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Bilbao: Restaurant Reviews & Recommendations


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Lamb needs to be feeded in dry areas, that's why lamb from Castilla is better than somewhere else. And that's where it's best cooked. We could discuss if it's better in Avila, Segovia or Burgos. But the basque country is not a lamb destination. So safe place for the seafood and why not, red meat.

Re: Lamb temples, my favourites are Mannix in Campaspero (Valladolid), Nazareno in Roa (Burgos/Aranda surroundings) and Tinin in Sepúlveda (Segovia). Other highlights are Casa Cesar in Quintadueñas (Burgos), El Pastor and El Ciprés in Aranda (Burgos) and La Acreditada Fonda Los Caracoles in Lerma (Burgos).

Rogelio, your comments are very insightful and greatly appreciated.

docsconz, i think that I will stick with what Basque chefs are best at. "Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster." - Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Edited by kyeblue (log)
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  • 1 month later...

I guess that you will be driving on the motorway through Lérida/Lleida, Zaragoza, Tudela, Logroño, Durango and Bilbao.

If that's your route, El 33 in Tudela de Ebro could fit.

In Laguardia, near Logroño is Posada Mayor de Migueloa and las Duelas in Haro or Echaurren in Ezcaray.

Closer to Bilbao is Etxebarri in beautiful Atxonodo valley with a lovely hotel closer to it.

Try to do a search of all this places here on eGullet.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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A little caveat here: Olot is 37 miles from Girona and 480 miles from Bilbao... and not between the two, either: you have to drive again through Girona from Olot to get to the motorway and to Bilbao. So it's possibly not a very convenient stopover...

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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A little caveat here: Olot is 37 miles from Girona and 480 miles from Bilbao... and not between the two, either: you have to drive again through Girona from Olot to get to the motorway and to Bilbao. So it's possibly not a very convenient stopover...

Thank you for the heads up... I'm looking for a place somewhere between these two areas. Perhaps around the 300 mile mark. I don't mind being in a very remote area if I can find very good local cuisine. Any suggestions? A wine region would be preferable...

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I guess that you will be driving on the motorway through Lérida/Lleida, Zaragoza, Tudela, Logroño, Durango and Bilbao.

If that's your route, El 33 in Tudela de Ebro could fit.

In Laguardia, near Logroño is Posada Mayor de Migueloa and las Duelas in Haro or Echaurren in Ezcaray.

Closer to Bilbao is Etxebarri in beautiful Atxonodo valley with a lovely hotel closer to it.

Try to do a search of all this places here on eGullet.

Thank you very much Rogelio for your suggestions... Any ideas of locations more in-between? A wine area would be great!

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  • 5 months later...

Hi everyone,

In a few weeks im going to be spending the weekend in the basque country. Ill be in bilbao for one day (not dinner though) and in san sebastian for 2. I know that there are several highly rated restaurants in these two cities (especially the later), but can someone recommend a few must go places that aren't a fortune? I'm traveling with a few friends who are not as obsessed with food as I am, and so they probably won't want to spend a fortune on food. That being said, we are considering going out to one nice place (it's my birthday weekend ;)). I was considering Mugaritz....does anyone know the average price ? I think i heard the tasting menu is around 110E. Do they have other smaller tasting menus that cost less? If not, does anyone know about how much it would cost to order a la carte?

Thanks for the info/recs

-Charlie

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I would recommend lunch at the Guggenheim, Josean Martinez is a very good chef and his lunchtime menu affordable. The same at Kursaal, in San Sebastian, that is under Martin B's supervision and offer a good midday menu, not expensive and well done. Mugaritz is a must go, of course, I think the menu is what you said, around 110 euros, but there is no a la carte option, and the menu is sublime and like a simphony, so you can't skip one movement in the risk of losing the entire oeuvre. I would save for it because it's worth. You can check at their site, because I think there is a shorter version for 90 euros, but I am not sure, in any case go to Mugaritz and take the menu.

Hi everyone,

In a few weeks im going to be spending the weekend in the basque country. Ill be in bilbao for one day (not dinner though) and in san sebastian for 2. I know that there are several highly rated restaurants in these two cities (especially the later), but can someone recommend a few must go places that aren't a fortune? I'm traveling with a few friends who are not as obsessed with food as I am, and so they probably won't want to spend a fortune on food. That being said, we are considering going out to one nice place (it's my birthday weekend ;)). I was considering Mugaritz....does anyone know the average price ? I think i heard the tasting menu is around 110E. Do they have other smaller tasting menus that cost less? If not, does anyone know about how much it would cost to order a la carte?

Thanks for the info/recs

-Charlie

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ok i couldn't resist. I made a reservation for 1 person at mugaritz. Even if I can't convince my friends to come with me, I can't miss the opportunity! I may never get back to the basque country!

I read your last post and I totally endorse Luiz Horta's recommendation. You will, I hope, never regret your decision. I am, as this forum knows, an unabashed supporter of this world class chef. Do let the us know your dining experience at Mugaritz. I would also add if you have a car, consider the 45 minute drive from Bilbao to Etxebarri for another world class dining experience at the best al la brasa restaurant in the world. You will have satisfied two dining adventures that cannot be duplicated anywhere in the world. Judith Gebhart
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A few follow up questions:

1) As I will be celebrating my 21st birthday at Mugaritz, I want it to be a very special dinner. I know that if requested, they will prepare popular dishes from previous seasons....does anyone know of any "must have" dishes from Mugaritz....all suggestions would be appreciated (the only dish ive heard of so far is the french toast)

2) Unfortunately I will not have a car and do not know of any other way of getting to Etxebarri. Does anyone else have any recs that can be reached by taxi or bus from either Bilbao (for lunchc) or San Sebastian (for lunch or dinner). I know the Guggenheim restaurant has been recommended for lunch, but there website says its 56E....is it worth it? Part of me thinks it would make more sense to spend a little more money and go to one of the other famous restaurants...

That being said, unfortunately Arzak (do they have a waiting list?) is fully booked and Akellare is closed for the first two weeks in October. I sent an email to Berasategui but haven't heard back yet. Any thoughts on Fagollaga, Casa Nicolasa, or Elkano? Other places?

Thanks again everyone! :)

-Charlie

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If you're lined up for Mugaritz, and you're only in San Sebastian for two days, you might want to try some pinchos places rather than more high-end restaurants, particularly if your mates aren't as into the fine dining experience. Could be a lot of fun.

There are a few threads with recommendations. I wrote a report fairly recently myself...

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Judith is the best person to give you hints, since she visits frequently. I would say the smoked foie or any foie dish is a must there, as well the flower petals, buds and baby vegetables with a cheese broth. Recently I had the clay coated potatoes that was wonderful. As to Elkano, it's a special place, for terrific seafood, but it is in Getaria, not easy to reach without a car. I would choose the pintxos suggestion from Dan Ryan or try Martin B's instead. I think Guggenheim is worth the price, but it's more on the Mugaritz side (Andoni Luis himself onde said the place to be as a Mugaritz outside Mugaritz). A Berasategui menu of his all times hits is an impressive experience.

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And you are 21, of course you will return to the basque country! Drink as much Txakoli as you can and eat Idiazabal cheese! With your friends it will be a good idea to visit a Sidreria, to eat typical food (cod, big beefsteak and drink refreshing cider. It's delicious).

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One of our best meals on a recent trip to Spain was a seafood dinner in San Sebastian, in the old part of the city, near the Aquarium. Our youngest daughter wanted to eat beside the water, so we let her choose the place one night. There are several restaurants near the fishing boats, all with outdoor seating. It was a cool and rainy evening, but just as we neared the restaurants we looked up into the sky and saw a huge double rainbow.

She chose the place she wanted to try and we sat down outside. It was chilly but we wrapped up. In the doorway near the kitchen was a display of fresh fish and seafood on ice: dinner. Simply prepared in olive oil and garlic, it was fantastic. We had sole, hake and monkfish. The monkfish was hands-down the best I've ever tasted.

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A few follow up questions:

2) Unfortunately I will not have a car and do not know of any other way of getting to Etxebarri. Does anyone else have any recs that can be reached by taxi or bus from either Bilbao (for lunchc) or San Sebastian (for lunch or dinner). I know the Guggenheim  restaurant has been recommended for lunch, but there website says its 56E....is it worth it? Part of me thinks it would make more sense to spend a little more money and go to one of the other famous restaurants...

Thanks again everyone! :)

-Charlie

Lunch at the Guggenheim is (IMHO) one of the biggest bargains around, we had lunch there about ten days ago and it was a lot less 56 euro. I think the set menu was around 15 euro per person for three courses which included a bottle of wine between two of us, there is an option to 'upgrade' the wine for few euros more which we did.

While the portions are not huge they are ample as part of a three course lunch, I opted for veal cheeks as a main course which were wonderfully rich, while Mrs Smoz went for bacalao.

The set lunch is a few euros more expensive at weekends but I think it is still under 20 euros a head, in the evenings the set menu is considerably more expensive (probably the 56 euros that you referred to).

As for San Sebastian (Donostia) I would suggest that on at least one of the two nights you are there you stick to pinxtos. An evening in the old town wandering from bar to bar having a few pinxtos in each is an experience not to be forgotten, there are too many places for me to recommend one over the others. A trip across the river to Gros is also worthwhile.

I have also heard good reports about the restaurant in the Kursaal but our trip to San Sebastian coincided with the film festival, much of which took place in the Kursaal so we didn't get a chance to try it.

Enjoy yourself out there, wherever you go in San Sebastian you are likely to find good food and have a happy birthday.

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You MUST have the vegetables with the emmenthal broth. Insane dish. Potatoes with slow cooked egg yolk and vegetable coal is also a winner. He is famous for his foie, but it was summer when I went, so was not on the menu.

The violet ice cream is the best dessert I have ever had, and the French toast is also a must.

Avoid the Hake with garlic if that's on the menu.

And there IS an a la carte, though they might get funny about some people not having the tasting menu. Just ask nicely and say you don't mind sitting with an empty plate when others get extra courses.

I second the recommendations for pintxos rather than other blow outs. The two times I have been, I have overloaded on restaurants, and the worst (but still very good) meal has suffered by comparison ie Arzak last time v Etxebarri and Mugaritz.

But CAREFUL - if it's Sunday night or Monday, everywhere will be closed. Plan carefully.

There are some excellent pintxos suggestions on these boards and elsewhere.

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Since it's your birthday, there's an excellent spa right on the beach there -- very inexpensive. You could treat yourself to that, as well.

Here it is: http://www.la-perla.net/

What were the street vendors selling paper? Is it shrimp? I recall those right outside of where bushey was talking about...

I didn't get to hit the good restaurants, due to bad timing. Tapas are always good -- the only problem is that they are all so similar. Be sure to look for regional specialties (cheese, fish, pinxtos), and get anything stuffed in a piquillo pepper.

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In the "Parte Vieja" (old town) of San Sebastian, don't miss GAMBARA (Calle San Jeronimo) and its famous "Hongos a la Plancha"

You'll never forget it :wink:

Too bad Akelare is closed this times, it's the perfect balance roots/inovation. But Mugaritz is a good experience...

Bon appétit in Euskadi !

A puro from La Havane,

Some Très Vieux Pineau from Cognac

A nine-course Menu at Akelare

Two Palamos gambas from Etxebarri

=> Paradise's not so far away !

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thank you to everyone for their wonderful suggestions.

As of now I'm having lunch on friday at the guggenheim, then dinner that night at mugaritz. I'll likely play saturday by ear...but ill definitely go hopping around town for the best bites! I may call arzak to see if they have any cancellations for saturday...but thats unlikely

I'm so excited!

Ill let everyone know how it was!

-Charlie

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  • 2 weeks later...
thank you to everyone for their wonderful suggestions.

As of now I'm having lunch on friday at the guggenheim, then dinner that night at mugaritz. I'll likely play saturday by ear...but ill definitely go hopping around town for the best bites! I may call arzak to see if they have any cancellations for saturday...but thats unlikely

I'm so excited!

Ill let everyone know how it was!

-Charlie

Eagerly awaiting an update........... how was it?

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hey everyone....ill try to write an update tonight...im actually still in san sebastian...leaving this afternoon on a horribly long 7 hour bus ride back to barcelona...ugh! anyway, the food was all incredible...and ill try to figure out how to upload photos and such tonight !

-charlie

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