The coast to the North of Valencia is dotted with seaside annexes to the towns of the Horta Nord, Rafelbuñol, El Puig and finally before Sagunto the town of Puçol. Its bright blue-green clear sea, and its clean sandy beaches are amongst some of the most popular and picturesque with that fabulous light that parts of the Mediterranean are famed for.
It has many restaurants plying their trade with tapas, fresh fish, and traditional (and new) rice dishes. A combination of an uninterrupted view of the sea, the gentle lapping of the water, and Valencian gastronomy is irresistible and Restaurante Nazaret provides it by the spadeful!
Nazaret is as near a traditional family restaurant as you can get. Fronted by Paco, wife Isabel is the chef. It underwent a major refurbishment to improve the experience for the customer and the bar is now at the back of the premises opening onto the road where there is ample parking ( Cami Grell 21.) As you enter you pass through the restaurant, past Isabels kitchen, the artwork on the walls and out onto a covered then an open terrace on the seafront, the latter which they hope to extend this Summer. Throughout you have the view to the sea.
We went on a quiet Thursday lunchtime with just a few clients on the bar terrace and some diners outside looking over the sands. It was two years ago that they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Paco brought us up to date on developments in the restaurant and explained their philosophy while we enjoyed a chilled beer.
The restaurant is not just a typical and traditional eatery, which produces classic Valencian paellas and rice dishes……….although they do this extremely well! They are regular entrants in the Valencian Concursos and the restaurants´ bar exhibits the certificates they have won in the past ( a first and second in the Campeonato de Putxero de L´Alcudia and several seconds in competitions for desserts for example). They also have an International Tourism award.
Isabel is an innovative chef who learnt how to cook from her mother and likes to combine new flavours and ingredients with traditional ones but in a subtle way so that they add texture and do not detract from those of the main element.
We started with a Bonbon of Smoked Salmon. The salmon was wrapped around a ball of philadelphia cheese with anchovies, walnuts, ginger and basil on a plate decorated with cream and toasted sesame seeds. The main flavours were of course the salmon and the smooth cream cheese but the latter was subtly lifted by the hints of ginger and the texture given by the nuts and seeds.
The second plate was Dublin Bay Prawns served with fried green garlic tops, toasted pine-nuts, dried grapes and lifted ever so gently by the heat of the tip of a guindilla a (dried red chilli). Once again the main element was the perfectly cooked seafood but the accompanying elements added variation and texture again. This was spectacular and is one of those dishes that fills a room with aromas as it is brought to the table!
A traditional salad of tomato and spring onion with tuna was replaced by Isabels take on a modern salad. Gourmet leaves with fresh cheese, prunes, pine-nuts and croutons had a very light dressing of PX sherry vinegar and came with Cherry tomatos, the slightly sweet dressing countering what can be a bland cheese……in this case each element added its own very subtle flavour which worked perfectly together.
The main plate was the star however…an Arroz Chupachups. Chupachups are a well know brand of lollipop in Spain so the speculation at the table was rife as to what we were about to receive! It is a rice dish with artichoke hearts, wild mushrooms, Lima beans and the quail legs, the cooking process shrinking the meat so that it forms a ball at the top of the bone (thus resembling a lollipop!) This was served caldoso, not all rice dishes are dry like paella, with plenty of the rich cooking stock. This was a powerful dish, each of the ingredients being full of its own flavour which came together perfectly…absolutely stunning and a rice dish never tried before…..
The desserts came on a sharing plate; a 3 chocolate flan, a cheese flan with honey, gypsies arm with almonds and `Pastelón de Puçol de crema,´the local dish. All were homemade, demonstrating both Isabels skills and the reason for the award certificates in competitions.
All slipped down well with a glass of a refreshing light sparkling Moscatel.
Paco´s bodega contains a wide range of Valencian wines which are perfect accompaniments for this style of food. A Cremaet finished off the meal perfectly!
The restaurant is about 15 minutes by car from the centre of Valencia, it has a wide range of traditional tapas as well as classic paellas and the imaginative, innovative rice dishes that Isabel confects from the best Valencian ingredients. Eat here and you will not be disappointed, there is a 14€ menu with three starters, rice dish and dessert but be imaginative and order something exciting!
If you have the chance to talk to Paco and Isabel as well you will come away feeling that you have not only eaten in a family restaurant but that you too are a part of the family!
Reservation recommended at weekends.
Reservations 961420424, Facebook Rte-nazaret Ribelles Santamaria