I think I was prophesying things to come when I wrote a post on a Valenciana paella (Pie-yay-ah!) I tried out at Portobello Markets, London. That one was very good so I was pretty chuffed to be in the birthplace of Paella itself. Valencia, classically known for it's namesake orange is also where the humble paella has its origins. Never before has any rice dish had so much appeal!
This oldy worldy restaurant that specializes in paella (that's what I like to hear!) has been churning out these puppies since 1898. La Pepica sits pretty on the beach side, lining a boardwalk with dozens of other restaurants vying for your attention. Not only does La Pepica win in the longevity stakes, it is also the most famous Paella Restaurante in Valencia thanks to a Mr Ernest Hemingway who recommends La Pepica in his memoir The Dangerous Summer.
This place is a real riot. We arrived past 3:30 in the afternoon on New Year's Day and the place was still bumbling and chaotic in the most endearing way. Local families, sometimes up 14 people sat elbow to elbow with several generations at long tables. Glorious. Steeped in history, the walls are crammed with memories captured in black and white photographs and the waiters are dressed in bow tie & vests. It really couldn't be any other way. The floor and walls are a profusion of tile mosaics and the whole time I was thinking, 'museum'.
|Paella marinara: prawns, scallops and squid. Sad to say this one was cumulatively very salty. The lemon was a tiny saving grace here. Because they were 'freshly' made i.e. in 20 minutes, they didn't have the valuable time needed to develop a socorrat, the elusive dark crust that signifies a good no, great paella. I was so willing it to be perfect but it was simply a matter of quantity not quality|
Despite speaking next to none Spanish, there was a wonderful communal feel to this great hall of Spaniards (plus us). Amongst literally hundreds of diners the noise level was through the roof the entire time, waiters were dodging each with two paella pans apiece, there was a certain flourish and pride with which we were served. It put a smile on my dial ;)
Half a paella (each) later, did we still have room for dessert? Hell yes!
|Degustación de Semifríos: everything about this dessert is screaming old school to me, the way the caramel is first swirled on the plate. This dish just oozes character for me.|
|Tortas Capuchina: a sponge soaked in sugar syrup and coffee. Despite appearances, it was lovely and light. I definitely had the need for a walk after this carb bonanza!|
Frank Camorra, of MoVida (fame) puts in his 2c on the paella question. He recommends La Pepica but rates it second to L'Alter (15km SW out of Valencia) describing this one as "the best paella I've ever had". Bold words (pun intended). The name of the game here is a pre-ordered paella that has been rested and is ready when you arrive. This sounds a bit more like it. As they say, you can't rush the process. Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore this venue but it's surely staying on my list!
La Pepica Paseo de Neptuno 6 y 8, 46011 Valencia
L'Alter Ca Juliet 3, 46220 Piccasent (near Valencia)
Thanks for reading! xGourmand