work to eat some kind of savoury snack, maybe an omelette baguette or a slice of toasted bread with ham and tomato, washed down with a small coffee (an espresso or a cortado, with a bit of milk), or a glass of orange juice. Try the typical esmorzaret at La Bernarda (Mercado de Tapineria). Now you are truly ready to battle through the day.
- Tapas are meant to be an aperitivo, a snack before a meal, and not a meal in themselves. You will see people sharing a few as a starter in restaurants, or they may pop in a bar for a quick bite and a caña (beer) before heading home for lunch. No need to find a table, just stand by the bar and order whatever the bar is most famous for. At La Pilareta, that would be clóchinas (the Valencian word for mussels), discarding the shells in the buckets at your feet. At Tasca Angel, the eccentric owner may put a plate of sardines in front of you before you even ask. You should also try the typical esgarraet, a salad of grilled red peppers with cod, or the local tellinas (small clams), when in season (roughly May to August).
- At some point during your visit to Valencia you must try a paella – either the traditional Valencian paella, with chicken and rabbit, or one of the many other rice varieties you will find in menus. Just make sure you have it for lunch, not dinner! You could try one of the restaurants along Paseo Neptuno (the seafront promenade) like La Pepica, or take a trip to the Albufera, where the rice is grown. Sunday lunchtime is the most popular time for paella so make sure you book in advance.
- For a mid-afternoon drink, there is nothing like horchata, the refreshing drink made of tiger nuts, something quintessentially Valencian. You will find it everywhere, but it is worth trying one of the traditional horchaterias like Horchatería Daniel at Mercado de Colón. Don´t forget to order some fartons (typical doughnuts) to go with it!
- At dinner time, there is plenty of choice in Valencia, particularly in districts like Ruzafa or the traditional El Carmen, from the most traditional tabernas to restaurants serving modern fusion cuisine. Just remember that Valencians eat late and places won’t get going until 9pm at least. For example, Ma Khin Café at the beautiful Colon Market, run by an Anglo-Burmese, offers a modern take on Mediterranean cuisine with an Oriental touch. Other fashionable places for eating out in Valencia include Canalla Bistro by Ricard Camarena in Ruzafa, El Colmado de la Lola (an old grocery converted into a restaurant in Calle Bordadores), La Salita with local chef Begoña Rodrigo (Calle Séneca 12) or Doña Petrona (Calle Padre Perera 5), by the former chefs of the renowned El Poblet restaurant. Or if you want to splash out, book one of the Michelin starred restaurants like Ricard Camarena, Riff or Restaurante Casa Manolo.
- The night is young and, particularly at weekends and during festivals, Valencians will stay out until 3am or later, enjoying a copa (cocktail) over some good banter with friends. This is the time to try Agua de Valencia, the typical Valencian cocktail, made with fresh orange juice, cava and other secret ingredients – dangerously quaffable! The Café de las Horas, close to the Cathedral (Calle Conde Almodovar 1), or Café San Jaime (Calle Caballeros 51) are good places to try it.