In the hills above Valencia, Las Bodegas is a temple of fine-dining at affordable prices. Daniel Hazelhoff arrives drunk on the scent of orange blossom and fresh rosemary, and leaves inebriated on bobal and a dinner of Olympian standard…
Near-inebriated by the fragrance of orange blossom and clusters of rosemary near Chulilla, around an hour’s drive northwest of Valencia and where sheer cliffs have been carved out by centuries of the Turia’s ebb and flow, we find ourselves surrounded by ancient olive trees, and the towering, iconic cypresses of the Valencian countryside. Amid this beautiful setting, at Las Bodegas, they bring us the house red, a young bobal, fruitful body and light acidity, paired with a tomato rallado and home-baked bread.
Here in the mountains, meat reigns, natch, though there were some maritime surprises among the gustatory shadows of pleasure. We opted for the menú tradicional – two entrées, un detalle de la casa, a main dish of your choice, dessert and of course, the grand finale, a carajillo de coñac. El detalle de la casa when we visited was an exquisitely smooth salmon paté, our first bite into the experience that was Las Bodegas. Its finesse and delicate flavours were lent weight by a punchy fragrant mustard jus.
The Las Bodegas house bobal is both organic and vegan, and it was so quaffable that we were on to our second in no time. So we scarcely noted the arrival of the puritos crujientes de ajo arriero with fried yucca. A wonderful contrast of textures – from the smoothness of the paté with the finessed crunch of the purito, and stuffed to the brim with ajo arriero, a paste of egg, potato, the finest extra virgin olive oil, and subtle cod undertones, meaning the animated chatter of our group gave way to a contemplative, appreciative silence to savour this superb offering.
Time for more bobal. And after it arrives comes the small succulent jamoncito de pintada – leg of guinea fowl, slow-cooked and served over a sweet confiture ratatouille. The dark, juicy meat of the guinea fowl was beautifully balanced by the sweetness of caramelized onion, and carrots, with undertones of honey, and cut through by the acidity of the tomato and slight bitterness of the red bell pepper, a beautifully composed and balanced plate.
By now, we were all belts and buttons undone when the coup de grâce arrived. I had ordered their star dish a carrillada al oporto, supremely tender and lathered in a decadent silky gravy accompanied by perfectly roasted potatoes. My partner had plumped for the deboned paletilla de cordero cooked and served in its own juices. Neither plate required a knife since a fork was more than sufficient to glide through both of these main courses. While the carrillada had the more refined taste, the depth of flavour to the lamb delivered an epicurean punch, meaning we had to call it an honourable draw.
By now full, it was sheer greed that saw me order the cheese flan, while my partner ordered the lemon sorbet. The rich texture of the flan was simply divine, an honest-to-God revelation of the senses, while the lemon sorbet was a delicate confection, as you would expect, and as such a more appropriate conclusion to the feast. As the coffee and cognac were served I felt the heat weigh me down like a lead blanket and I wished nothing more than to lay in the sun and have my siesta there and then, amid the heavenly scent of the Valencian mountain tops and the lullaby of the birds. As we walked back to the car, passing the bobal vines and olive orchards, I gave thanks for the sensory exorbitance of our day, and the epicurean temple that is Las Bodegas.
€22 per person fixed menu, drinks not included
Stars: four out of five