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San Sebastian Restaurants: Recommendations

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Sadly San Telmo was closed when I was there but Gandarias stepped into the breach. Great atmosphere, outstanding food and good well priced wine selection (staff are knowledgable so give them a price and see what you get). Try the foie toast and solomillos (and anything else that the locals are eating) at the bar and then head to the restauarnt for the steak (big forerib cooked over very high heat to achieve the coveted "crust") - I would happlily go back to SS for this place alone. For jamon also try La Cepa just down the street.

Alona Berri is a must - probably the best value meal I have eaten and one of the most enjoyable. Only three table so probably worth booking.

I also ate at Arzak and Mugaritz and would strongly endorse both. Two very different experiences and an interesting contrast. If pressed to pick one I would say Arzak which was the more consitent meal (only the fish course was anything less than outstanding and the foie with apple was (nearly) enough to make me weep).

Enjoy.

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P.S. - good wine/food shop on the edge of the old town a few doors down from tourist information. Also a few good wine shops around the old town. Definately buy some Mountain Wine (an excellent desert wine from somewhere near Malaga I believe).

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The Mountain Wine is Molino Real from Telmo ROdriguez (there is a second wine too, less expensive, called M.R. as good as the other, just less concentrated). It's probably the best dessert wine in Spain (except the PXs and the odd botritized here and there).

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Agree, it's probably the best dessert wine made from the Moscatel grape, but be sure to check out the different Vi' de Gel of Gramona from Catalunya, particularly the Riesling and Gewurtztraminer..

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No-one ever mentions  Berasategui  when restos are mentioned, it was our best meal the last time we were there, along with the usual suspects.

not so insomniac, we mention Kursaal in our linked post below! We loved our meal from Berasategui here and at the cafe in Guggenheim in Bilboa also.

we've all just given some good recommendations here too!

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No-one ever mentions  Berasategui  when restos are mentioned, it was our best meal the last time we were there, along with the usual suspects.

not so insomniac, we mention Kursaal in our linked post below! We loved our meal from Berasategui here and at the cafe in Guggenheim in Bilboa also.

we've all just given some good recommendations here too!

ah yes Wendy, those are very good eating....I actually meant his main michelin starred restaurant a few kms out of San Sebastian, a beatiful place with a large terrace looking out over the hills and stunning food. :smile:

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Well, thanks to everyone for their tips and suggestions. Turned out to be a pretty good trip, but then I’m sure you knew it would be. We decided to skip the starred places, stay in town and try as many pintxos as possible. And it so happens that that’s quite a lot…

I’d say I’ve eaten a lot more foie gras than I usually do over the course of a weekend, I’ve drunk a lot more txacoli and Spanish white wine than I thought possible, and probably shelled a lot more cash than is good for either my finances or my trousers.

Immediate impressions: how green the Basque country is, reminiscent of England far more than other regions of Spain. I immediately thought of good lamb... and rain, of course. And then the general dedication to good food: the pride of the bartenders, the casual commitment to freshness and hospitality, the sense that a culinary revelation could be around the next corner. Anyway, there’s some pretty good advice upthread, so I’ll stick to what I can add.

The first stop was Bar Txepetxa for anchovies. Now me and anchovies have a deep and powerful relationship, so I was happy. Particularly with some sea urchin slapped on top. Didn’t revisit, but it set a good fishy opening tone to the weekend. This was the old town, which stays open later and louder than the rest of the city, so we remained there for the rest of the night’s eating (actually we hoofed it into Gros at one point to pass by some fascinating closed places). Next stop was Gandarias, for the first bar-top pintxos, which proved to be competent. Probably its best feature is the selection of wines by the glass. Then came the wasted walk over the river, and back again, to reach Gambara, absolutely hopping by this time. The emphasis here is more on little plates ordered fresh from the kitchen, and that meant an unusual deep-fried asparagus dish (that Jerry-Springer-obese white asparagus from Navarre, battered, not bad) and a big platter of sautéed morels. Ah morels, always tricky to get down... Got talking to some fellow bar-proppers and traded a morel or two for some of their percebes. Which gave us enough energy to head for Cuchara San Telmo, and I can echo the recommendations above. What you get are small plates of lip-smacking brown goodness: sweetbreads, cheeks, duck bits, snouts. One reservation would be the tendency to season everything with generic brown reduction, which makes it all a bit samey. Not much to say about the veg either… But it’s worth at least one visit if you’re in town and want to sample some offally stuff.

The next day was the full session. Lunch brought us into Gros again, with the added attraction of bars and restaurants actually being open. The Patio de Ramuntxo was a fair start for lunch: excellent wines by the glass, although perhaps the pintxos are not as exciting on the plate as they sound on the menu. Then came the highlight one-two. Alona Berri is indeed the bomb. The creativity of the menu more than compensates for the slightly less welcoming atmosphere. Or maybe I’m just nursing a grudge at the main man for giving us bum information about his opening times on the Sunday, which meant I could only eat the contrast of anchovies once (well, twice, if truth be told). I cry to think of it now. Anchovy sorbet, a warm mixture of little fruits and vegetables, bound with a grain mustard vinaigrette. Waves of hot and cold, sweet and savoury, then the mustard comes through at the end and cleans it all up, and you want more, more, more of this joyous fishy crack. As Txacoli so rightly says, order everything on the menu. All of it. And giggle a bit.

But I want to drop a new name into the mix now: Senra, our next stop in Gros, just round the corner on San Francisco. They might well have the best bar pintxos in town. Does mushroom mousse with chunks of ceps sound good? Or onion marmalade, mayonnaise, ceps and jamon? The jamon even gets to see the plancha for two or three seconds, and, believe me, it does not suffer for this experience. How about grilled goat’s cheese, tomato, mango and jamon? These pintxos may not be elegant, sculpted or deftly plated. They’re simply hearty and magnificent. And then you reach for the bar menu, and you order the solomillo of duck with foie gras and apple. A little plate of perfection comes your way, pink bird encasing melting liver, the crunch of the lattice potatoes, the weighty decision of how much apple to incorporate into each bite. Another, and another. And you talk about the skate dish with your host, and then he brings a little tortilla to try, and you think you might have room for some more pintxos… Senra also stays open all day. On Sunday. It’s great.

It was back to the old town later for another newbie: A Fuego Negro, a shiny new bar you can hardly miss on 31 de Agosto. Again, a wonderful selection of wines by the glass. More white for me, as by this time I was nurturing a full-blown verdejo addiction. A huge list of creative dishes is chalked up on the wall running the length of the bar, and they all sound good. Little shots of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats. Salads, at last. Squab. A cheeky dish of dense pig, delicate cream foam, and wasabi peas. And slick, accommodating bar staff.

By this time we’d walked past Astelana on the Plaza de la Constitucion several times. Eventually tempted to enter, we were intrigued to see that half of the bar display was given over to items that needed a final cooking: croquetas, kebabs, little spring rolls. The simple advice is to avoid the pistachio croqueta (suspiciously green, like bad pistachio gelato) and make a beeline for one of the most magical items to be found in San Sebastian. This is a round pie, fashioned from puff pastry, a heretical pasty if you will, filled with mushrooms and foie gras. We found these in several places, but those of Astelana were the finest. Crisp, flaky layers, with a richly succulent yet earthy stuffing. Truly an exquisite fast track to gout. Be warned, you will need more than one. Each.

And, of course, we made it to La Cepa at one point. The jabugo was magnificent, but there was little else to tempt us by this stage, except a plate of fine-looking St George’s mushrooms (unfortunately, having blown a fair amount of wedge on fresh morels, we felt unable to burn more on these, to my lasting regret). This bar might get regular recommendations from locals, but it wouldn’t be among my top choices when I return. Plenty of space though, so you might want to stop by for some jamon.

So any negatives? Well, Spanish cider is no nearer to convincing me that it’s drinkable. There doesn’t appear to be a lunch menu at Bodegon Alejandro. And now I really want to go to Mugaritz…

How to Enjoy Donostia / San Sebastian

Go to Cuchara San Telmo, get some duck or some offal. Just a bit.

Drop by A Fuego Negro, order some salad, and a couple of avant garde combos. Hang out with the shiny people.

Slip into Astelana, and gorge on the mushroom and foie pie. Try not to order another 48 of them.

Live in Senra for a day. Take plenty of pintxos, but make sure you get the solomillo de pato. Twice.

Find out when Alona Berri is open. Go there. Do not leave without trying everything. Yes, everything.

Treat yourself regularly to a fine glass of wine, maybe a verdejo, maybe some red. Do this at Gandarias or Patio de Ramuntxo.

Repeat until impoverished, or good-humouredly dead.

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Reading Dan's mouthwatering suggestions for tapas/pintxos I'm definetely looking even more forward to my trip next week; "The Viking's gastronomic crusade" of the region.

But: I'd love some up to date info on the following places:

Arzak

(Have been rather dissapointed foodwise since Elena took over, and unfortunately Juan Mari's memory and mental capacity seems to be suboptimal.. Stellar wine list though).

Akelarre

Martin Berasategui

(Disappointed paricularly with the service/attitude last time, but that was 3 years ago, any improvement?)

Kaia-Kaipe in Getaria for lunch

(Chose that over Elkano due to great selection of wines).

And before anyone beats me to it: Yes, we have already booked Etxebarri.

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We were at Berasategui late last year and the service was so spot on and hospitable, (especially the sommelier from Montreal) that I was almost expecting to be asked to pick out a piece of furniture to take away as a souvenir. No need to remark upon the amazing food :smile:

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I ate a close to perfect meal at Arzak in October last year. This was my first visit so I can't tell you whether the menu has deveoped much from previous years but the execution was faultless. Jaun Mari was still in evidence but I suspect entertaining guests more than cooking.

Service was the only slight let down - there were a number of larger groups which absorbed most of the service attention.

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I ate a close to perfect meal at Arzak in October last year. This was my first visit so I can't tell you whether the menu has deveoped much from previous years but the execution was faultless. Jaun Mari was still in evidence but I suspect entertaining guests more than cooking.

Service was the only slight let down - there were a number of larger groups which absorbed most of the service attention.

I recommend the kitchen table at Arzak, if your party is not too big in number and it is available. The service we had in the kitchen was great and very friendly, with Elena Arzak giving us recommendations on dishes.

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we made our reservations 3 months out, requested the kitchen table (we're 7 or 9 pax, but alas the reply was that it was booked already. We've tried similar reservations earlier with the same negative results, and on every occasion thwe table's been unoccupied the entire evening of our visit...

:hmmm:

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we made our reservations 3 months out, requested the kitchen table (we're 7 or 9 pax, but alas the reply was that it was booked already. We've tried similar reservations earlier with the same negative results, and on every occasion thwe table's been unoccupied the entire evening of our visit...

:hmmm:

Berasategui was one of the highlights of our trip to Catalonia and the Basque region earlier this year. A stunning room, impeccable service and amazing food. They had no problem serving me the tasting menu while my wife ordered a la carte.

The food at Arzak was almost as good, but with a packed dining room the service was harried and the pace of the meal a bit frantic for a three star.

Extebarri deserves the hype.

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Going there for a few days next month (a Fri, Sat, Sun) and want to know exactly where to go. Help please...

Is a visit to the likes of Arzak or Mugaritz a necessity? Is there a more informal place to get avant-garde cuisine?

Where for pintxos? Five or six meals' worth...

Any interesting places for a menu del dia that might be better than picking from the bar?

Any breakfast recommendations?

Any cheese / charcuterie / booze stalls or shops that need to be tried?

And unmissable bars?

All suggestions welcomed. Don't have to be fancy, ultra-traditional or tourist-friendly. Just good.

I also recommend Asador Bedua close to Zumaia for an authentic asador experience (make sure you try their tortilla de bacalao), grilled meat and fish is superb. And Etxebarri is of course well worth the trip (let them know beforehand, when you reserve, if you intend on eating the chef's menu)

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I've never been to San Sebastian (it's high on the list, I can assure you), but the impression I've gotten (I know a few people who have been) is that it's almost impossible to have a bad meal there...enjoy!

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Can I ask, is it possible to have a good Pintxos crawl in San Sebastian on a Sunday evening? There's a good sporting chance I'll be there for a Saturday and Sunday night in early June, but I'm concerned that pretty much everything will be closed on Sunday. Can anybody put my mind at rest?

Saturday will probably involve Mugaritz/Arzak/some other blow-out. I'm assuming all of the "big name" restaurants are closed on Sundays?

Thanks for any help.

Si

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Sunday lunch (2pm-ish) is served at Mugaritz and I am sure that all the big restaurants are open for Sunday lunch. Very few restaurants are closed for Sunday lunch in Spain (Sant Pau is one, for example).

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I'd say that Sunday is not the best day of the week to try to go to a first tier restaurant in Spain. Many of them are closed.

Sunday night in San Sebastián means Rekondo and its amazing wine list.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Recently went to both Arzak and Mugaritz.

Both are excellent. But also very different in style, ambience and atmosphere.

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Recently went to both Arzak and Mugaritz.

Both are excellent. But also very different in style, ambience and atmosphere.

Your observations are definitely worth exploring. What did you like about each of these major talents? Judith Gebhart

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Once again I'm not sure if this is the appropriate thread for this but here goes (maybe it would make more sense to have a San Sebastian tapas thread and then threads on the individual restaurants rather than the jumble we currently have?)

We set out with a few places in mind and stopped at (quite) a few more just because we could. For anybody that hasn’t been to the old town before it is packed with bars, each piled high with pintxos but from what I’d read the best stuff is prepared freshly. Now not speaking Spanish is somewhat of a hindrance here especially as you can see plenty of stuff coming out that doesn’t appear to be written on the board. However, I was the culinary tourist equivalent of Rambo, my pockets stuffed with the weapons required for me to have a good time.

I came armed in one pocket with my Spanish food translation sheet which I have managed to trim down to fit on a single piece of A4 paper, not perfect but it helps. In another pocket I was armed with a list of approximately 80 tapas bars with a description of what was supposedly their “speciality” in English and also the Castellano version so that I could make a fool of myself to the Spanish barman. Other pockets contained Tapas maps, threads from Eg, articles from newspapers and pages from guidebooks. This was all well and good to start with but after a few Canas and glasses of wine (one of those pieces of paper had the word for one of those tiny beers, Zurrito, somewhere but I couldn’t find it) my pockets were a mass of scrawled notes and crumpled torn pieces of information, spread over half a dozen pockets and I could barely find my way back to the hotel. So here goes with what I remember:

1) La Mejillonera – bright and packed with people ordering the excellent patatas bravas, not sure what makes them quite so good here but without doubt the best we tasted with an excellent fiery sauce. Also funny to watch young American backpacker girls with huge beers, at least a litre looking at them wishing that they too knew the word Zurrito

2) Gandarias – We started with a very average croquetas de Jamon almost devoid of béchamel described by Rachel as terrible. However the Solomillo here was superb, nicely grilled, topped with a pepper and flakes of salt, really rare beautifully flavoured meat and all for something like €3. Fantastic

3) Tamboril – I tried to order a stuffed pepper here but only partially succeeded, instead of the fish I was expecting we ended up with meat instead which was fine but under seasoned

4) La Cepa – decent Gavilla with what would appear to have been pork loin, jamon, cheese and béchamel, again it lacked a little salt but as bar snacks go it beat the socks of a pack of Walkers.

5) La Cuchara de san telmo – the first of the new wave tapas places that we tried. Foie with apple jelly was excellent, a large piece of foie wchih had been cooked beautifully, dark and crisp on the outside perfect in the middle, topped with a little salt and served with an apple jelly. The only fault I could find with this would have been that the foie wasn’t trimmed too well, otherwise this wouldn’t have been out of place in a decent (London) restaurant. I’m sure I ate something else here as well…

6) Ganbara – Hojaldre de Txistorra – not so good as it looked, the pastry had a reheated feel to it, you might expect this but a lot of the pastry based dishes in this little bar were coming out freshly baked. A Plate of long green peppers appeared when I ordered Padron peppers, not sure of the name of these but very good all the same, simply fried in Olive oil and topped with salt. They also had great Gambas Rebozadas (spelling?). The Gambas Rebozadas were really good here. Great Prawns in batter here. I think we had had too much to drink by this time, that coupled with the great Prawns meant that we possibly ordered too many of them.

There were others as well but it all became a bit of a blur after a while, I remember plates of Joselito and glasses of Fugas back at Gandarias but it was only two days later as we walked past a dark bar playing loud rock music that we both looked at each other and realised that we had at some point, presumably the end of the evening, been drinking there as well.

That was day one, fortunately armed with the word Zurrito things became a little easier on the hangover front in the coming days. I haven’t got any notes on our second crawl but included some great crab tarts fresh out of the oven at Ganbara (which incidentally had a fantastic display of mushrooms including some enormous cepes (?) . The third, almost had me weeping with joy, I had a sequence of dishes that would easily have earned a star in London. In no particular order these are some of the other dishes I tried, its by no means all of them but each of these dishes is definitely worth a try if you want “nuevo tapas”. Some of this stuff was so brilliant I was compelled to take some photos, remember this is bar food!

1) Back to La Cuchara de San Telmo which had a menu that was deserved more than just a brief glance, a Black pudding Cannelloni was filled with a black pudding pure which would have been improved if it had remained coarse. Pato Confitado was exceptionally pale but did taste of duck, I’m not sure if this was because it was chicken cooked in duck fat or due to an albino duck, either way this was decent enough but not on a par with their foie gras of the first night

2) El Patio de Ramuntxo in Gros was our next stop and what a stop it proved to be. An outstanding Taco de Solomillo, again wonderful beef extremely rare, this time served with a green piquillo pepper sauce. Black pudding came served wrapped in a thin slice of pumpkin, it was broken up and there were a few pine nuts in the morcilla, a sweet apple sauce accompanied. Absolutely fantastic, you have to pinch yourself every now and again to remind yourself that you are in a bar.

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Beef cheeks came in a meaty sauce that had been slightly over reduced however a portion of croquetas proved that they could also do the more traditional things very well. Then a Risotto of mushrooms with foie gras. Really great, they even kept the rice al dente., I wonder how the restaurant at the back weighs up? IMO if Tapas bars can win stars this place would definitely be in with a shout especially compared to London starred restaurants. All the dishes are around €3 - €3.50.

3) Alona Berri – I saw this described somewhere else (it was quite old) as a “neighbourhood restaurant”. Well it is, in the sense that it is in a neighbourhood and that the locals are popping in for a small bite and a quick drink. However the tapas here are more than that. Firstly the display is beautiful, each plate of tapas on the bar adorned with small flowers, a little chintzy but beautiful all the same and the owner obviously takes pride in the food. Awards cover the walls and a couple of their most famous creations are laid on display but actually prepared fresh out back should you order them.

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The first was a complex dish and one that I can’t really do justice, for presentation alone it should get a star (the plate at the front in the picture below). We were enthusiastically instructed on how to eat it, first the strip holding the salmon eggs and some powders that I wasn’t able to completely decipher, olive and orange and one other if I remember correctly to be quickly followed by the cube of fish, peppers, aubergine, there may even have been a little foie in there? I was unable to work out the fish, I’m sure I could taste anchovy in the cube but the fish on top seemed to thick for that. The Combo really doesn’t sound that great but there was a pleasant richness to the dish which balanced well with the salty eggs and sweet peppers. An amazingly complex dish.

Another dish (the plate in the rear) consisted of a cube of seafood rice to be eaten first, followed by leek shoots, then a chiperones stuffed with peppers and apple followed by a shot glass of liquid which at first I thought was going to be a seafood stock but tasted more of a spiced onion broth. Again, excellent thought and presentation.

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A millefeuille of potato mushroom and foie gras, the top crispy with caramel served again with apple sauce

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A ceramic spoonful of confit duck came with an orange and vanilla sauce rich with butter.

Baztela of pigeon was so good that we had to order it again straight away, a simple take on pastille, pigeon delicately spiced with cinnamon and turmeric, the plate simply decorated with a rose petals and a gravy with north African spicing. Quite wonderful.

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Additionally we ate Tuna which came topped with honey. Another bric wrapped dish consisting of a leek sauce, the pastry contained a mix consisting of a great prawn, shredded onion, avocado and carrot. Brandade was presented in a pastry scallop shell, topped with bechemal and a quails egg. It was all quite brilliant.

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4) Narru – this was a modern bar with a tiny raised kitchen on show and an enthusiastic owner

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Just one person worked the kitchen and turned out all the dishes on the left hand board, some really nice crockery in here as well.

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They had a good selection of wine by the glass and he then recommended dishes to go with our wine – he looked quite thrilled to have some tourists in there. A potato ravioli with pork and leak was a surprise, the ravioli itself made with thin strips of potato an stuffed with the pork and leak. Oxtail stew came atop a layer of apple, A single prawn grilled in its shell came with a nicely flavoured and cooked seafood rice.

As you might imagine we were feeling a little full by this time so headed back into the old town, the walk obviously did us good as we managed to eat more at Ganbara before finishing with a plate of mixed Joselito products (the Chorizo was the best Joselito Chorizo I have tried).

A stunning days eating, unlike anything you could get in the UK.


Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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