Paella is probably the most famous Spanish dish and you can find it almost everywhere in Spain. But how do you know if it’s authentic? The best? Well, I did the research on Formentera to find the best paella, so that’s one less place you have to think about.
A short but (savoury) intro to paella.
Paella is popular is most regions across Spain but its history lies in the Valencian region where rice grows. There’s not technically a ‘typical’ paella, they vary from village to village. Some use rabbit, others artichokes and, of course, the famous seafood paella. There’s even one town near Valencia that uses meatballs.
Generally on Formentera, because it’s an Island surrounded by the most amazing water, the paellas are seafood. And, really helpfully, almost every restaurant claims to sell the best paella. So which do you believe? Well, first of all, there are a few things to know about eating paella.
What to look out for:
- Paella isn’t the cheapest food. It shouldn’t be. Of course you can find cheaper ones, but these are seriously unlikely to be the best. A good paella can cost anything from 17 Euros upwards per person.
- Paellas should come in an actual paella pan. If they come as a serving on a plate, it generally means they’re pre cooked.
- In a lot of places you will need to order the paella (and for how many people it is) the day before.
- Paellas never have chorizo in them. Ever.
So, the runner up…
To the north of the long thin bit in the middle of Formentera is the rocky beach of Es Caló. Here you’ll find Restaurant Can Rafalet and, as the title of this blog might suggest, it has a very good paella. It also has some incredible views from the lighthouse on top of the hill to the right and the coast of Ibiza to the left. So far, I’ve actually never managed to go on a day that wasn’t extremely wavy, so I’ve never swam at this beach. I’m not a huge fan of rocky beaches on a calm day, unlike many Spaniards who fling themselves from them for fun. It is a beautiful place to sit and take in the sea spray. Maybe with a Mahou or two.
The paella at Can Rafalet is superb. What a fancy word, but it really is. The portions are generous, reasonably priced and delicious. Actually, if you don’t take my word for it, I can tell you a tale.
When my boyfriend was eight, he went to Formentera with his family. They went to Can Rafalet for their pre-ordered paella. After the first round of beers and fanta they watched a very fancy sailboat anchor up out at sea and a tiny dingy approach the shore in front of the restaurant. A few minutes later, the waiter came over to tell them that they wouldn’t be getting the paella they had ordered as someone had just bought it. Before they could complain, the waiter said that someone was willing to pay for another paella for them, as well as all their drinks. Already reaching for the wine list, they accepted. The next day they saw in the newspapers that the king of Spain had been sailing around the islands in that very swanky boat. So if the paella is good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for us. But not quite the best paella in Formentera…
The best paella in Formentera
Something I’m a true believer in, is that the decor of a place does not reflect the quality of the food. I’ve had some of the best food of my life at street markets, in kitchens and dark restaurants that needed a new lick of paint. This restaurant in no way falls into one of these, but you do have to sit on plastic chairs that sink into the sand. It does stand out quite a lot next to it’s swanky ibiza style neighbours. But for me, not in a bad way. The food, views, people and prices more than make up for that. I even quite like the charm a bit of plastic on the beach brings (strictly chairs and not rubbish).
Restaurant Sa Palmera in Es Pujols not only serves the best paella, it’s my favourite restaurant in Formentera. It’s located on one of the best beaches (you can read more about those here) and is truly brilliant. We always order a paella for the last day of our holidays to not make it so sad that we’re leaving. All of the food I’ve tried there has been brilliant. Apart from the incredible paella, I’d really recommend the esgarradet – a kind of slow baked pepper onion and aubergine dish served with tomato bread. You will not be disappointed and the portions are very generous. Go hungry.
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