When news of this year’s Michelin star awards broke, few people in the culinary sector were surprised that Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa María had achieved the coveted three Michelin stars.

Of course, its Chef, Ángel León, was celebrating a total of four stars (his second restaurant, Alevante at the Hotel Meliá Sancti Petri, had also received a star). The so-called ‘Chef of the Sea’ was delighted that his interest in the nutritional value of sea flora and fauna once again captured the hearts and minds of critics and foodies. Aponiente recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and what better way was there to do so than with the ultimate recognition a restaurateur could hope for?

Ángel León celebrates ocean delights with traditional produce such as sardines, as well as lesser known species like plankton, a ‘superfood’ that is packed with heart-healthy antioxidants. Check out the Chef’s Instagram and you will marvel at artistically presented dishes such as the chargrilled sardine roasted on an olive bone and served on an aubergine base on a biscuit with sardine fat, and the tuna and onion ‘soup doughnut’ with Béarnaise sauce. Every bite is moreish, every dish the product of hours of detailed preparation. Nothing is too crazy or all-out at Aponiente. It is usually pretty easy to identify what you are eating, the surprise factor often arising from the texture, flavour combinations, and blend of colours.

The wine list, compiled by the restaurant’s ‘perfumer’, Juan Ruiz Henestrosa, comprises a vast array of local sherries. “I don’t trust people who don’t drink their own wine,” says Henestrosa, who sources bottles from some of the area’s best-kept ‘secret bodegas’. Ángel León hails from Jerez, though he honed his craft at renowned gastronomic haven, Taberna del Alabardero, in Seville. Three years down the track he headed to france, working at Le Chapon Fin in Bordeaux. His return to Spain saw him serve alongside Fernando Córdoba (famed Chef from El Faro in Cádiz), before launching Aponiente in 2007. The Wall Street Journal would quickly refer to Aponiente as “One of the top 10 restaurants in Europe,” while The New York Times deemed it one of the best in the world, “worth getting on a plane for.” In addition to three Michelin stars, Aponiente also boasts three Repsol suns.

Aponiente is ensconced within a 19th-century mill, built in 1815 to harness the energy of four daily tides that have influenced the sea life and landscape of the Bay of Cádiz since time immemorial. The mill manufactured salt, as well as food made with cereal grown in the local countryside. It was one of the biggest in Southern Europe in its heyday, but fell into abandonment when new technology was developed to produce flour during the economic crisis of the 1970s. Ángel León and his team gave the mill new importance, launching a restaurant that also availed of its proximity to the sea. At Aponiente, you can choose from two tasting menus, both of which pay homage to the sea from first to last bite. The restaurant will be announcing its 2019 menus on March 19, but one thing you will definitely find is a vast range of fish, seafood, and plankton dishes (including iridescent plankton). All ingredients (and wines) follow closely the ‘zero kilometre’ food concept, and even the desserts contain sea-derived ingredients. If soft plankton cheese, prawn cheese, or seaweed pudding sound up your street, you may also be inspired to book a table, put the pedal to the metal, and take advantage of the fact that Puerto Santa María is just two hours away – no planes needed here!