Top 10 Global Spanish Restaurants
From San Sebastián to Shanghai, Spanish restaurants have gone truly global. Marinel FitzSimons and Gabriel Savage discover some of the very best.
FEW COUNTRIES promote such a close connection between their cuisine and wine as Spain. While French wines are a staple of nearly any restaurant list and Austrian wines have had to forge a path without any help from Wienerschnitzel, Spanish restaurants are working overtime as ambassadors for their country’s wines. Yes, Rioja has gone mainstream, but what about all Spain’s other regions? The best Spanish restaurants offer a wonderful showcase for less famous DOs, from Rueda to Rías Baixas, Toro to Txacoli. For the most ardent fans of Rioja or Ribera del Duero meanwhile, Spanish restaurants are the place to come for impressive back catalogues from top producers, several of whose wines age at least as well as Bordeaux.
Of course, it would have been possible to compile this top 10 list entirely from restaurants in Spain itself. Even with the closure of El Bulli, the country is teeming with world-class destinations: San Sebastián or Barcelona alone could probably hold their own quite happily. However, it is the Spanish restaurants abroad which are really flying the flag for the country’s produce and doing so in the face of stiff competition from other cuisines. In the UK, Spanish cuisine, especially tapas, is booming – no surprise given Spain’s popularity as a holiday destination. As a cosmopolitan, international wine trading hub with a world-renowned restaurant scene, it is no surprise that London is home to some of the planet’s most exciting Spanish restaurants, with wine lists to match. Further afield, US Hispanophiles are well catered for on both coasts. Excitingly, Spain is also winning fans in the Far East, with some top restaurants introducing consumers to the country’s rich winemaking heritage within a wider Spanish cultural and gastronomic context. Read on to discover db’s recommendations for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of Spanish wine.
1. ARZAK, SAN SEBASTIAN
Avenida Alcalde Jose Elosegui, 273 20015 Donostia,
San Sebastian, Spain
+34 943 278 465
Not just one of the top Spanish restaurants, but with three Michelin stars, Arzak is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s best restaurants full stop. This family affair is a gem of Basque cuisine, currently in the hands of Elena Arzak, where the care and attention to detail show the affectionate pride the family takes in its work.
The expansive cellars house a stellar selection of Spanish – and Basque – wines, further augmented by a scattering of foreign options. It’s not so much the size of the list which gets wine lovers talking, but its exceptionally reasonable prices. With many mark-ups, especially for the most exciting, older wines, comparing very favourably with UK off-trade prices, this is the place to treat yourself to a bottle that will rival the food.
2.CAMBIO DE TERCIO, LONDON
This flagship of a lively, longstanding Spanish restaurant group in London’s prestigious Chelsea area boasts the most extensive list of Spanish wines in the UK. At 45 pages it is long, thorough and with the exception of a few Champagnes, exclusively Spanish: a proud testament to the country’s diversity. Sherries lead the way, followed by a selection of magnums and half bottles before a run through established classics interspersed with newer, experimental faces such as Baigorri and DOs you never knew existed.
Download a copy of the list before you go: a cellar this large and exciting rewards homework.
3. TABERNA DE HARO, BOSTON
Taberna de Haro offers over 170 wines from Spain (240 wines in total) giving it one of the largest Spanish selections in the country, with over 33 denominaciones de origen featured. The wines are varied, intriguing, and notoriously reasonably priced. Owner Deborah Hansen is a sommelier trained in Spain and translates her passion for Spanish wine into a horizon-broadening experience for all her customers.
With always at least 10 wines by the glass as well as nine Sherries and any new finds that pique Deborah’s interest, there is something for everyone and every occasion.
The list is broken down in a charmingly chaotic fashion, with sections for “Post Modern Cutting Edge Rioja”, “Ageing Gracefully” and “Todo Albariño”. Some headings are more useful as stylistic guidelines than others: the “Dry and Elegant” white category manages to include wines as diverse as Txacoli Ametzoi and Lopez de Heredia’s Viña Gravonia. If you want to have fun with a wine list, this is the place to come.
4. CASA MONO, NEW YORK
52 Irving Place, NYC,
NY 10003, United States
Winemaker and restaurateur Joe Bastianich temporarily abandoned his love of Italy to open this tribute to Spanish gastronomy back in 2004. Having since won a Michelin star, Casa Mono also boasts a comprehensively exciting 26- page wine list.
The carafe selection ranges from top Txacoli producer Txomin Etxanis to classic Roda Rioja. A particularly strong Sherry list gives strong billing to the superb examples from the relatively new, dynamic company Equipo Navajos. If it’s mature wine you’re after, Casa Mono lists a Vega Sicilia back catalogue as far as 1970 and Lopez de Heredia all the way to 1942, as well as this super-traditional Rioja house’s 11-year-old rosado.
5. RESTAURANT MARTIN, SHANGHAI
A haven of peace and tranquillity in an old French-style farmhouse, Restaurant Martin offers some of the finest Spanish food outside Spain.
The restaurant was founded by one of the stars of Spanish gastronomy, Martin Berasategui from San Sebastián, who has accrued a total of seven Michelin stars over the years, and head chef Maxime Fantom keeps up the good work.
Two years after its inception, the restaurant is going from strength to strength, attracting a well-heeled clientele with a penchant for the finest things in life – an appetite fed by the rather lengthy “Fine Wine” section on the list, which features a selection of top Bordeaux first growths. This concession aside, however, the main focus of the list is Spanish, with a remarkably comprehensive journey through the country’s wine regions.
6. MOVIDA, MELBOURNE
This is a relaxed but buzzing bar with a fabulous range of Spanish dishes infused with a bit of Aussie ingenuity and knowhow. Everything on the menu has a strong Spanish feel to it, but might be altered ever so slightly to fit with locally accessible ingredients, while never losing that sultry, salty, Spanish flavour and character. This is echoed in the wine list which has a similar feel with a wide selection of really excellent Spanish wines at reasonable prices, along with some other options, mostly French.
Garnacha – a strong bridge between Spanish and Australian winemaking – receives particularly enthusiastic billing here with its own section and informative preamble. The similarly international Tempranillo section also offers an interesting chance to see how Spain’s traditional varieties perform in other parts of the world.
The restaurant offers a really excellent insight into the Spanish drinks culture, with not only a healthy selection of interesting native wines, but also Spanish cider, beer and Sherries.
7. UNO MAS, HONG KONG
With Valencian chef David Izquierdo having trained at El Bulli, ingredients sourced directly from Spain and staff sent back to the country for training, you’ll struggle to find a more authentic, aspiring Spanish restaurant in Hong Kong.
Opened in 2009, Uno Más has a modern feel and two terraces so you can soak up the bustling Wan Chai atmosphere on the street below.
While not huge, the 50-bin list manages to balance the top-end offerings from familiar brands with traditional classics and more modern trailblazers such as the wines of Telmo Rodriguez. There’s a small selection by the glass, including a number of cavas and Sherries.
Book yourself in for cooking lessons with Izquierdo or take over the private wine room for an evening of total Spanish immersion.
8. B44, SAN FRANCISCO
44 Belden Place, San Francisco,
+1 415 986-6287
It’s not just the East Coast of the US with Spanish fever. Look up this Catalan bistro next time you’re in the foodie Mecca of San Francisco. The wines by the glass section is particularly varied, making it easy to discover an unfamiliar region or treat yourself to the flight of gran reservas. Meanwhile the white selection offers a snapshot of the under appreciated breadth and quality offered by Spain in this area today. Rioja may head up the red side of the list, but again, Spain’s lesser-known regions are given a generous airing: Listán Negro from Tenerife anyone?
9. CAMINO, LONDON
Cruz del Rey: 3 Varnishers Yard, The Regent Quarter,
Kings Cross, N1 9FD
+ 44 (0) 20 7841 7331
Puerto del Canario: 28 Westferry Circus
+44 (0) 20 7239 9077
Who better to explain the approach behind Camino’s recently revised wine list than founder Richard Bigg. “The idea behind the list is to offer as wide a variety of styles of outstanding wines as possible, within a succinct list,” he sums up. “I always put myself in the shoes of the consumer, and try to offer a list that is interesting, representative of the glorious wines coming from Spain today, frompredominantly traditional grape varieties and a few international ones too, and not too many of them.” From its appealing design to concise but useful descriptions, plenty of listings to try by the glass or carafe and several wine flight options, this is certainly one of the more accessible lists for anyone looking to dig deeper into Spain’s wine offer. As you’d expect from a place with its own Sherry bar across the courtyard at the original Kings Cross branch, Andalusia is well represented too.
10. THE SHERRY CLUB, TOKYO
Yugen Building, 2F, 6-3-17 Ginza,
Chuoku, Tokyo, Japan
+81 (0)3 3572 2527
www.sherry-club.com (in Japanese)
Not the first place you’d think of for Sherry perhaps, but this little bar in Tokyo has been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records no less for having the largest selection of Sherries in any one bar. With a stunning 227 listings, there’s not really any issue about not finding what you want. The uninitiated need not worry as all of the staff are trained Sherry sommeliers and will happily advise you as to which style to order with your tapas selection.
There are several flights available to help customers explore the Sherries, each of which comes with a small selection of tapas to stave off hunger from all that mouthwatering umami.
The food is also excellent, varied and well presented, with a particularly good selection of cured meats.