Savor the Extraordinary: Top 10 Must-Try Restaurants in Spain

By: Genevieve Mc Carthy / Last updated: April 11, 2024

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

The pace with which Spain has revolutionized its culinary landscape is one of the most dramatic cultural changes in the country in recent times. Once regarded as an insignificant player in the gastronomic arena, Spain is now bursting with exciting new venues, dynamic raw talent, and more than a few Michelin-starred restaurants that have attracted considerable global acclaim.

Top 10 recommmend Restaurants Spain

For a start, it’s the birthplace of Ferran Adria, the world’s most famous chef alive today and founder of the legendary El Bulli restaurant in a small village in Catalunya – which is sadly now closed to the public. But Ferran’s influence continues to permeate throughout the country, and many of Spain’s top chefs have done a stint in Adria’s kitchen. But, then, there’s the equally superb El Celler de Can Roca, winner of the San Pellegrino Best Restaurant award in 2013. Not to mention the Basque region’s firmament of famous names, including Juan Mari Arzak, Pedro Subijana, Eneko Atxa, and, of course, Martin Berassetegui, who currently boasts more Michelin stars than any other Spanish chef, let there be no doubt: foodies on a culinary tour of Spain are going to be seriously spoilt for choice.

Traditionally, the Basque country region was considered the primary source of high-end gastronomy. However, in recent times, the Catalans have been giving them a serious run for their money! And in fact, excellent restaurants can now be found across the Iberian peninsula, even in such remote destinations as Extremadura. There has also been a noticeable broadening of Spanish cuisine influences in recent times, with mass immigration into urban Spain adding ethnic variety to a gastronomic scene offering abundant tradition, adventure, and excitement. The only major problem for visiting foodies is knowing where to start.


Restaurant Atrio

Restaurante Atrio Website: Read more

The darling of Madrid’s well-healed elite and visiting gastronomes, Atrio is possibly the most-talked-about restaurant in Spain today, despite its remote location in Extremadura. Head chef Tono Perez has taken over the reins of Atrio’s former master, Juan Gonzalez, with admirable ease and is widely considered one of the world’s greatest culinary stars. Offering his guests two tasting menus – traditional Atrio classics and new creations – Perez has won pundits for his flair for crafting exciting dishes that are yet faithful to Spanish culinary tradition. Creations such as Jamon with squid and curry sauce, careta – pork, crayfish, and duck consume – and the divine torta del casar with quince ice cream, an exceptional local cheese made from sheep’s milk.

But the food is not the only major attraction at Atrio; a gargantuan wine list put together by sommelier Jose Polo has earned much attention. Where else in Spain could you hope to encounter Montrachet de la Romanée Conti 1987, 23 vintages of Petrus, or 1929 Chateau Lafite? Polo broke new ground in his two-hundred-page plus extravaganza, offering fine wines from virtually all corners of the globe, including an extended list of Vega Sicilia vintages, legendary Rioja names, and old sherries. To find such a diverse list in Spain is nothing short of remarkable, even in such a high-class address.


AbaC website: Read more

This swanky hotel, away from the manic hustle and bustle of downtown Barcelona houses one of the city’s greatest restaurants; the 3 Michelin-starred Abac. Head chef Jordi Cruz’s outstanding cooking, a stylish, modern dining room, and spot-on service complement an already classy address. Hugely respected amongst his peers, Cruz turns out complex dishes that lean towards the international on his two different tasting menus and the à la carte option.

But, those in the know wisely stick to the tasting menus, which encompass such delights as duck foie gras with pistachio and hazelnuts, braised sweet prawn with crispy pork tail and pork dumpling, and red mullet with olive oil purée and pesto sponge. Simply put, a less-than-perfect dish never leaves this superb kitchen, making ABaC a must-visit destination for any foodie on a gastronomic pilgrimage through Barcelona. Then, there is the formidable selection of Spanish and international wines, including many vintage Cavas, old Riojas, and top-flight Bordeaux.


Restaurant Aponiente Angel Leon

Aponiente website: Read more

Welcome to Spain’s best-kept secret – Aponiente. This source of spectacular food has, thus far, remained in the shadow of Spain’s more famous addresses; critical recognition is helping to remedy this state of affairs. Aponiente is an exceptional restaurant, presided over by the talented Angel Leon, a chef who deserves to join the firmament of Spain’s best. His very trendy and stylishly decorated restaurant shows respect for Spain’s heritage as a seafaring nation, championing abundant fish varieties and avoiding the more rare species. Two tasting menus allow for exploring Leon’s creativity; highlights include rice with plankton and sea cumber, oyster mousse, razor clam sorrentinos, and beetroot ice cream. The service is warm, approachable, and yet very professional, giving the impression that they want each visitor to feel valued. An enviable wine cellar is the icing on the cake, stocked full of Spanish classics and affordable options.


Elkano website: Read more

The specialty at this wonderful Basque restaurant is superlative seafood in every shape and form, served with warmth and humor by a team of effortlessly charming staff. You’ll find it in a picturesque little village called Getaria. The men behind Elkano are Head Chef Pedro Arregui and his trusted grill master Luis Manterola, a skilled professional if ever there was one. Their mantra ensures all their fish and shellfish are seasonal, locally caught, and as fresh as possible – an ideal match for the region’s thirst-quenching Txacoli wine.

The formula for enjoying a meal here is simple: order a glass of white, peruse the menu, and devour the freshest, most delicious seafood in Spain. If you’d like some personal recommendations, then the Kokotxas Pil Pil – grilled hake jowl – is superb, as are the daily grilled fish dishes, expertly prepared for you by Manterola. A bevy of fantastic whites from Northern Spain complements the proceeding nicely, as does the always buzzy atmosphere. However, securing a table in the summer can be challenging, so book ahead!


Restaurant Akelarre

Akelarre website: Read more

Arguably northern Spain’s most celebrated restaurant, Akelarre, continues to astound visitors with its complex, inventive, and exquisite modern Spanish cuisine, which maestro chef Pedro Subijana lovingly prepares. Even before it was awarded its third Michelin star in 2006, Akelarre was notoriously difficult to get into; today, hopefuls are advised to book well in advance –it’s so worth it! Showcasing three separate tasting menus, Subijana is all about culinary surprises grounded in Basque tradition rather than adopting an overly experimental approach to cooking. So you might start with a hake with oyster leaf or prawn and French beans cooked in”orujo” fire, followed by a roasted wood pigeon with cocoa-infused sauce, finishing with the divine xaxu and foaming coconut ice cream. To accompany your gastronomic adventure are over 600 different wine choices, with plenty of help from the charming sommelier – a pretty flawless dining experience.


Restaurant Abantal

Abantal website: Read more

Seville’s most outstanding restaurant is also one of its most elusive; you’ll find this exciting destination in a nondescript side street tucked away from the city’s bustling center. Julio Fernandez Quintero presided over this Michelin-starred den of great food and stays faithful to its Andalucian origins, adding a dash of sparkle and creativity to local classics, with fresh fish in generous abundance. In a contemporary, minimalist space, Quintero prepares delights like cod roe salad and goat cheese wafers, Ajo Blanco almond soup with Huelva prawns, and snapper paired with a seafood Bisque. You must try his signature banana cake with lemon sorbet for dessert – utterly amazing. Service is suitably slick and attentive. Abantal also boasts a very classy wine list, with a lovely selection of delicious, zesty whites from Galicia. Of course, we always plump for a Godello.


Restaurant el Retiro, Pancar

El Retiro website: Read more

Often overshadowed by the Basque Country, Asturias can increasingly hold its own with superlative restaurants like El Retiro. Head chef Ricardo Gonzalez Sortes recently earned El Retiro its first Michelin star; we’re sure another will follow. The young chef is a rising star in Spanish gastronomy. It aims to bring fine dining to a wider audience by keeping its prices reasonable and the service approachable and warm rather than formal. Visitors are welcomed into a spacious dining room by a team of charming staff who will explain the tasting menu, a popular choice among diners, as it features mouthwatering dishes that vary according to the season. Dishes might include lime-scented oysters, cauliflower cockles, and Asturian wild chicken (pitu de calaya). For dessert, try the irresistible crème brulee with chocolate ice, an improvement on that French classic.


Venta Moncalvillo website: Read more

Venta Moncalvillo is a Rioja enthusiast’s dream come true. A historic building in the idyllic countryside, Venta Moncalvillo offers warm hospitality, delicious local cuisine, and an incredible selection of Rioja vintages, including rare bottles. Your host is Ignacio Echapresto, a local chef who trained not under the tutelage of a famous chef but rather his mother. His resulting culinary style is both honest and creative; Echapresto brings out the full flavor of each component in a dish, using only the finest, locally sourced ingredients as much as is humanly possible.

Your dinner might start with king prawns sautéed with courgette spaghetti and ginger, followed by roast pigeon, stewed pears, pine nuts, liver pate, and perhaps roast kid, paired with an apple salad. Desserts are an admissible treat; artful constructions such as caramelized “Torrija” ice cream and walnuts are as delicious as it is clever. But we must not forget the formidable wine cellar, expertly handled by his brother Carlos. You can either go for the very reasonable wine pairing option or let Carlos’ expert hand guide you to something extraordinary, like a 1994 Vina Ardanza Reserva.


La Terraza del Casino website: Read more

Madrid’s most opulent address, La Terraza del Casino’s tables, are in high demand thanks to the consistently excellent cooking traversing a range of cuisines. Much loved by Madrid’s elite, La Terraza’s fame is due, in part, to the fact that the legendary chef Ferran Adria lends his expertise to the kitchen, working with resident chef Paco Roncero to craft a range of exciting and imaginative dishes. The building itself is worthy of mention; built in the 1830s, it was designed to function as a meeting place for the aristocracy, a fitting beginning as today it houses a glamorous 2 Michelin-starred restaurant.

Patrons are given an evening of true international theater – Roncero’s tasting menu is designed to tease and delight the senses equally. A typical experience might involve razor-clam niguri, sauteed squid with onion and ink confit, langoustine wrapped in quinoa, and Wagyu beef served with a teriyaki sauce. Those with a sweet tooth will love the strawberry coulis with pepper ice cream, although our favorite is the chocolate and ice cream bonbon. The only trouble is you can’t stop eating them. Service is thoroughly slick and courteous, while the wine list is extensive, varied, and, unusually for Spain, full of options from further afield.


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Genevieve Mc Carthy

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