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), we 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 quite 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 soon served drinks, and we humour our appetites by scrolling down the tapas board hung by the door.
Before we know it, the waitress beckons 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 seamless teamwork unrolling in front of our eyes. 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.
They dish up some very tasty tapas, timing to perfection the serving of each new plate.
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 colourfully 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, but 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’s always 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.