Whether Michelin starred or a little more humble, with a cosmopolitan approach or focused on showcasing tradition, Logroño’s restaurants offer flavours with their roots in quality produce and wine culture. Because it’s not just about tapas if you want to make the evening last longer sipping a good wine and enjoying after-dinner conversation.
Talking about restaurants in Logroño is something as spontaneous as the act of eating. Thanks to the number of good quality restaurants offered by the capital of La Rioja.
And when we talk about restoration in its fullest sense we are not referring to that historical period between 1875 and 1923, in which the politician Práxedes Mateo Sagasta stood out for his rhetorical skills and whose name graces a secondary school in Logroño – the original building is being converted into a first class cultural venue in the city centre – but to the noble art of the wining and dining.
The word culture has many meanings in the city of Logroño, and one of the most clearly recognisable is centred precisely on its cuisine. However, the well-deserved fame that Logroño has always enjoyed for its tapas and pinchos can also tend to hide the glories of its restaurants, very tempting once you have worked up an appetite with an aperitif.
It is easy to classify them in the way a guidebook might, but as is so often the case with labels, they fall short of describing the real experience that you will have when in each establishment. However, a brief classification will help us to find our way through the many options available.
Because in Logroño there are restaurants, where tradition and a good plate of caparrones is the minimum you would expect to see on the table to feed body and soul; there are also establishments that seek to surprise the dine with a contemporary touch, and of course there are the bodegas that wanted to be restaurant too, and ended up having one foot in each world.
Among the former, tucked among the pinchos bars on Calle Laurel, we find places that have been there since the last century, such as Cachetero. Behind the frosted glass of the entrance, Ernest Hemingway, Anthony Quinn, Miguel Delibes and several members of the Royal Family have sat at its tables.
The many framed autographs hanging on the walls bear witness to this, but here you don’t just come to recall the glories of the past, but also to savour traditional dishes with an innovative twist. And here is where labels prove to be less than useful than expected.
This is certainly the case of José Luis Vicente Gómez at Cachetero, as well as José Félix Rodríguez at La Galería and Ramón Piñeiro at La Cocina de Ramón, without forgetting Joaquín Aragón at La Quisquillosa, Aitor Esnal and his Wine Fandango and Carlos Martínez at Iruña.
They all offer dishes that ultimately share the same aim: to showcase local produce and regional cuisine, adding a very personal touch to their creations.
A wide range of options always makes choosing difficult, but in the capital of La Rioja success is guaranteed whatever you choose.
However, a Michelin star is still a Michelin star, so we need to remember that are two Michelin starred restaurants that are firmly established on the culinary scene.
One is Íkaro, where chefs Iñaki Murúa and Carolina Sánchez showcase everything the former learned at Azurmendi in Larrabetzu, and that the latter learned at Central in Lima, and at Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and that both learned at the renowned Basque Culinary Center.
The fusion of Basque-Riojan-Ecuadorian cuisines results in excellent dishes such as Cardo a la carbonara con tuétano vegetal encurtido which is based on cardoons.
And without leaving that touch of exoticism behind, the second Michelin starred restaurant in Logroño is Kiro Sushi – a name that tells us that this has to be one with an Asian flavour.
In fact it is a Japanese food bar with space for just ten diners, run by chef Félix Jiménez who prepares outstanding niguiri. It is hailed by critics as one of the best Japanese restaurants in Spain.
We may not have mentioned it until now, but in Logroño it is taken for granted that every dish is best accompanied by a good wine. And where better to find a good wine than at a winery? There are as many as eight wineries within the municipal boundaries, and two of them are easy to reach on foot.
These are the historic Franco-Spanish and Viña Ijalba wineries. The rest are only a ten-minute drive away and some, such as Bodegas Olarra, are conveniently on city bus routes. There you can celebrate special events or gatherings of friends and relatives among barrels or in rooms available for such occasions.
In places like these, the word “pairing”, so often used in other settings, makes perfect sense. Because good food in Logroño is enjoyed not with just one, but with all of the five senses.
Furthermore, let us remind you that the catering sector in La Rioja was the first in the country to obtain the Safe Catering Seal after the lockdown due to the pandemic was lifted, thanks to the training received by professionals within the sector. Flavour, quality and service… what more could you ask for?