Costa Blanca restaurants

By Derek Workman, your Costa Blanca expert

I write for English language newspapers in Spain, Finnair .... Read more
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expert-rated restaurants in Costa Blanca
Expert overall rating:3.9 (out of 5)

A nibble of original Morocco in the middle of Alicante.

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The Costa Blanca is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and has attracted chefs from every corner of the globe, as well as some of the best in Spain. The region between Valencia City and Dénia was the most agriculturally productive in the known world during the times of the Moorish occupation, and still prides itself on the superb quality of its produce, especially its fish, which is landed fresh every day at a number of ports.

Some useful tips

  • Paella, the iconographic dish of Spain, was invented in the Albufera, the ancient rice fields to the east of Valencia City, so it comes as no surprise that there is hardly a restaurant – a Spanish one at least – that doesn’t have a rice dish on its menu. There are three main types; paella is dry, and if properly cooked will be burned on the bottom, the socarrat, which is the most sought-after part. Tradition dictates that everyone eats from the same pan, the flat paella, from which the dish takes its name, although most places will serve it on a plate these days. Arroz meloso is similar to a risotto, and arroz caldozo is more soupy. From there on in it gets very, very complicated.
  • Sharing a few tapas between friends is a splendid idea, but bear in mind that it can be a very expensive way to eat if you get carried away. A more economical way to have lunch is the ubiquitous menu del dia, a fixed price menu, usually served at lunch, but sometimes also served at dinner. Most places of all levels will serve some sort of fixed price menu with a short selection, and they also might offer a menu degustation, a sampling menu of smaller portions of a selection of the main dishes on the carta. The word ‘menu’ only ever refers to a fixed-price menu, if you want a la carte you must ask for la carta.
  • Most people barely think beyond the name of Rioja when they think of Spanish wine, but wine production in Spain is now in the hands of a new and younger breed of producer, and the Alicante region, and the Valencian Community in general, are producing some superb wines. It really is worth trying some of the local wines, such as those from Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, only fifteen minutes from Benidorm, which is scooping up awards on a regular basis. There are also some excellent bodegas producing no more than a few thousand bottles a year which can be visited.
  • Perhaps the most important thing to take account of in Spain is that they eat very late, at least for lunch and dinner. Breakfast (desayuno) is usually nothing more than toast with tomatoes, olive oil or marmalade, or a croissant. This is followed by almuerzo, a snack at around 10.30 to 11. Sometimes you may hear someone refer to lunch as almuerzo, but this is usually called la comida, and is between two and four during the week, but can run much later at weekends. Cena is dinner, and you will rarely find a restaurant begin serving until nine in the evening.
  • Tipping is very much a personal issue. The Spanish either don’t tip or give very little. The British tend to be the biggest tippers, so if you want to seem more like a local don’t leave more than about five per cent.
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In my selection I’ve tried to balance the exquisite, the big treat or celebration restaurant with basic bars, pizzerias and local cafeterias, for the simple reason that even though we might be on holiday we don’t always want a high falutin’ meal; sometimes just somewhere we can eat well and enjoy the atmosphere. Personally, the food is only part of the experience; the ambience, décor and service colour my enjoyment as much as a delicious and beautifully presented dish.

Perhaps more than in almost any field of endeavour, the restaurant business can have its off days. I try and take this into account when I visit, because you can pretty soon spot if the bad service or lack of quality is habitual. If your experience is different please let me know and I’ll take another look. I have also taken into account recommendations from friends, as the Spanish are a very food-savvy race, and I’ve depended very much on people who live locally to point me in the direction of places I’d never have found on my own.