12 restaurants in Spain you need to dine in least once in your life

For globe-trotting foodies, this is the ultimate bucket list: the best restaurants in the world chosen for their elegant dining rooms and delicious cuisine.

12 restaurants in Spain you need to dine in least once in your life
Amelie Vincent with Joan Roca, one of the 12 restaurants in Spain she included in her book. Photo: The Foodalist

In a new book, 150 Restaurants You Need To Visit Before You Die (Lannoo Publishers), foodie, author and influencer Amélie Vincent, travels the world to choose the best dining experiences and of course that included a stop in Spain where she chose 12 Spanish eateries.

Six of them are located in the Basque Country, another four in Barcelona and one in Girona, and the last in Madrid.

Let’s take a look ar her choices.

Etxebarri in Atxondo, Basque Country

Photo: Anders Husa

Writing about the chef Victor Arguinzoniz, Vincent writes “He is one of the most respected and inspiring chefs of his generation using exclusively the fire, live coal. And embers from oack and vines to cook the very best of the regions ingredients.

Nerua in Bilbao, Basque Country

Photo: Andoni Epelde

Housed in the legendary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, overlooking the river, Michelin starred Nerua serves innovative Basque cuisine in a sleep contemporary setting with fresh white walls and swirl-backed chairs.

All the audacious dishes by Chef Josean Alija are served on simple white plates with just two or three ingredients, using Mediterranean produce to which he is not afraid to add unusual flashes of inspiration, like green coffee essence, pumpkin seed praline and ‘spicy marzipan sand’.

Mugaritz, Errenteria,  Basque Country

Photo: José Luis López de Zubiría / Mugaritz


“You will be surprised by dishes that make sounds and appetizers that melt in the mouth,” writes Vincent on her reason for including this restaurant on the list.

“Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz’s philosophy is to balance his theatrical instincts with technical cooking and to touch on all of the senses by playing with perceptions,” she writes.

Elkano in Getaria,  Basque Country

Photo: Amelie Vincent

“The best time to visit Elkano is in April or May,” writes Vincent, “when wild Atlantic turbot is at the peak of its season and you can hear chef Aitor Arregui’s passionate stories about the fishing season and the work they do with the local fisherman.

Azurmendi in Larrabetzu,  Basque Country

Photo: Amelie Vincent

Perched on a  hillside, Azurmendi tells the story of the Basque Country’s finest produce through an all-encompassing culinary experience.

“This environmentally friendly restaurant recycles its own waste, as well as harvesting rainfall and cooling itself using geothermal energy,” she writes.

Arzak in San Sebastian,  Basque Country

Photo: Amelie Vincent

Another restaurant in the Basque Country, this time in San Sebastián, Vincent says “It is beautiful and quite unique to watch a father and daughter combination in a kitchen.”

El Celler De Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia

Photo: Amelie Vincent

Celler de Can Roca the Catalan restaurant has scooped the title of Best restaurant in the world several times, and maintains three Michelon stars is not surprisingly on the list. Run by the three Roca brothers, who blend their skills of chef, pastry chef and somellier, it is considered one of the best restaurants in Spain.

Disfrutar in Barcelona, Catalonia

Photo: Adria Goula

Disfutar meaning enjoy in Spanish is a beautiful Mediterranean restaurant in Barcelona, with clay ceramics and a white dining room that flows out onto the terrace, referencing the small fishing villages of Catalonia.

It is here where you can enjoy the spheres that look exactly like olives but which are filled with mandarin flower essence, a famous dish inherited from El Bulli.

Enigma in Barcelona, Catalonia

Photo: Pepo Segura

Albert Adrià, brother of world-famous chef Ferran and former El Bulli chef is behind the restaurant “located in a majestic space that combines Japanese minimalism with vintage science fiction, Enigma is definitely not a conventional restaurant.

“Diners do not remain static during the unique experience: they move through the seven  distinct dining spaces, each one with its own theme, from La Plantxa, featuring a teppanyaki-inspired set up with a flat-top grill, to the 41º cocktail bar.”

Hoja Santa in Barcelona, Catalonia

Photo: Amelie Vincent

“Hoja Santa is the perfect place to discover the savour of cactus nopal juice mixed with an oyster, pinapple, lemon and olive oil”.

Another restaurant opened by Albert Adrià, here Mexican chef Paco Méndez showcases the very best of what contemporary Mexican cuisine has to offer, thanks to his experience at El Bulli and Tickets.

Koy Shunka in Barcelona, Catalonia

Photo: Pedro Cortacans

“At Koy Shunka, local products are prepared in an inventive Japanese way,” writes Vincent of this gourmet Japanese eaterie in Barcelona's Barrio Gótico. “The main selling point is the produce which is precisely cut and cooked with purity and simplicity”.

DiverXO in Madrid

Photo: DiverXO

The author warns that “to book one of the 30 seats at DiverXO, the hottest restaurant in Madrid, is  not without challenges.” But those luckily enough to secure a reserveration “will have a surprising Spanish-Asian arty performance in a wittily decorated room.”

For more take a look at the '150 Restaurants You Need to Visit before You Die', Amélie Vincent, € 25,99, published by Lannoo Publishers and available HERE



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Did Spain make Coca-Cola before the US?

Could Kola-Coca, the drink produced in a small Valencian village, have been the inspiration for the world-famous soft drink, Coca-Cola?

Did Spain make Coca-Cola before the US?

Coca-Cola, or coke as it is often referred to, has become one of the most popular drinks around the world since it was invented in 1886 in the United States. It has also become the drink most synonymous with American culture and the secret formula has been patented there too. 

Despite this, in the small town of Aielo de Malferit almost 140 years ago, three partners, Enrique Ortiz, Ricardo Sanz and Bautista Aparici, set up a distillery, which later went on to supply drinks to Queen María Cristina, who was married to King Alfonso XII, and the rest of the royal household. 

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Among the drinks that they created, the most popular by far was the ‘Jarabe Superior de Kola-Coca‘. It was made from kola nuts and coca leaves from Peru, and was dubbed by locals as ‘Heavenly Anise’.

The drink became so successful and popular that in 1885, one of the three founders, Bautista Aparici, travelled to the US to promote it and present the product to consumers in Philadelphia. 

He then returned to Spain, but a year later in 1886 in Atlanta, the pharmacist John Stith Pemberton invented the famous Coca-Cola. Sound familiar?

Whether this was a coincidence or not is open to interpretation, but what is even more interesting, other than the similar name, is that the drink contained basically the same ingredients as the Spanish Kola-Coca too. 

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When it was first created, the basic ingredients of Coca-Cola were just coca leaves, cola nuts and soda water, the same recipe that was made in Aielo in Valencia, except, they used cold water from the region, instead of soda water.

While Coca-Cola went from strength to strength and finally achieved world domination, the distillery in Valencia went on to produce other drinks. 

Then in the mid-1950s, Kola-Coca disappeared from sale when it is said, that representatives from the Coca-Cola company visited the Aielo factory to buy the patent for the ‘heavenly anise’ drink. 

Although there is no material evidence of this patent ever exchanging hands, it’s interesting to think the inspiration for this most American of drinks could have originated in a small village in Spain.