We first visited this Valencian tapas restaurant in 2016 on our first trip. It was so exceptionally tasty that it was at the top of our list to visit again.
We first decided to eat here after seeing several online recommendations. It features heavily in a lot of ‘best places to eat in Valencia’ and for good reason!
The area of El Cabanyal
El Cabanyal is a fairly deteriorated and unwealthy neighbourhood in Valencia. It has been home to strife for many years now because the local government have tried to renovate and demolish parts of the town.
A walk around this area will quickly give you insight into true Valencian life by the sea. It is mostly a residential area with only the few more intrigued tourists wandering here to appreciate the tiled fisherman houses and delight in some of the best Valencian tapas i’ve ever tasted.
When you first enter Casa Montana it is like walking into a bar from another era. The walls of the bar are lined with heavy, aged barrels of wines. The bar area is quite compact but so full of character. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine people from the Wild West walking into this bar in a hollywood movie! Only you’re in Spain. In a sleepy little fisherman’s neighbourhood called El Cabanyal.
Sadly I don’t have a picture of the bar but if you google Casa Montana and follow my link, you can quickly get yourself up to speed on what I’m talking about.
Casa Montana is always busy. Walking up the road to Casa Montana you will usually find a queue of people stood outside waiting for a table. We went on a Monday evening, when they hadn’t even had a fresh fish delivery that day (because fisherman don’t fish on a Sunday) and therefore didn’t have a few key items on the menu and it was still heaving! It is famed for being a great Valencian tapas bar and it will always be busy so be prepared. Moral of the story, a reservation is ESSENTIAL! Otherwise be prepared to stand in the queue.
To get a seat in the bar area, I believe the idea is to turn up without a booking, walk in and hope for the best. Obviously, you need to be there well in time before it opens to get lucky enough.
Otherwise, you walk in, walk up to the bar, tell them the reservation name and you are ushered underneath the bar to get to your table. That’s right, underneath the bar. Without even a sideways glance from the waiters.
The first time this happened I can remember the bartender lifting up the pass of the bar so we could walk through easily. But this time it was a duck and crouch technique with a quick “watch your head” from the bartenders which made us chuckle.
Last time around it was quite daunting being in there. Everyone moved so quickly, everyone seemed to know what they wanted and then there were these two English nomads, who spoke not a word of Spanish, sat there hopeless. We managed to order but our second visit was so much more relaxing.
This time basically everything was decided for us, which was not intended at all but that’s how it ended up and we loved it!
We sat atop a high table, next to the charcuterie prep and bread station. I wasn’t immediately impressed with where we were sat but then I relaxed into it and appreciated the lack of space they have on offer. It was also quite nice to sit and watch the lady craft fully cut this huge slab of ham. I would definitely have taken my fingers off.
Very soon after this our waiter, who I can only guess is the manager or owner because he was frantically busy all night, came over to us. I also remembered him from 2 years ago.
He greeted us and asked if we would like an aperitif. I hadn’t even considered or seen a drinks menu yet so was a little befuddled. So he quickly suggested “Vermoo?” which FYI, is ‘Vermouth’ in a written Spanish accent!
I love an aperitif and I love a Sangria. But at no point during our trip in Valencia had I yet considered a Vermouth.
At this point, though, he totally got me and I found myself really wanting one. Not even quite sure what we’d be getting! Was it a plain Vermouth? With ice? No ice? A sangria type drink with some fruit, too? Had I heard him completely wrong?
It turned out to be Vermouth on the rocks with a slice of lemon. We both really enjoyed it and agreed it’s enlightened us to the world of Vermouth.
Next came the wine list. I was flicking through (a wholly Spanish menu, with a lot of wine regions I’d never heard of) and the waiter returns.
He says “Ready to order?”
I quickly responded that we weren’t yet ready to order food but did he have any suggestions on wine?
Well, that was it. He started reeling off everything we should order on the food menu. I was too polite to correct him and say I hadn’t even considered the food menu yet, so we listened in and basically agreed to every plate he suggested!
The funniest suggestion was “You want tomatoes?” to which I said not really. I’m not a big fan of tomatoes.
He laughed and said “They aren’t English tomatoes! They are drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with salt”.
To anyone that’s reading this I’m sure that statement doesn’t make you jump out of your skin and think ‘Wow I really want those tomatoes!’
But anyway we agreed to this Valencian tapas plate of tomatoes with all the trimmings.
We also agreed to:
- Stewed broad beans (I never would have picked this. I don’t even really like beans);
- Padron green peppers;
- 7 spice tuna sashimi (I was very excited for this);
- Codfish croquettes (a bit of a Spanish/Valencian tapas normality); and
- Spicy home-cured chorizo in cider (we had on our first trip and it was amazing).
We said we’d start on that and see if we wanted anymore. A tactic of mine so I could actually stop him and take a glance at the menu for myself!
In the end we did get a suggestion for wine! He suggested we go for a Valencian wine, which set us back a whole €10. It was lovely and citrusy and complimented the fish really well.
First came the bread and broad beens. I was surprised at how much I actually liked the broad beens. They were stewed in a really lovely sauce but I have no idea what that sauce was. If you ever go, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Next up, you guessed it, came the ‘not so English’ tomatoes. Har Har.
They look the same as any other tomatoes, right? Wrong!
They were so tender, fresh and sweet. The olive oil and salt complimented them so well and they are so unlike any tomatoes you will find on English soil.
I didn’t start eating tomatoes until about a year ago and now I understand why. The tomatoes in the UK merely taste of water. They don’t have the sweet, mouth watering taste that these ones do. I previously mentioned on my travel guide to Valencia that Valencia is known for it’s oranges but in all honesty, they should be known for their tomatoes instead!
I don’t know if this is the same for all tomatoes in Spain, maybe I should put that to the test next. But Casa Montana’s tomatoes are insane.
These tomatoes have ruined all other tomatoes for me forever. Again.
Next came the tuna sashimi and it was really tasty. The tuna was delightfully soft and seasoned perfectly. We ordered another plate because it was so yummy.
Then we ate the codfish croquettes. There was no shortage of eating these on our trip. Casa Montana’s were very nice but La Lonja Del Pescado’s just had that slight edge over Casa Montana’s.
The chorizo in cider is also highly recommended by me. But I’m afraid by this point we had so many plates of tapas on our table and I had drunk a long glass of Vermouth and a few glasses of wine, so I forgot to take photos of these last two plates. Oops.
We finished off the by ordering another plate of tuna sashimi, some Valencian mussels and some Bellota Iberian Ham because it looked really good and I could see the lady cutting it over my shoulder. All these upselling techniques!
We ended our delicious Valencian tapas meal by ordering some Russian cake with a rich hazelnut and almond filling. When in Valencia order Russian cake… seems about right. It was lovely and sweet with a crisp coating and soft inside.
We also ordered some chocolate truffles because we had them last time and they were delicious! They had a soft, gooey and velvety middle with a thin but well covered cocoa exterior.
After dinner drinks
Dessert wasn’t actually the end though! Our waiter then asked if we would like any coffees or coffee with liqueurs. David fancied an Irish Coffee but the man swiftly replied that they don’t ‘do’ coffees like that. Instead he suggested an ‘espresso with liqueur’
David decided on an espresso with Whiskey, in place of an Irish Coffee. The waiter then suggested rum or cognac instead for me. I said I’d like a Cognac with espresso. The waiter clearly thought I couldn’t handle Cognac so he then said “Or maybe Baileys instead?” I clearly explained I’d still like the Cognac.
And. Oh. My. It was delicious. I can’t normally drink espresso alone (unless it has loads of sugar) but this espresso with Cognac was the best espresso I’ve ever tasted.
Since coming back I’ve carried out some vital research and learned that this type of coffee is called ‘Espresso Carajillo’ which is a typical coffee with liqueur in Spain. I will be ordering plenty more of these in the future!
Overall, our second trip to Casa Montana was completely hassle free. The waiters are clearly excellent at their jobs, know exactly what to recommend and how to put the customer at ease. They aren’t just trying to scam you and I would put all my trust in them again for my next evening spent here!