El Puerto de Santa María
Lying at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean in sunny El Puerto de Santa María near Cádiz, Aponiente has long been considered a leading example of planet-friendly gastronomy. World-renowned chef Ángel León is at the helm in the kitchen, spinning out dishes that hero myriad eclectic marine species. With a strong ethos surrounding sustainable fishing practices, stewardship of marshland and water conservation – and an impressive score of 88% in the Sustainable Restaurant Award survey – it is no wonder that the venue takes home the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award 2022.
Fish-focussed dishes are the name of the game here. Aponiente’s courses include the likes of mackerel sobrasada, sea bass mortadella and hake cooked as fettuccine noodles. The tasting menu, named ‘Water Planet’, continually changes and always features the day’s freshest catch. Complementing the unusual pescatarian dishes, the restaurant sources vegetables, eggs and wine exclusively from local, like-minded producers. Even the dairy supplier operates a circular economy, feeding the goats with their own crops.
To León, the kitchen cupboard is not limited to the regular ingredients you might find at any other restaurant. In fact, he takes inspiration from the Atlantic, which he sees as a veritable ‘sea pantry’, stocked with esoteric plants and vegetables including sea rice and plankton. Each course is designed to showcase the limitless possibilities of the ocean for influencing diets and the climate, with the dream that one day, people may be able to feed themselves exclusively from marine life.
Talented chef León wears many hats. When he’s not sporting a toque in Aponiente’s kitchen, he dons his metaphorical thinking cap in the restaurant’s research lab, where the team undertakes projects to cultivate forgotten sea species. By partnering with the University of Cádiz and local fishing companies, Aponiente has recovered many aquatic species, including an endangered marine grain and eelglass.
The staff is also known to lead clean ups of Cádiz’s beaches, advocate healthy eating in schools and, during the pandemic, join celebrated chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen campaign to feed the city’s needy. To the team at Aponiente, sustainability goes beyond the dishes and permeates every aspect of life.
Discover more about the previous award winners