Toasted Bread with Tomatoes and Garlic Aioli
Jamon de Iberico Croquettas
Paella Pepica with Shrimp, Mussels, Squid, Octopus and Cod
Apple Pudding Cake with Sherry and Raisins
Turron with Espresso Sauce, Whipped Cream and Raisin
Known as the birthplace of Paella, every local or tourist in the region seemingly with an opinion regarding which Restaurant serves the best pan of Rice in town, it seemed only appropriate that even as a solo diner the dish should be sought out during a brief stay in Valencia, the hotel’s concierge well-utilized in making a reservation nearly a month in advance for a sought after table on the outdoor patio of La Pepicia.
Favored by the likes of royals, writers and artists for both the location as well as the history, a sprawling space of more than 400 seats looking onto Playa Malvarrosa since 1898, La Pepica serves diners from 13h00 until 17h00 seven days a week with dinner service added on Fridays and Saturdays, parking near Paseo Neptuno limited thanks to beach access and nearby competition, though an underground garage about two-hundred meters inland is available for just under €3.50/hr.
Sprawling in its layout with servers buzzing about, patrons arriving from the beach frequently walk-ins and thus relegated to an indoor seat beneath sky-blue walls, old photographs and tile murals, those with the foresight to book in advance will typically approach La Pepica from the opposite side where doors are flanked by a bar adjacent the enormous open kitchen, more than a dozen cooks maneuvering pans of various sizes filled with no less than a dozen combinations of Saffron, Starch, Protein and Produce.
No doubt a tourist-friendly sort of place, at least a quarter of the diners plainly heard speaking English to bow-tied waiters who are fluent, it is after seating that guests are invited to peruse a sizable carte of Starters, Entrees and Desserts in addition to the restaurant’s signature, the €28.50 per person Tasting Menu a perfect choice with Bread, one Appetizer, one Dessert plus a pan of Rice typically meant for two easily accommodated for even single diners.
Said to have adapted much of its menu based on the likes and dislikes of famous guests of the past, the eponymous Paella of peeled Seafood originally created as an alternative to tradition in order to prevent the rice from becoming “dirty,” it was with a basket of toasted Bread paired to crushed Tomatoes and Garlic Aioli that the meal began, a follow-up of eight Croquettas filled with Bechamel and Iberico initially raising eyebrows as relates to portion sizes, though the crispy exterior and creamy insides quickly saw them made short work of as sounds of the tide rumbled in the distance.
Arriving shortly after the restaurant’s opening, the space subsequently filling to capacity over the course of perhaps 45-mintues, it was just past 13h35 that the first Paella emerged from the kitchen followed by a second, the third landing on a two top and nearly filling it to capacity with steam still rising and edges still sizzling, the first spoonful going from center to edge collecting Shrimp, Fish and Squid plus a generous bit of the crisp and salty Socarrat.
No doubt a lot of food, the minimum portion for two still offered as a matter of feasibility despite only being charged for one tasting, it was with good speed that nearly all of the tender rice was enjoyed with a focus on the edges and fresh chunks of Seafood, a few spoonfuls sent back in order to preserve stomach capacity for later, though the two-sided Dessert card immediately rendered that idea moot, the more expensive Turron Sundae with Espresso Sauce, Whipped Cream and Raisin texturally wonderful and counted as part of the tasting with a €4.95 wedge of Apple Bread Pudding added on proving equally compelling beneath a warm sauce of Butter and reduced Sherry.