Repsol’s ‘Soles Guía Repsol’ is a Spanish institution that is on a par with Michelin or Les Routiers in France, or the AA in the UK. Their new guide admits five restaurants in the Comunidad Valenciana into this hall of fame, joining the previous total of 50 in the Comunidad with this prestigious accolade. Eugene Costello reports…
Repsol announced the new restaurants that will be included in the Guía de los Soles, awarded to the best kitchens in Spain and Portugal, at a ceremony in San Sebastian this week. And five restaurants in the Comunidad Valenciana have been included in this exclusive selection for the first time.
The restaurants that have achieved a Repsol Sol are Arrels in Sagunt; Entrevins, La Sastrería y Toshi in Valencia city and El Xato, in Alicante. They are judged on culinary excellence, the quality of the ingredients, the execution of the dishes, respect for the cuisine of the region, their wine lists, ambience and service. We profile these new entrants.
Located in the old stables of the Palace of the Dukes of Gaeta, near the historic castle of Sagunto.
They say: we pride ourselves on “product, market and local cuisine with a strong signature and avant-garde touch that gives our dishes their own personality.”
They work with seasonal produce, so menus vary throughout the year. Customers often praise the pairing of food and wine.
Carrer del Castell 18, 46500 Sagunt, Valencia; (+34) 606 75 40 76; restaurantarrels.com
In the heart of the Old Town of Valencia – Ciutat Vella – and near the famous Plaza de la Reina, this modern light and airy restaurant also has a dining room with a section of the historic city wall and ambience galore.
They say: “Our passion is to cook with fresh products and pair each dish with excellent wines from small wineries with their own identity. In this way, we turn our dishes into great experiences adapted to the most demanding palates.”
Customers rave about the wine from small and independent makers, something that is reflected in the restaurant’s name.
Primer Piso, Calle de la Paz 7, 46003 Valencia; (+34) 963 33 35 23; entrevins.es
The name of the restaurant means The Tailoring, and is partly because it is an old tailor’s shop, partly a nod to the produce and wine selection. In the vibrant seaside neighbourhood of Cabanyal, an area very much on the rise.
They say: “One door opens to the sea, another door to Canyamelar. Two restaurants in the same space. The entrance to the basement bar or a balcony overlooking the gastronomy waves. In an old tailor shop between seaside streets, a new commitment to the heartbeat of the neighbourhood. Like our tiles, a kitchen made by hand. Conceived, in his kitchen, by Sergio Giraldo, and especially by the Valencian studio Masquespacio.”
Customers say: “Great decor for a new restaurant in the hip Cabanyal neighbourhood by the harbour and the beaches. Lots of excellent and imaginative seafood dishes,” and worth every céntimo.
Carrer de Josep Benlliure 42, 46011 Valencia; (+34) 960 83 52 25; lasastreriavalencia.com
Hidden away in El Carmen and close to Turia, Japanese chef Toshiya Kai has created a perfect blend of inspiration from his own country with Mediterranean flavours and execution.
They say: “Good quality products and cooked with respect, to try to offer dishes full of flavour and without artifice. In a small and intimate setting, where the only barrier between the diner and the cook is the bar. A distance that makes the dish be served at the moment, when the ingredients are there is its maximum expression to taste.”
Customers say: “I can attest to it being the best culinary experience in Spain. An obscure doorway on Calle Salvador will lead you to a ten-seater restaurant where you can watch a master craftsman at work. Toshi and Felix have created a menu that is fresh, innovative and locally sourced. The tasting lunch menu is €50 comprising six courses, incredible value for money. Each dish was standout, but the best was probably the calamari pasta. Incredible.”
Carrer del Salvador 5, 46003 Valencia; (+34) 673 753 347; toshi.es
Alicante is represented for the first time in Repsol’s Guía de Soles, and it is the Xato. It has been in the same family for more than a century, after first opening its doors in 1915, by the Cano family. Originally a wine cellar and a tapas bar, the present incumbent who has won them this accolade is Cristina Figueira, who started plying her trade by helping her mother-in-law to cook some 30 years ago, when El Xato was still simply a tapas bar.
I had no idea what xato meant – I thought it was Valenciano for château – so I asked my very wise Uncle Wiktorius (our family nickname for him is Tío Wiki). He told me, wisely, “Sobrino, xato is a typical regional dish. It is a sauce made with almonds, hazelnuts, breadcrumbs, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt, and the nyora pepper. The sauce is often served with an endive salad prepared with anchovy, tuna and dried and salted cod (bacalao).” So now we know. Cheers, Uncle Wiki, salud.
It’s the only one of all to receive five stars out of five on Tripadvisor and 9.6/10 on gastronomy website The Fork (thefork.com), so they get the bragging rights.
They say: “Our chef likes being close to customers – “Let them enter as clients and leave as friends.” Our cuisine is based on the environment and on memory, based on traditional dishes, but giving them a twist to offer an updated Mediterranean cuisine.”
Customers say: “The most wonderful gastronomic experience we have ever had…..the service was second to none….EVERYTHING explained to you in detail and the presentation was superb. Lovely friendly atmosphere. We loved everything… nothing not to like. We will definitely be back.”
Avenguda l’Església 3, 03530 La Nucia, Alicante; (+34) 965 87 09 31; elxato.com
And these five are only the latest; with 50 more to choose from across the Comunidad Valenciana, you now have no excuse not to treat your partner for their birthday or an anniversary…
Story by freelance journalist and writer, Eugene Costello, formerly based in east London and now living in Valencia, Spain, founder of The Valencian https://eugenecostello.co.uk/