Valencia, city of tapas
If there is one thing Valencia's culinary offerings are known for, it’s variety and quality. Here people don't stave off their hunger, they revel in it! One of the best options is opting for tapas. These small plates uniquely combine various ingredients, sometimes with the effectiveness of the ancient alchemists. Small plates whose size and good price allow you to sample a range of flavours and preparations in the same meal. And they make you close your eyes to capture that instant in your sensory memory forever.
The proximity of ingredients harvested in l’Horta (Valencia’s farming area) and fish from our coasts is the best guarantee of freshness and excitement in Valencia’s tapas. Dare to sample the local tapas, small, locally sourced culinary miracles. And just one tip to help you always make the best choice. Valencia's network of municipal markets have taken over almost every neighbourhood. They are temples dedicated to seasonal foods and contain the best of the countryside, livestock farms and sea. If someone recommends a restaurant or bar near a market … you're not likely to go wrong!
It’s worth noting that Valencia has many exclusive spots for tapas, temples of the tradition of tapeo, gastropubs with gourmet, fusion or contemporary tapas. What is more, at many restaurants and rice spots, the starters menu is so extensive and varied that it's easy to skip the main course and order everything ‘family style’.
THE BEST LOCAL TAPAS
When the products are fresh and high quality, fancy tricks are not required. In the world of Valencian tapas, the motto is ‘less is more’.
Let’s start with clóchinas, similar in appearance to mussels, but much smaller, more delicate and with a more intensive flavour. They are only found in the waters off Valencia and are available between May and August, the months with no ‘r’. And they're not at all fattening! They are the house specialty at Casa Montaña (Josep Benlliure, 69), where they are cooked in their own juices with just a little water, and at La Pilareta (Moro Zeid, 13), also steamed, but with a bit of dried chilli and sweet paprika.
Esgarraet is another very Valencian dish. It has the simplicity of a masterpiece, combining desalted cod and roasted red pepper with a healthy splash of olive oil and some garlic. Delicious at La Pepica (Paseo de Neptuno, 6) and Pica’p (Pintor Segrelles, 7).
Titaina is a very local combination, featuring the best of sea and land, typically found in the Cabanyal neighbourhood, the closest to the Mediterranean. It is made with lightly fried tomato, roasted red pepper, pine nuts and a signature seafood product, tonyina de sorra, salted tuna belly. At Gastro Trinquet Pelayo (Pelayo, 6), they serve it with a modern touch.
It has long been said that good perfume comes in a small bottle. Well, that saying fits like a glove on the hand of another signature mollusc from the Valencian coast, tellinas. Their preparation is simple yet highly effective: grill, salt and a touch of garlic and parsley. Casa Isabel (Paseo Marítimo), Zacarías (Císcar, 16), and Bar Ricardo (Dr. Zamenhof, 16) offer guaranteed success.
Sepionet is a small, local cephalopod which also begs for a grill. Bite into one and experience a flood of flavours that leave their mark. At Bar Maipi (Maestro José Serrano, 1), they really know how to prepare them.
The older brother of sepionet is cuttlefish, which Valencia celebrates in various dishes, all delicious: cooked with onions, grilled, with mayonnaise … Bar Marvi (Santos Justo y Pastor, 14) and Mi Cub (Mercado de Colón) are great places to try it. There is one way to savour it that will surprise you, offered by Taberna La Sènia (Sènia, 2) in its cuttlefish noodles with house-made pesto.
All i pebre is eel stew flavoured with garlic and pepper, accompanied by potatoes and served in a clay ramekin. This dish, closely linked to L’Albufera Lagoon and its surrounding area, is done extremely well by restaurants like Mateu (Vicente Baldoví, 17. El Palmar).
Local recipes share space with many others, also exquisite, that will make your mouth water: patatas bravas (sautéed potatoes with spicy tomato sauce), batter-fried or grilled calamari, stewed broad beans, Russian salad, fried or pickled anchovies, baby squid or puntillas, grilled octopus, griddled or garlic prawns, snails, croquettes and a variety of Spanish omelettes … Also, at many Valencian tapas spots it is common to combine these tapas with charcuterie, Ibérico pork or cheese boards, montaditos (mini sandwiches) or sliced meats served family style.
And to explore the wines of the region, you can hire a guided tour with Valencian wine tasting and tapas. Another appealing option is an evening tapas tour of El Cabanyal, the former fishermen's quarter that has preserved all its charm, now one of the city's fashionable culinary districts.