24 Mar, 2024 @ 06:55
7 mins read

Chef wars: As Andalucia and Valencia battle it out to be the gastronomic capital of Spain… here are some of their best restaurants

SPAIN once again beat its own record with more than 84 million international visitors in 2023, spending a whopping €108 billion. 

But these days it’s Michelin stars and Repsol Soles, not beaches, that are pulling in the punters. 

And that’s no surprise with the country being, equivocally, the world’s best place to eat.

Spain has so many chefs in the world’s best lists and the huge growth of Michelin stars backs this up.

The past 20 years has seen a revolution in Spanish gastronomy with an emerging generation of chefs at the forefront of culinary innovation that goes way beyond patatas brava, tortilla and paella.

But what has really changed in the last five years is the big spread of where the top chefs work.

While they almost all used to ply their trade in Catalunya and the Basque Region, today they can be found all around the country.

And it’s the regions of Valencia and Andalucia that have grown the most in recent years… and incredibly they are neck and neck with a scoreline of 31-31 in their Michelin star count, while Repsol Soles (Spain’s equivalent) lands 74 for Andalucia to Valencia’s 60.  

Much of the spread south is due to young chefs jumping on the locally-sourced bandwagon, rediscovering forgotten recipes and voicing their modernity through theatrical reinterpretation. Tradition, culture and region are now celebrated in haute cuisine menus and although technique keeps improving, ingredients are the new protagonists.   

In southern Spain, Malaga and Cadiz are leading the way, although the other provinces are getting into the mix. In the West it is Valencia and Alicante that have the foodie hotspots. 

But it’s really no contest. If fine dining is your thing, you can’t go wrong either way. Here we pick out the top stars for each region.


Quique Dacosta

Quique Dacosta

Dacosta is one of the most notable leaders of Spain’s culinary revolution. His Denia restaurant was awarded three stars in the 2012/13 Michelin guide and has held on to them ever since. He also has three Repsol soles and was awarded the Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts in 2020 – and his signature dishes certainly are artistic.

This year’s menu, Por amor al arte (For the love of art) hammers home the message that his edible creations are full of ‘knowledge, innovation, culinary vision and passion for creativity’.

And all for just €295 (drinks not included).

Coincidentally, he also runs the amazing two-star El Poblet in Valencia city, plus Deessa, at the Ritz in Madrid.

Carrer Rascassa, 1 Urb. El Poblet, 03700 Dénia, Alicante, Tel.: +34 965 784 179



Exterior of Beat, in Valencia

Valencia-born Jose Manuel Miguel worked in the Ritz in Madrid and Le Bristol in Paris before returning to his native soil. 

As chef of Beat, located in the Cook Book Hotel in Calpe, he was awarded one Michelin star and also scooped the Sapiña Prize for Innovation. 

The 46-year-old has developed a very personal style, adapting highly refined and technical French cuisine to fresh, local products. 

His favourite bywords: ‘Tradition, technique, elegance and innovation’.

Partida Marisol Park, 1. Calpe, Alicante, Tel.: +34628277858



Bon Amb
Bon Amb

Born in 1984, Alberto Ferruz already holds an impressive record for such a young chef, and he shows much more promise. 

Originally from the Zaragoza region, Ferruz has trained and worked in France and Spain where he collaborated with Quique Dacosta. 

His style follows the up-and-coming trend of tradition, anthropology and innovation. “I am for an avant-garde cuisine that is 80% Mediterranean product, but I also recuperate old, forgotten recipes,” he explains.

BonAmb has been awarded two Michelin stars and three Repsol Suns. 

Carretera Benitaxell, 100. Jávea, Alicante, Tel.: +34 965 084 440



Rice dish at L’escaleta

A family restaurant that opened in Cocentaina in 1980, it is named after the ladder you had to climb to get into it.

It later swapped location and the second generation, chef Kiko Mayo and his cousin Alberto Redrado, took over. Since then, L’Escaleta has accumulated two Michelin stars and three Repsol Suns.

Mayo works with local products to produce tasting menus that change according to the season. He emphasises memory and a cuisine that goes back to forgotten recipes such as chicken crest. When asked to define his cuisine, Mayo answered: “It is as difficult as defining yourself. I aim to create a cuisine that is simple, honest and humble in every sense.”

Subida a la Estación del Norte, 205. Cocentaina, Alicante, Tel.: +34 965 592 100


La Salita

INDUSTRIAL engineering was Begona Rodrigo’s initial career plan when she attended Valencia Polytechnic University.

But after a trip to Amsterdam she got the travel bug and ended up working around the Netherlands and then the UK’s restaurant business. 

After a couple of years at the head of London’s two-Michelin star Aquarium, she came home and, in 2005, opened La Salita in Valencia’s foodie barrio, Rufaza. 

The winner of Spain’s first Top Chef TV show (in 2013), Valencia’s Cook of the Year title in 2014, she has a second restaurant, and a phenomenal cocktail bar, La Coctelería al Nu.

Today she counts on a Michelin star and, as of last month, three Repsol Sols, the only chef to snare the top award this year.

As she told the Olive Press last year on a trip to the Costa del Sol: “Cooking was in my veins and it’s my passion.

“Valencia really has it all when it comes to food and the sheer range of top chefs now is extraordinary.”

  • Pere III El Gran 11, València, 46005, España, 34 963 817 516



Cocina Aponiente
Restaurante Aponiente

The Chef of the Sea, as Angel Leon is known, is famous among other things for being the first to introduce plankton as an edible ingredient in dishes.

Hailing from Jerez, he studied in Sevilla and worked in France before starting his own restaurant. 

Aponiente quickly earned a reputation for its avant garde dishes featuring fish and seafood never previously seen in cuisine.

He guaranteed this by going out and buying his own fishing boat to find his very own fish. 

Angel Leon

With three Michelin stars and three Repsol Suns, the New York Times considered it one of the ‘10 restaurants in the world worth taking a plane for’. 

Set in a former windmill, it boasts a team of 70 professionals for just 30 diners. 

The marine-themed tasting menus astonish with their elaborate presentation. 

He told the Olive Press last year: “Sustainability in cooking is my main driver and I just pray the days of overfishing are coming to an end.”

Francisco Cossi Ochoa, s/n. El Puerto de Sta María, Cádiz, Tel.: +34 956 851 870



Karim de Pinones dish at Noor

Chef Paco Morales met his wife Mariana in her native Cordoba, Argentina, and in 2016 they realised their life project: opening Noor in Cordoba, Andalucia.

One year later they earned a Michelin star and a Repsol Sun, and now have a very impressive three of each.

Noor’s interior is influenced by Andalucia’s Moorish heritage, while dishes combine modern culinary techniques with flavours and aromas from the past.

Every season, the restaurant explores a different historical period, currently the ‘Golden Age’ of the 18th century, when the New World brought its ingredients to Spain.


A genuine culinary genius (some might say maverick) his creativity is off the scale.

Above all, he is a diplomat and true champion of southern Spain.

“There is no doubt the chefs in Andalucia are now starting to push the boundaries,” he told the Olive Press. “Our creative edge is finally getting noticed.”

Pablo Ruiz Picasso, 8.Córdoba, Tel.: +34 957 96 40 55



Messina fish dish

Mauricio Giovanni is another Argentinian from Cordoba who started his Spanish career making pasta ‘like many Argentinian cooks do’. 

In 2003 he opened Messina in Marbella, along with his wife Pia Ninci whose name is an homage to his grandparents who were natives of the eponymous Sicilian town.

The restaurant has long been a favourite among Marbella’s dining cognoscenti although it didn’t earn its first Michelin star until 2016. 

Giovanni’s a la carte and tasting menus are based on local products, particularly fish and shellfish. 

He combines avant-garde culinary techniques with a simple and elegant presentation. 

However, you will have to wait to pay a visit – it is temporarily closed for renovations.

Av. Severo Ochoa, 12. Marbella, Málaga, Tel.: +34 952 864 895



Benito Gomez learnt his trade under Spain’s most famous chef of all time, Ferran Adria.

The El Bulli boss liked the Catalan livewire so much he sent him to help launch his Andalucian diffusion joint, at Hacienda Benazuza, near Sevilla, two decades ago.

And he simply never went home, loving the southern region so much, he decided to stay when Benazuza shut, opening his own restaurant Bardal in Ronda.

One of Andalucia’s top restaurants, with two Michelin stars and two Soles, his laboratory champions the best local ingredients and changes regularly.

He has a second diffusion restaurant, Tragata, in the town and he is usually found crossing the road between the two joints which are 100m apart.

“I love Ronda and its amazing range of cheeses, mushrooms and vegetables,” he told the Olive Press this week. “Andalucia is the front line of food these days and there are so many chefs doing amazing things here.”


When Marcos Granda opened his tiny restaurant in the heart of Marbella nearly two decades ago lots of people expected it to last a few months.

With just 12 covers (yes TWELVE covers a night) it seemed impossible to imagine that it would survive.

But today the Asturian businessman – who is a sommelier by trade – has three Michelin stars in Marbella alone (two at Skina and one at Nintai) not to mention two more stars at Clos in Madrid and Ayalga in Ribadesella.

And that’s not all, his new restaurant, Marcos, which opened in Gijon exactly a year ago, won a star in this year’s Michelin guide after just TEN months.

The man is on fire… a dynamo, who has not just put Andalucian cuisine on the map, but now exports it all around the country.

Having trained at El Bulli and at Greenhouse in London helped, as did various stints in the north of Spain.

“Nobody trusted my ideas,” he revealed shortly after winning his first Michelin star in 2008. “No-one would have bet on my vision. But in my mind, the secret was clear… however, I wanted to put it to the test first.”

Aduar Street, 12, 29601 Marbella, Málaga +34 952 76 52 77

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