La Lonja is one of Valencia’s biggest tourist attractions and consequently is surrounded by restaurants that cater mainly for tourists. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, and is one of the most important examples of Late Gothic architecture in Europe. It was built in the beginning of the XVI century, and served as a silk exchange during the hey day of Valencia’s silk industry, which was later destroyed by a silkworm disease in 1865.
La Lonja is has four parts: the Orange Garden – a walled court-yard, the main, ‘contract’ hall, a large open space supported by twisted columns where the merchants would meet, and do their deals, the Pavilion of the Consulate, where the Tribunal del Mar, the first merchant tribunal to ever be formed in Spain, held its sessions, the main function rooms upstairs, and the central tower, which often served as a prison for ‘bent’ merchants.
For me, the best place from which to observe La Lonja is the terrace of El Kiosco restaurant, from where, admittedly, you can only see one corner of the back wall, but then again you can’t get a cold beer and a plate of spicy potatoes inside La Lonja either.
El Kiosco gets a few tourists too, but the waiter gives the impression that they’d really rather not. Customers who don’t speak perfect Spanish are treated with total disdain by the waiter, but don’t worry, those speaking perfect Castilian get pretty much the same treatment.
The advantage of El Kiosco is that you can sit there and slowly munch your way through a cheap meal under the protective shelter of an old olive tree (if you take the table furthest to the left; the tree really corresponds to the trendier and more expensive Café Lisboa) and watch the world go by.
The fare is straightforward, consisting on the day in question of 7 starters and 9 main courses. Paella, oven baked rice, salad, summer salad (presumably it contains sand and is rinsed in salt water) gazpacho and aubergine pie are all on offer and, apart from the salads, would be sufficient for most people.
The second course is just a minimalist list for the most part: pork, beef, squid, cod, meatballs, vegetable omelette etc, with little indication if pretentious French sauces or swirling shredded herbs are included. Naturally it’s chips with everything, or vegetables if you really want to see how far down a waiter’s face a sneer can travel.
And of course it is all tasty if unspectacular fare at a reasonable price with drinks and coffee or dessert included.
Actually I shouldn’t mix it so much with the waiter; he probably has a very rewarding interior life, even if you can’t tell. But as they say: you can’t tell a book from its cover, nor an apron from its stains.
Get there earlyish if you want an outside seat as there are only 5 tables, otherwise you’ll have to eat inside and stare at the traditional Valencian ceramic walls and at the smirking buggers outside.
It’s situated on the corner of Calles Ercilla and Los Derechos.