ANYONE who lives in, or regularly visits, Spain will have no doubt about why it's practically impossible to find imported wines – why bother selling coal to Newcastle, or oranges to Valencia? With just about every...
Spain's star-studded restaurants: Michelin doesn't mean mega-bucks
NOW out on the shelves, this year's Michelin Guide has awarded or renewed stars for 159 restaurants in Spain – many of which need little introduction, and others which are complete outsiders waiting to be discovered.
The annual foodies' bible for Spain and Portugal keeps celebrity chefs in the spotlight and helps planning for special occasions – but for everyday dining, most mere mortals would find this élite dining experience way beyond the reach of their pockets.
Or would they? If you take a trip to Galicia, make sure you pop into Restaurante Nova in the city of Ourense, where the set taster menu comes in at a mere €28; in fact, with your average local eatery costing between €15 and €20 a head for two courses plus wine, the gap between an ordinary social Saturday evening or a can't-be-bothered-to-cook night and a one-starred Michelin outlet is just a few euros.
And even though Spain's most expensive Michelin-starred restaurant, Enigma in Barcelona, is nearly eight times the price, compared with its equivalents in London or elsewhere in northern Europe, €220 for the taster menu isn't over the top; at the very least, it's saveable-uppable for a one-off extra-special event like an anniversary or milestone birthday.
Plus, Albert Adrià is one of a family of celebrity chefs in Catalunya whose eateries have often appeared in the world's top 10.
What does it usually cost?
The average price for a complete meal, either à la carte or from a set taster menu, at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain is just under €82 a head with drinks on top, having risen by around 13% in the last year.
But they can still be very cheap for eateries of this calibre – in Aragón, the average meal ticket at a Michelin-starred restaurant is €57, making it the least-costly in the country, whilst the Basque Country is the most expensive at an average of €96, followed by the Balearic Islands at €86.
Catalunya's prices come in at around €85, and Madrid and Andalucía are the third and fourth-most expensive regions respectively.
But it is inevitable that Michelin-starred restaurants in large cities will be more pricey than those in the provinces or those inland from popular coastal holiday hotspots, meaning the actual cost for some of Spain's top eateries may well be below their regional average.
And a high number come in at less than €60 or even less than €50 for a full menu, with drinks on top, of course.
Spain's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants, starting at €35
After Ourense's Restaurante Nova, the second-cheapest Michelin-starred eatery in Spain is Lluerna (second picture), in Santa Coloma de Gramanet (Barcelona province) – very un-starry in appearance and with proper working chefs whom you'll never see on TV reality shows, its value for money is said to be unbeatable with a very filling taster menu at just €39.50.
It's not the only restaurant with a Michelin star that can feed you for under €40. In Barcelona city, chef Jordi Esteve's Nectarí – which won its place in the guide six years ago – features prices about the same as in any smart eatery in the metropolitan area, with its Monday-to-Friday set menu setting you back just €35 and including snacks plus a first and second course, and dessert.
Cocinandos in León, run by Yolanda and Juanjo, offers a weekly seven-course menu at what is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the city, costing €43 and decent enough that they have worn their gourmet star for so many years that they barely even notice it now.
Heading further west and nearly in northern Portugal, Restaurante El Ermitaño in Benavente (Zamora province) offers four different taster menus with prices starting from €45. The cheapest of these, called the 'Raúl Menu' after one of its chefs, includes an apéritif, two starters, one main meat course and a dessert – or, for €10 extra, you can add three glasses of wine, each one different and designed to match the separate courses. Having earned its Michelin star in 2016, El Ermitaño has not put up its prices to reflect its new-ish 'food Oscar', and is not much more expensive than most top-of-the-range eateries in Spain.
Celebrity chef Quique Dacosta appeared on Gordon Ramsay's Costa del Nightmares reality show on UK TV, where he was shown retraining restaurant-owning brothers on silver-service customer care and exquisite cooking – and his eponymous joint in Dénia (Alicante province) is definitely not among the cheapest in Spain; owing to its three Michelin stars, a typical lunchtime menu, for which the waiting list runs into months, costs a cool €165 with drinks on top. Restaurante Quique Dacosta on Dénia's Las Marinas coast road used to be called El Poblet, which caused confusion because the next village north is called Els Poblets. But the name has not died out: Dacosta's Valencia restaurant bears the name El Poblet, and its prices are far easier to save up for – several different set menu options of exceptional quality reflecting the work of a three-starred chef, but in a restaurant with one star, start at just €55 plus drinks. So, if you've always wanted to try out Quique Dacosta's handiwork but been terrified by the price tag at his main premises in Dénia, you can save yourself €110 and try the Valencia branch instead.
Classical Spanish dishes, a casual, informal atmosphere that seems to smack of a corner bar or tapas joint, and an average cost for a full meal of €40 a head, Tatau Bistro in Huesca, Aragón – about an hour south of the Pyrénées – netted its well-deserved Michelin star in 2015. It does not have a taster menu, but ordering à la carte rarely works out more than this price, net of drinks.
Combining Michelin stars with affordable grub is not easy in big cities, especially in Madrid; but just a few kilometres out of the capital in San Lorezo del Escorial, Restaurante Montia offers a 'basic' taster menu which seems to go on forever. For only €40, you get five apéritifs, four main courses, a cheese platter and a dessert; if you want to add a glass of wine for most or all of the courses, specially selected to complement them to the maximum, a supplement of €22 is charged.
One of the more pricey of Spain's 'cheap' Michelin restaurants is Venta Moncalvillo in La Rioja's smallest village, Daroca de Rioja, which earns the right to charge €60 for its set menu because of its spectacular wine cellar – in-house sommelier Carlos Echepresto's favourite 'toy' and one you really ought to plunder if you're in the area. And you won't go home hungry, either, since the €60 price tag includes six courses plus dessert.
One of Spain's more economical Michelin-starred restaurants, which won its distinction in 2015, chef Juan Uz's Arbidel in Ribadesella, Asturias (third picture) will whip you up an eye-watering eight-course meal for just €40. And if you're too full after all that to stagger home, Restaurante Arbidel shares its premises with a quaint rural guest house, so you can just crawl from the dining hall into your suite and crash out.
Although Michelin claims only three-starred restaurants are worth the journey for the dining experience alone, foodies anywhere in Spain would not be disappointed if they hopped onto the motorway down to Huelva, in the far south-west, to visit one-starred Acánthum. A taster menu with eight courses includes weird and wonderful-sounding creations with nettles and marinated mackerel and tuna, and costs just €48.
Push the boat out: Where to find Spain's three-starred restaurants
If you do want to go more up-market, chef Dani García has just become the only one in Spain to earn his third star this year for his self-titled restaurant in Marbella, whilst Basque chef Martín Berasateguí has kept his existing three for his Lasarte in Paolo Casagrande, Barcelona province and his eponymous premises in Lasarte itself (first picture), in the province of Guipúzcoa, the capital of which is San Sebastián. He has also earnt another the first one each for Oria in Barcelona and eMe Be Garrote in San Sebastián, giving him a total of 10 Michelin stars.
Berasategui has just opened a restaurant with panoramic views in Lisbon, called 50 Segundos, and is working on four more – a luxury eatery and another 'more sporty and casual' one in Bilbao, due to open at the end of this year, and two others in Madrid in 2019.
As for Dani García, who also owns BiBo in Madrid (fourth picture), his restaurant in Marbella is the only three-starred one on the Costa del Sol and just the second in Andalucía after Ángel León's Restaurante Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz province; in fact, Spain in total has just 11 eateries with three stars.
Those that have kept their three stars this year are Arzak, plus Pedro Subijana's Akelarre, in San Sebastián; Jordi Cruz's Abac in Barcelona; Dabiz Muñoz's DiverXO in Madrid, which has a nine-month waiting list; and the former world number one, El Celler de Can Roca (fifth picture), in Girona, which has an average waiting list of 11 months; and Eneko Atxa's Azurmendi, in Larrabetzu, near Bilbao.
New one- and two-starred restaurants
Restaurante Cocina in Madrid – run by the Torres brothers, TV reality regulars, who were forced to shut their Dos Cielos restaurant in the city in June – along with El Molino de Urdániz in Urdániz, Navarra and Ricard Camarena in Valencia, have now gone up to two stars, together with Restaurante Alma in Lisbon.
Others in Madrid which have won their first Michelin star this year are El Corral de la Morería, El Invernadero, Clos, La Tasquería and Yugo The Bunker.
Three on the Costa Blanca have gained their first star – Orobianco and Beat, in Calpe, and El Xato in La Nucia.
In Andalucía, Bagá, in Jaén, and Lu – Cocina y Alma in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz province) have netted their first stars, as has Carles Abellán's La Barra in Barcelona, Trivio in Cuenca and Molino de Alcuneza in Sigüenza (Guadalajara province) in Castilla-La Mancha, Ikaro in Logroño, La Rioja, A Tafona in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Cancook in Zaragoza, Aragón, Pablo in León and Paco Pérez's Terra in S'Agaró, Girona province.
Bilbao also has two new one-starred restaurants – Eneko Atxa's self-titled eatery, and Etxanobe Atelier.
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