Posted by Julie Day

I’ve never had the opportunity to dine in a 3-star restaurant in Spain, nor in any other country, for that matter. Neither have I eaten in a 2-star restaurant or even a measly 1-star. I’d say the closest I’ve got is drooling over the dishes presented on Masterchef, of which I’m an avid fan.

But, anyway, the news is that quite a considerable number of Spanish restaurants have been awarded a whole host of new stars for the coming year and will be featured in the Michelin restaurant guide for Spain and Portugal for 2014.

In concrete, 23 new stars have been awarded, which is broken down into one 3-star; two that have been promoted to 2-stars; and twenty restaurants that have been awarded their first Michelin star.

Three Michelin stars

So, let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.

There are now 8 restaurants in Spain that have earned three stars.

The latest, which was handed out last week, was bestowed to David Muñoz, who runs Madrid-based restaurant DiverXo. Those at Michelin declared that his worthiness of the third star was down to his “travelling cuisine” which is essentially a fusion of Asian and Madrid-style cooking.

Muñoz’s cooking has been described as risky, radical and exceptionally creative - a bit like his hairstyle, I’d say, after looking at a picture of the young chef who sports a shaved head with a Mohican down the middle. Anyway, less about his hairstyle and onto the food …

Well, here I was about to share some examples of amazing dishes you can find on their menu, but, unfortunately, their website is “under construction” so I have no idea what they serve there. Let’s skip to the other seven 3-star restaurants instead, which are listed below.

  • Akelarre (San Sebastián, País Vasco)
  • Arzak (San Sebastián, País Vasco)
  • Azurmendi (Vizcaya, País Vasco)
  • El Cellar de Can Roca (Girona, Cataluña)
  • Martín Berasategui (Guipúzcoa, País Vasco)
  • Quique Dacosta (Denia, Comunidad Valenciana)
  • Sant Pau (Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona)

Probably the most famous out of these is Girona’s El Cellar de Can Roca (which has been featured on Masterchef many times) as it has been voted the best restaurant in the world for the last three years running by the British magazine Restaurant.

However, let’s take a look at a lesser well-known establishment and see what’s on the menu there.

Akelare

Six of the eight 3-star restaurants in Spain are located in the autonomous regions of either Cataluña or País Vasco, with two of the four restaurants from the smaller Basque region hailing from San Sebastián. Akelarre, which looks out onto the sea and has its own herb garden, offers two sittings a day where diners can either delight in the ‘tasting menu’ for 155 euro per person plus VAT and with drinks on top, or they can order from the menu.

Starters include:

Fish and shellfish soup “a la Donostiarra” (Traditional)

Egg with caviar, cauliflower purée and chive butter

Rice with snails and periwinkles in tomato and basil film

Lobster salad with cider viniegra

Fish:

Whole-grain red mullet with a "Fusili" sauce

Roasted lobster and spiced balloon

“Desalted” cod box with shavings

Meat:

Roasted wood pigeon with a touch of mole and cocoa

Sautéed fresh foie gras with salt flakes and grain pepper

Grilled Iberic “Secreto” with pepper seeds and garlic in three different versions

Dessert:

Gin-tonic on a plate

Cubed chocolate with banana and pistachios

Lemon foam and mint ice cream with rum (Mojito)

I have to admit, some of those descriptions are quite off-putting and do not fill me with a desire to stuff my face, however, the photographs of the dishes themselves are astonishing, and the creations, absolute works of art.

Two Michelin Stars

There are two restaurants that have moved up in the restaurant league and now have two stars. They are:

  • El Portal (La Rioja)
  • M.B. (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)

El Portal, which is also known as Restaurante Echaurren, is part of the Hotel Echaurren, a fifth-generation family-run establishment that happens to be the first hotel in the history of La Rioja to gain a Michelin star. Dishes here include venison on a bed of red onions with a cream of chestnut sauce; glazed lamb’s tail, spring peas with egg yolk and fresh herbs.

Tenerife’s M.B. restaurant is one of a handful of restaurants owned by the renowned Basque chef Martín Berasategui, who has clocked up a total of 7 Michelin stars amongst his various establishments. At M.B. a chef’s menu put together with local ingredients is available for 135 euro plus VAT, whilst the à la carte menu include dishes such as red prawn carpaccio seasoned with Espelette pepper on a raifort tofu and biscuit; emulsified raw fennel pearls in risotto; and wild rabbit à la royale on a bed of green cabbage, apple cores and chervil root.

One Michelin Star

Added to DiverXo and the two 2-star restaurants are 20 restaurants that have been awarded their first star.

Seven out of the 21 restaurants are from the region of Cataluña and 4 from the Valencian Community. These two regions, located along the Mediterranean coast, have almost snapped up half the allocated one stars alone. It is also noticeable that the not a single restaurant in the Basque Country features in the list below.

It seems that restaurants principally found in coastal regions dominate in the number of Michelin stars, so it’s reassuring to see that some inland regions also have restaurants up there with the best.

  • L’Angle (Barcelona, Cataluña)
  • 41˚ (Barcelona, Cataluña)
  • Gaig (Barcelona, Cataluña)
  • Tickets (Barcelona, Cataluña)
  • L’Ó (Barcelona, Cataluña)
  • Malena (Lleida, Cataluña)
  • Les Moles (Tarragona, Cataluña)
  • Monastrell (Alicante, Valencia)
  • BonAmb (Alicante, Valencia)
  • El Poblet (Valencia)
  • Cal Paradís (Castellón, Valencia)
  • La Salgar (Gijón, Asturias)
  • Arbidel (Ribadesella, Asturias)
  • La Casa del Carmen (Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha)
  • Tierra (Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha)
  • Zaranda (Capdella, Mallorca-Baleares)
  • Árbore da Veira (La Coruña, Galicia)
  • La Botica (Valladolid, Castilla y León)
  • Alejandro (Almería, Andalucía)
  • Hospedería El Batán (Teruel, Aragón)

Well, living in the Valencian Region, I have four Michelin-starred restaurants practically on my doorstop. Hopefully, one day, after a lottery win, redundancy pay-off or the sale of my most expensive possessions, I will fulfil one of my dreams - dining in one of the best restaurants in the country. Another dream is that none of the three options above have to take place for this to happen and maybe someone could just invite me!

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