The flamingos have arrived at the Marjal del Moros, as they do each spring, and despite their spectacular appearance and extraordinary beauty, most people haven’t even noticed, as they’re probably all busy watching TV or going to the movies.
So here’s a movie quote: “The Holy Land is easy to find; go to where the men speak Italian, and then continue until they speak something else.”
So says Liam Neeson to Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven; and the instructions to the Marjal are quite similar: “Go to Puzol beach and head north until the road runs out” (not especially similar at all really, but enervating just the same).
A Nature Reserve full of wildlife just a stone’s throw away from Valencia is all well and good, but if there is no restaurant where you can eat some tamed wildlife after your walk, then it just isn’t the same thing.
Fortunately L’Estany del Marjal dels Moros, to give it its full name, is a classic Valencian restaurant combining good, solid, traditional food, friendly service and a very special view and environment, perched as the name suggests on the edge of one of Valencia’s best kept secrets, the wetland and bird reserve known as the Moor’s Marsh, or Moors Moor even.
The restaurant itself is very ordinary; unless the weather permits you sit out on the ample terrace, gazing across the stony beach at the sea, just 20 or so yards away, just beyond the world’s smallest roundabout where the road to the north terminates.
Nevertheless, the restaurant boasts its own special dish, the ‘paella de marjal’, which you won’t be surprised to learn, if you’ve just returned from the one hour circular route around the wetland, contains duck.
The Marjal is a Twitcher’s paradise, full of fowl and with wooden platforms upon which you can rise up and gaze at a goose, heed a heron or dream on a drake while reading the informative panels explaining this unique eco-system while the tourists visit the Albufera.
The restaurant also specialises in Suquet, a fish stew that can be sampled with monkfish (called ‘rape’ in Spanish, which has been known to raise the incredulous eyebrow of the occasional British tourist), sea bream (dorado) or turbot (rodaballo).
There are 10 rice dishes, covering most tastes, four meat dishes and a lot of fish, inevitably.
There are also all the usual tapas, including cockles and mussels (dead as it happens) and grilled vegetables.
The Marjal makes for a wonderful walk, despite the looming factories of Sagunto in the background, with its extended fields of cane, its canals and grazing horses; and it’s just a 20 minute drive from Valencia.