“We are driving four hours today for lunch and then driving another four hours back,” my friend Adrian said one morning. “I’ve booked one of my favorite restaurants in Catalonia and I think you’ll agree that it will be worth it.”
Never one to shy away from good food – I’ve flown halfway around the world for dinners before – I got set for the long drive, happily anticipating another wonderful foodie experience in Spain.
RESTAURANTS WITH MICHELIN STARS IN SPAIN
“How many Michelin stars does this restaurant have?” I asked him, frankly expecting a plural number to justify our efforts. He was driving rather fast on the highway, so without glancing at me, he simply said: “Only one, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me afterwards that it deserves three stars.”
A Michelin one-star establishment is almost automatically an excellent restaurant. However, in this competitive world, rankings do matter; and, the fact is, I’d never driven so far for a restaurant with one star before as the competition for my taste buds and credit card is too great. Nevertheless, I went along with his plans. What a fortunate decision this was, as my lunch in the unassuming restaurant Les Moles ranks as one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had in acountry full of great restaurants.
Les Moles is located in an old stone quarry just outside the industrial town of Ulldecona, which is about an hour’s drive from Valencia. It’s a family-run restaurant with sleek but simple service and a casual ambience – think wooden chairs, ancient stone walls and rustic decor.
Families were already in the middle of their long weekend lunches and someone with punk rock hair but wearing a dainty lace dress was celebrating her birthday, complete with flowers and a cake, when we walked in. As it was winter, the diners in the next table looked like they had just gotten off the slopes in nearby Aragon without bothering to change, ski parkas and all.
REALLY GOOD FOOD NEAR VALENCIA
Meanwhile, we got the corner table, which offered a complete view of everything happening in the dining room, and sat down to a meal that was just as long as the drive we had taken to get there. But as Adrian had said from the outset, the trip had been worth it.
Each dish was the perfect combination of exquisite taste and presentation plus inspiration and creativity. In the race for Michelin stars, many restaurants inject way more than a healthy dose of imagination into their dishes so that you feel like you are eating an artwork or a 3D installation; sometimes taste just becomes an afterthought in these cases.
A FOODIE SECRET: LES MOLES
However, this is not the case with Les Moles, where Chef Jeroni Castell has been cooking since 1992 using local products in a most innovative way. We enjoyed artworks indeed, but each one was simply delicious. In all, it was delightful feast that definitely merited the eight-hour drive to gastronomic heaven and back.
“I would do this again,” I said to Adrian. “The food is excellent. What a pity it’s such an underrated restaurant. I agree with you completely. This should have three stars.”
“Yes, unfortunate for the chef but lucky for us,” Adrian replied. “Those in the know can book tables without having to wait 15 months and they can have an amazing lunch for a bargain.” And now you, dear reader, are part of this foodie inner circle, too.