Top 5 restaurants in Rioja, Spain

La Rioja is Spain´s second-smallest Autonomous Community (after the Canary Islands). Despite this, the tiny province located in northern Spain is recognized worldwide thanks to its incredible wines. It is important to know that the Rioja wine-producing region does not consist solely of the region of La Rioja. It spreads itself through Rioja as well as part of Navarre (the region in which the famous San Fermin festival takes place every 7th July in Pamplona) and the Spanish Basque country (Alava). Riojan cuisine is very rich and has a high reputation throughout Spain. Both Navarre and Rioja are amongst the best vegetable producers in Spain. The Pimientos del Piquillo from Rioja (delicious and sweet red peppers) have gained a well-deserved reputation, and the same goes for the asparagus from Navarre.

Local Riojan gastronomy has always been of high quality. However, it has only been in recent years that it has gained recognition (as in many other parts of Spain) thanks to young local chefs developing more modern versions of traditional dishes. If you happen to find yourself in Rioja, you will want to try at least one of these fantastic restaurants:

Venta Moncalvillo

Ignacio Echapestre is the chef behind this local restaurant. His brother acts as sommelier. Venta Moncalvillo was awarded with one Michelin star back in 2010. Ignacio was named the best chef of Rioja in 2006 and the restaurant itself holds many awards, including the prestigious Best of Wine Tourism (awarded in 2014). I recommend you try the Gastronomic Menu. Venta Moncalvillo is located 20 minutes south of Logroño.

Moncalvillo

Echaurren

Located in Ezcaray, a mountain village in the south of Rioja, Echaurren is probably the best known restaurant in Rioja. Five generations have witnessed the evolution of Echaurren. It was the first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in Rioja. Today, they proudly hold two. Echaurren has a gastro bar, a traditional bistro restaurant and the El Portal restaurant, which offers the best of its gastronomy.

Echaurren

Hector Oribe

This could probably be one of the best restaurants to enjoy local food in Rioja. Hector Oribe opened his restaurant in 2000 in the small village of Paganos. Hector has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the Basque country and has created, in this restaurant near Laguardia, the perfect venue to illustrate what modern Riojan food is all about. After an extraordinary meal, you can take a fantastic walk from Paganos to Laguardia amongst the vineyards and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains.

Hector

Bistro 1860 Marques de Riscal

This Michelin-starred restaurant is located at the five star hotel of Marques de Riscal. The brand, originally a wine producer, has expanded its business and currently offers top quality tourism services. Its hotel, spa, restaurant and wineries are all located next to each other and form a compelling tourism proposition. Chef Francis Paniego has shaped the menu to accentuate the influence of local products and wine, like the red wine caviar for instance.

Bistro 1860 Marques de Riscal

La Vieja Bodega

This restaurant is a fantastic venue located in Casalarreina, a small village near Haro (Rioja’s wine capital). The building used to be an old winery, hence its name in Spanish, and its ancient cellars can be visited with an appointment. It has a fantastic 1000 square meters garden and five dining halls with different environments.

La Vieja Bodega

Any one of these fantastic restaurants offers an experience to the demanding traveler. Rioja has always been a region for travelers. The Camino de Santiago or Way of Saint James has brought pilgrims from all over Europe to this region for centuries. Logroño and Santo Domingo de la Calzada are the two main landmarks of El Camino in Rioja.

The Way of Saint James has always been associated with the exchange of knowledge and ideas, and this is something which can also apply to gastronomy. The restaurants we have mentioned in this post are good examples of the merge between traditional and modern culinary techniques and practices. However, they all make sure to stay true to the best that this land has to offer. Of course, its wines are a main focus and the wine lists of all five restaurants offer excellent local wines. Vegetables (peppers, onions, artichokes and asparagus) and beans can be found in many of the starters of these restaurants. Fantastic stews, lamb and fish (with a notable Basque influence) are present in the most common main dishes.

Sometimes, the simplest local dish patatas a la riojana (Riojan potato stew) surprises the most exquisite palate. Like in the Disney movie Ratatouille, simplicity is sometimes the best answer.

Luis Lechuga is Managing Director at Winetourismspain.

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Comments (8)

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  1. Ronny says:

    Looks like the perfect town to have an amazing night out with inspired cuisine. Never heard of Rioja before this article, but it is certainly on my radar now!

  2. LIssa says:

    I’ve never been to Rioja, Spain. I visited Barcelona and Madrid. The restaurants you mentioned look decadent. The food in Spain is marvelous, but the water is not for drinking. It’s better to have bottled water at all times or else if you use water from the tap for drinking, you will become very sick.

  3. Luis Lechuga says:

    Hi Ronny, yes, Rioja is a fantastic region. A bit similar to Tuscany. The landscape of Rioja is a candidate for Unesco heritage in 2015. The best time to go is Fall. The vineyards get very red and the whole valley looks like a red carpet. Fantastic.

  4. Luis Lechuga says:

    Lissa
    In Barcelona the water is bad as you say, but that is not the case for Madrid, which has is one of the cities in Europe with better quality of tap water.

  5. Rekha rajan says:

    A few of my friends visited Spain recently for Mobile World Congress…didn’t think much of it back then. After reading your piece I think may be I should have also gone. :-))

  6. Ian D. Martin says:

    I was in Rioja 16 yrs ago as a guest, flyfishing. One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. Sadly not long enough stay. I vowed one day to return.

    Beautiful place. Beautiful food and beautiful people.

  7. Chet Steel says:

    What is wrong with those who commented? Spain is not a 3rd world country, the water is 100% fine to drink from any tap anywhere. The water in Barcelona contains a lot of lime and has a mineral taste at times but it is completely safe to drink.

  8. George Lush says:

    Lisa does promote a bit of nonsense here but if she wants to drink water from a bottle then Vichy Catalan would do the trick

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