Travelers looking for a three-Michelin-starred meal in Andalusia will inevitably end up at Aponiente.
It’s the only restaurant in the region with the distinction.
The restaurant, located in the heart of the Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park, is helmed by Chef Angel Leon.
Unlike most Michelin-starred restaurants where seasons inform the menu, Leon’s muses are discarded seafood, like fish eyeballs, and never-before-seen harvests from the ocean floor, like seagrass and sea rice.
Despite all the culinary accolades that Leon has earned, his trips out of Andalusia are surprisingly few and far in between.
He knows the region — and when asked where to eat in southern Spain, he offers the following recommendations.
A restaurant with two Michelin stars in the city of Ronda, Bardal is owned and operated by Catalan native, Benito Gomez.
Gomez was born to Andalusian parents who ran a restaurant in Barcelona. He draws from Andalusian and Catalan cooking to serve what Leon describes as “the region of Ronda on a plate.” Favorites include grilled red snapper with chamomile and chamomile butter as well as goat cured in seaweed with seaweed juice and sides of the animal’s shoulder, brain and kidney.
Chef Pedro Sanchez opened Baga in 2017, after cutting his teeth at Casa Antonio, Chateau de Bagnols and Restaurant Martin Berasategui.
With only 16 seats, the one Michelin-starred eatery may be small, but it succeeds in matching minimalist ingredients with innovativeness.
Menu highlights are partridge escabeche (partridge marinated in vinegar and loaded with herbs and spices), quisquilla de Motril (shrimp from the town of Motril served in mushroom broth) and rusty pear and smoked eel skin.
Fuengirola: Los Marinos Jose
Los Marinos Jose at Fuengirola, a town in Costa del Sol, is what Leon describes as a “temple of seafood.”
Jose Sanchez and his family have been running this spectacular restaurant for more than 30 years. In addition to the restaurant, they own a boat that they use to fish daily. The seafood goes directly from the boat to the kitchen to ensure it is fresh.
Bolonia: Restaurante Las Rejas
Located on the Bolonia beach in Cardiz, Las Rejas is a “chiringuito” (or beach establishment) that serves traditional fare in a unique setting.
Carlos and his brothers make guests feel at home with comfort food like shrimp omelet, tuna in lard with roasted peppers, boiled white prawns and squid croquetas. The borriquete, a fish from the Atlantic Ocean, is a menu highlight.
Arcos de la Frontera: Horno Artesa
Horno Artesa is a bakery in the town of Arcos de la Frontera, a gateway to the “Route of the White Villages,” which winds from the provinces of Cadiz to Malaga.
It’s the only bakery in the province listed in “La Ruta del Buen Pan,” an annual selection of one hundred artisan bakeries in Spain. Operated by Paco Ruiz Salguero, the bakery’s toasted malt bread is legendary, as are its pastries and specialty breads with sultanas and walnuts.
Jerez: Bar Maty
According to Leon, Bar Maty is arguably the “best bar in the world” to eat fried fish washed down with beer or wine.
It’s a tiny establishment with just one bar and several high tables outside. The menu has prawn salad, fried choquitos (baby squid) and boqueroncitos (anchovies), frigate tuna and grilled mackerel but the star is the fried fish, which is prepared by Antonio Gonzalez. He runs the place but still makes time to chat and joke with customers.
El Puerto de Santa Maria: Churros Charo
Open daily from 8 a.m. to noon, Churros Charo is a market stall in the city of El Puerto de Santa Maria that is helmed by 80-year-old Charo Salguero Venegas (also known as Grandmother of Churros). She started making churros when she was 13, continuing a tradition started by her grandfather.
The stall serves churros finos (thin churros) and churros gordos (fat churros), which can be eaten with coffee or chocolate in one of the nearby bars.
La Taberna del Chef del Mar
Located at the original site where Leon founded Aponiente, La Taberna del Chef del Mar is an informal tavern in El Puerto de Santa Maria with convivial service by Leon himself.
The cuisine is funky and caters to locals and tourists alike with Aponiente signatures like grilled sardines with eggplant, marine charcuterie and plankton risotto.