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Smoking in Spanish restaurants


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My wife and I will be in San Sebastian for a few days in early July, and I have booked Arzak for dinner one night. Due to financial constraints, this will probably be our major blow-out meal of the trip. I requested a non-smoking table but in the booking confirmation I have been told that the non-smoking section is full, and that we will be seated in the smoking section. It's a long time since I've had to think about smoke being an issue in restaurants, and my tolerance for same has seriously diminished. This might be a deal-breaker for me.

Is smoke a problem at Arzak? Is this something I'm going to encounter at all the high-end restaurants in San Sebastian? I've no problem with smoke in more casual surroundings (i.e. pintxo bars), but I'm reluctant to fork out hundreds of Euros for a meal if I'm going to be breathing so much smoke I can't smell or taste properly.

I may see if the non-smoking section is free some other night, but if not, should I look elsewhere?

Would be grateful for any learned comments!

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My wife and I will be in San Sebastian for a few days in early July, and I have booked Arzak for dinner one night. Due to financial constraints, this will probably be our major blow-out meal of the trip. I requested a non-smoking table but in the booking confirmation I have been told that the non-smoking section is full, and that we will be seated in the smoking section. It's a long time since I've had to think about smoke being an issue in restaurants, and my tolerance for same has seriously diminished. This might be a deal-breaker for me.

Is smoke a problem at Arzak? Is this something I'm going to encounter at all the high-end restaurants in San Sebastian? I've no problem with smoke in more casual surroundings (i.e. pintxo bars), but I'm reluctant to fork out hundreds of Euros for a meal if I'm going to be breathing so much smoke I can't smell or taste properly.

I may see if the non-smoking section is free some other night, but if not, should I look elsewhere?

Would be grateful for any learned comments!

We were at Arzak on April 1 and were seated in the "smoking" section. I did not notice it as a problem. There were smokers at one table, but it did not cause any issues for us (and we have a low tolerance for it). For what it is worth, the meal was so fantastic, that I am not sure that we were focused on smoke. I would not let this stop you from going.

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It's been my experience with higher end restaurants in Spain that they allow smoking, but they typically have very good ventilation systems so that the smoke is a non-issue.

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Smoking is definitely an issue in almost every restaurant in Spain, top or not. Very few have chosen to ban smoking in their premises and many try and succeed in circumventing the law and make smoking even easier for their customers. Even at the expense of non-smoking space in the dining room. I would insist on being seated at the non-smoking section at Arzak, asking them to watch for cancellations that may open seats there.

If smoke is really an issue for you, I'd probably have a second reservation just in case --giving ample notice when can celling to the other restaurant, of course--, keep in mind that cigars is a common scenario at the end of meals.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Smoking is definitely an issue in almost every restaurant in Spain, top or not. Very few have chosen to ban smoking in their premises and many try and succeed in circumventing the law and make smoking even easier for their customers. Even at the expense of non-smoking space in the dining room. I would insist on being seated at the non-smoking section at Arzak, asking them to watch for cancellations that may open seats there.

If smoke is really an issue for you, I'd probably have a second reservation just in case --giving ample notice when can celling to the other restaurant, of course--, keep in mind that cigars is a common scenario at the end of meals.

Good luck on "insisting" on being seated in Arzak's non-smoking section. We *requested* seating in the non-smoking room (Arzak apparently has 2 dining rooms, one smoking and one non-) but it was not available. We checked again closer to our reservation but still not available.

We did not cancel and I'm glad we didn't. There was actually only one other table that I noticed smoking while I was there, tables are fairly well-spaced, and the room ventilation was pretty good, so it was only a momentary distraction. It's not like a smoky bar atmosphere by any means.

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I love Arzak . . . but I am afraid to say, be wary.

We were the same as others in the thread until two courses into dinner, table to the left started cigars, table to the right start chain smoking (which did not stop until they left) and then later, others joined. We were the only none smokers. I twice had to get up and excuse myself for air and only at dessert, when one other table started with cigars, I insisted and was able to eat dessert at the bar table.

I only reply since you said you have limited tolerance and this meal was disaterous for us and we were left with much better feeling towards Akelarre (my favorite) and Mugaritz).

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On our most recent visit, I got exactly the same confirmation as you - non-smoking section full, table is in smoking area.

We were seated upstairs and a few of the surrounding tables were indeed smoking but it was no problem at all as the spacing is relatively generous and the aircondition works a treat. Had I been blindfolded, I wouldn't even have known that anyone was smoking.

I still would have wanted to sit in the downstairs non-smoking room as it is the more modern, most recently refurbished one. In comparison to the downstairs showroom, upstairs looks a bit like the "next project on the list".

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I still would have wanted to sit in the downstairs non-smoking room as it is the more modern, most recently refurbished one. In comparison to the downstairs showroom, upstairs looks a bit like the "next project on the list".

Curious - we ate in the modern downstairs dining room, which when we were there was the "smoking" room.

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Thanks for the feedback everyone. As it stands, I'm probably coming down more on the side of canceling. While you can obviously be lucky, I'm reluctant to leave such a thing to chance. If we were back a couple of years prior to paycuts and jobloss fears I'd just go for it, but now money is too tight to have an expensive meal potentially spoiled.

I'll mull it over some more.

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Simon_S, when are you going to be in San Sebastian? We are running into the same problem (weekend of July 3rd/4th/5th) for our Friday lunch meal.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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Simon_S, when are you going to be in San Sebastian? We are running into the same problem (weekend of July 3rd/4th/5th) for our Friday lunch meal.

Yep, that's the time we'll be there as well. Googling around, it seems that this is a constant problem at Arzak -- I'm not sure that a non-smoking section actually exists at all!

I've now decided that I'm going to cancel, and I probably won't even bother replacing Arzak with any of the other big-hitters. San Sebastian has so much good food that I don't think I'll feel cheated.

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Simon_S, when are you going to be in San Sebastian? We are running into the same problem (weekend of July 3rd/4th/5th) for our Friday lunch meal.

Yep, that's the time we'll be there as well. Googling around, it seems that this is a constant problem at Arzak -- I'm not sure that a non-smoking section actually exists at all!

I've now decided that I'm going to cancel, and I probably won't even bother replacing Arzak with any of the other big-hitters. San Sebastian has so much good food that I don't think I'll feel cheated.

I really hate smoking in restaurants and, for a top restaurant, it is a shame. How can I enjoy my meal when someone is smoking next to me, breaking all the olfactory qualities of the dish and compromising my sense of smell? That is one of the reasons why I have problems enjoying pintxos in the Basque Country....too much smoke in those bars for me to enjoy. And it only gets worse in the winter months.

However, Mugaritz is non-smoking.

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Simon,

We're off to San Seb in a couple of weeks and we encountered the exact same issue in Arzak. We cancelled and booked Mugaritz instead.

I've since been speaking with friend who is just back and having eaten at Arzak, Mugaritz and Martin Berasategui, he said the latter just blew him away. I was contemplating cancelling Mugaritz but will proabably stick with it.

If you fancy a blow out while you're there, it certainly seems decent value for a 3*.

www.martinberasategui.com

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Thanks Patrick. I came damn close to booking Berasategui (even though some friends of mine had a mixed experience there) but I ended up doing the same as yourself and booking Mugaritz.

To be fair, Mugaritz had long been my first choice, but I got distracted by Arzak due to, of all things, Masterchef. I'm happy enough with the decision now. I really want to see what all the fuss is about!

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