Bodega Casa Montaña has achieved legendary status in legion guides and little black books. Many proclaim it to be Valencia’s top tapas bar, and it’s certainly one of the oldest.
It opened its doors as a grocery store in 1836, establishing itself by selling wine and oil to merchant ships moored in the nearby port.
The bodega’s reputation for keeping an excellent and extensive wine cellar endures today. And the food is supposed to be sublime. Frequented by locals, the intelligentsia, and Gwyneth Paltrow (so they say), my daughter and I agree that it’s worth a visit.
So after a Spanish lesson at Bodega LaPeseta, we trail through the old fishermen’s quarter of El Canyamelar in search of something special.
However, we find that the front bar is full, and we have no reservation for the small restaurant at the back. When I take a look inside, the friendly but brisk waitress asks that we keep the door shut so that her customers don’t catch cold.
Luckily, it’s not over yet.
The waitress (who is most definitely in charge) comes outside to dash down my name on her notepad, and I see I’ve joined a long list of others. So we relax as we wait in the sunshine, where we are served some drinks, and our appetites are encouraged by the tapas board hanging by the door.
Soon the waitress returns to beckon us into the warmth. Conversation surrounds us – it’s a tightly packed, companionable scene. Locals gather to while away Sunday, joined by out-of-town visitors like us.
Barrels of wine are not just functional – they furnish every wall, imbuing the bodega with a classic, timeless feel.
We sit at the bar and place our order, then watch the seamless teamwork on show. The staff are busy but in no way under pressure – they are experienced, take pride in what they do, and exchange jokes as they work.
The tapas are as delicious as expected, and the staff time the delivery of each new plate to perfection.
We are too late in the day for some of the fresh fish tapas, but the bar is known for producing (amongst other things) wonderful sepia, anchovies and oysters. And although I love our garlicky potatoes, the patatas bravas (roast potatoes) also look divine.
Situated slightly off the beaten track, Bodega Casa Montaña is easily reached from the city centre by metro and tram. The area is colourful and vibrant despite the number of half-demolished buildings. Plans to extend a four-lane highway from the city to the sea, which would have cut right through the El Cabanyal-El Canyamelar barrio, were given the go-ahead in 1998. The local community put up a fight, and a series of court hearings prevented the road from being built. However, a great many houses were destroyed anyway. Hope has come with the swearing in of the new city mayor, Joan Ribó (in 2015), who has promised to revive the area.
I know that the trendy Valencian district of Russafa is the place to be, but my money is on El Canyamelar (with El Cabanyal) becoming the new hot-spot. And Bodega Casa Montaña will still be there, where it always has been.
If you’d like to visit, book a table in the restaurant, or turn up early if you prefer the front bar atmosphere. Alternatively, simply wait in the sunshine until the waitress lets you in.
You can find it here.