THERE is a quiet revolution going on in the charming back streets of Javea.
Not content to count on its two Michelin-starred joints, BonAmb and Tula, the fast-growing resort is developing a food culture to rival anywhere on the Costa Blanca.
“It’s amazing how much it has changed in the nine years I’ve been here,” explains expat chef Robert Mcteague, who owns two restaurants in Javea old town with his wife, Andrea.
“There is so much healthy competition now and everyone is doing their own thing,” continues the Irishman, who ran restaurants back home and in Italy for over a decade before moving to Javea.
“It’s a really cosmopolitan place and best of all it is not expensive, even the Michelin-starred Tula, where we ate a lovely long meal with two bottles of wine for just €250 recently,” adds the father-of-two.
Sandwiched between sea and sierra, it is no wonder Javea has the best of both worlds when it comes to ingredients.
Split between its three distinct areas, the port, the Arenal and the old town, you have everything from tapas joints to formal sit downs.
As well as its stunning architecture and grounds, the kitchen guarantees a journey through the senses, like nothing else on the Costa Blanca.
By a long way my favourite is stunning BonAmb (www.bonamb.com), which manages to combine the best quality local ingredients, with creative cooking and amazing ambience.
The two-Michelin star restaurant is an experience that any genuine gourmet will need to try out.
Creative and inspiring and continually fighting for its third star (which must be fast approaching), its head chef Alberto Ferruz does the Valencian community proud, showcasing mostly local dishes.
Having partly-trained in Paris and San Sebastian as well as nearby with Denia’s culinary king Quique Dacosta, you are in safe hands.
There is lots of fish and plenty of fruit and veg and the restaurant’s Maitre Pablo Catala is one of the most interesting restaurateurs in Spain, having worked as a cameraman in war zones, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia, and then as an army press officer.
Its main rival is Tula, which has had a Michelin star since 2019 and is known for its simplicity and excellent use of local ingredients. Run by Borja Susilla and Clara Puig, it regularly changes its ingredients and is a breath of fresh air in the busy Arenal area.
Among other places you have to try are Robert Mcteague’s very own Carneceria tapas bar, on the outskirts of the centre.
This hip new joint is set up in a former butcher’s shop that first opened in the 1950s and counts many of its original features, such as counter, floors and even its ancient walk-in fridge.
The sign outside says it all, while Robert continues the authenticity, making his own bacon, ribs and sausages and featuring a simple menu to go alongside a nice array of tapas plates.
It’s a great place to while away a few hours and has plenty of local wines by the glass, as well as Guiness on tap, as you’d expect from a West Coast of Ireland native.
Don’t forget ‘Taco Thursdays’, while there are other fun nights in the offing for the Spring.
His other place, mostly run now by his friendly Romanian wife Andrea, is La Sucreria in a prime location next to Javea old town’s main church. It has an excellent mix of dishes and is always busy.
Among other exciting places to try out are Volta i Volta, run by a Valencian chef and his Italian wife Marguerita from Verona. Focussing on great local ‘KM0’ produce, expect plenty of pickles, conserves, syrups and marinades. Es Tapa Ti on the Arenal is also good.
In terms of country joints, El Campo, takes some beating with its charming garden and experienced local chef Amanda Trenco, 40, who knocks up a great mix of Asiatic twists and a solid a la carte menu, with such joys as shrimp gyozas with spinach and roast suckling pig with apple and red berries. There is even an occasional Mexican special menu.
Heading into Javea port you should look out for popular tapas bar, Andares Ibericos, opposite the cinema that specialises in excellent ham and cheeses and great light bites.
A friendly, family-run place it has real charm and an excellent selection of wines by the glass.
The best spot to enjoy wine is at the Bonapata, which describes itself as a ‘boutique bar of grapes and acorns’ just up the road, also in the port.
There are around 70 different wines by the glass, not to mention an amazing selection of pates, cheeses and, best of all, the best Jamon Iberico, from the Val de Pedroches, in Cordoba.
The Spanish couple who run this place have just opened a new place up on busy Arenal, which will also likely do very well.
Another great spot, always busy, and an excellent spot for burgers and light snacks is Geographic, which always has all sporting events on a huge range of televisions.
And make sure you drop into the excellent Lancashire Bruja, just opposite the tennis club, where well established local expats Stephen and Christina serve up sell out roast dinners and all your British favourites including fish and chips and the classic English fry up, of course. The couple also organize the town’s popular New Years Day swim.
Finally down on the beach there are two chiringuitos, one La Siesta that really gets going in the summer when it is THE place to hang out and be seen and Thalassa, which sits halfway along the road from Arenal to Caleta de Dins. Named after the Greek word for ‘sea’ it is exactly that, dominated by the ocean, and with a seafood style menu to match.
AS one of Spain’s emblematic towns – like Ronda, Toledo and Santiago – Javea rightfully counts on a Parador.
Yet, surprisingly, the popular Valencia resort has a real paucity of good places to stay.
Assuming you don’t have a few hundred euros per night to splash the cash, the 1969-built Parador is out of most people’s budgets.
By far the best value option is Javea Hotel (www.hotel-javea.com) in the heart of the port, next to the stunning Nuestra Señora de Loreto church and a short 100m walk from the beach.
While some of the rooms are small, it is stylish and friendly and counts on its own restaurant on the roof with a stunning sea view.
It is also next to the celebrated VO cinema and walking distance to a dozen good places to eat, not to mention with air-conditioning and WIFI in the room.
Another great value spot is Quinta la Sal (www.quinta-la-sal.hotel-in-valencia.com) that sits right at the other end of the town in the hills above the Arenal area.
Set in pine woods, full of red squirrels and birds, it is just a short walk from breathtaking Playa de Ambolo and a five-minute drive to Granadella beach.
Each of its dozen or so casitas are well appointed and have plenty of outside space and shade, plus a nice pool to chill out by.
A step up in quality and a little bit in price is the stylish Ritual de Terra Resort and Spa (www.ritualdeterra.com), a hotel to cleanse your mind and unwind.
This dreamy spot is surrounded by nature and focuses on wellness, as well as making the most of its lovely views towards the sea and the faraway Montgo mountain.
There are yoga classes twice a week, meditation classes, as well as wellness workshops and a fascinating ‘gong vibrational sound bath’ which is said to reduce stress, aid sleep and encourage creativity.
The spa counts on a massage suite, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, as well as an indoor pool and there are plenty of face and body treatments available.
With quality linen, super king size beds as well as a great wonderful central pool area, tennis and padel courts, you should end up feeling both energised and pampered. Meanwhile its new restaurant MADRE serves Mediterranean classics, with mostly seasonal ingredients.