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Vertical: splurge restaurant in Valencia

For my last night in Valencia, after Las Fallas had burned out and been swept up, I decided that it was a little too not-yet-spring to promenade along the waterfront (Passeig de Neptune) so instead I had the front desk call and make a reservation for the earliest available seating at a Michelin-starred restaurant atop a modern shopping/hotel/office complex that overlooks the Calatrava-designed arts and sciences museums. I had packed a necktie, so this was my excuse to wear it.

Restaurante Vertical literally overlooks the Calatrava bridge, through tall windows. Everything in the place is big. I was there at 20:30h so of course no one else had yet arrived, meaning the welcome glass of champagne was from a bottle opened first for me. The expert and unfailingly guapa service staff explained the set menu while I enjoyed the champagne: six cold appetizers, followed by four hot appetizers, then a starter, then two mains, a pre-dessert, dessert, some candy with your coffee, and some pretty marzipan as a going-away present. Your only option was to choose your wines, if you didn't want to leave it to their discretion. Actually, I asked to substitute one of the fishy mains for another meaty item, which they accommodated. Sounds like a lot? It was. I was alone and it took me until about 23:15h to finish savoring the meal. The cooking style is alta cocina, as befits the setting.

If you don't like being hovered over and constantly attended to, then this isn't the place for you. Every plate (not that most items were presented on things like plates, more like customized rocks and boxes and abstract sculptures that can momentarily support something edible and precious) was given its own time in the spotlight. The table you sit at has a staging area at the end where the tray is put in anticipation of finally laying the items out and then explaining them and then asking how you enjoyed each bite.

I did enjoy each bite. So much care was taken with every aspect of the meal that my next several meals were drowned out by the bright glare of this experience. I hadn't seen a menu, so I found myself hoping that this was going to be less than $200. It wasn't quite a perfect 10--one of the mains had too bitter a note for my taste, and the whimsical dessert of a forest scene with moss and fairytale mushrooms and plants sculpted out of mousse and ice cream and cake crumbles and mint reminded me inadvertently of the dirt cake that Chevy's Fresh Mex used to serve back in the '90s. And the final bill including modest drinking was just under 100e. Felt like value for money, honestly.

The early seating was because I had to get to the train in the morning, the Euromed bound for Tarragona. Several years back I made the mistake of scrimping on my last night in Rome, and ever since I try to take that as a lesson to exit with a bang rather than a no-substitutions anti-crise whimper of a closing meal. This dinner at Vertical certainly fit the bill. It hit the spot, and rubbed it out.

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