|San Sebastian harbour|
In early June, Jonas and I spent 6 days in Bilbao and San Sebastian, the two major cities of Spain’s Basque Country (Euskadi in Basque and País Vasco in Spanish).
This is an area laden with Michelin star venues, including Arzak.
Fiercely independent, and speaking an ancient language from before Indo-European arrival (7000 BCE), their food is focused on seafood and dominated by pintxos (tapas).
Txikito is the act of pintxo bar hopping and a cuadrilla is the squadron of revellers on a pub crawl. We certainly saw those!
Pintxos are a great way to eat. They are small bite-sized samples of local flavours and allow you to wander from bar to bar, drinking and eating for hours.
In fact, during our time in Spain we never got drunk or hung over. We drank as much as we would at home but the constant grazing meant perfect sobriety and a healthy morning after. It was great!
The only problem is that, although the prices and quality of the pintxos vary, they are pretty much the same formula at each bar. There’s a lot of bread, cream, seafood and specifically anchovies.
A typical pintxos bar
I loved the pintxos, but be warned they’re delicious at the beginning but might become a bit tiring after a few days. Be sure to break up your meals with some of main dishes of the region too.
Piquillo peppers stuffed with morcilla (blood sausage) and topped with bacon.
|The Guggenheim in Bilbao|
|Al fresco dining in Bilbao's Plaza Nueva|
|The busy marina in San Sebastian's harbour|
Unfortunately there were a few things I missed out on:
• Lunch at the world famous grill house, Asador Extebarri, in Axpe
• Seafood at one of Getaria’s famous restaurants
• Kokotxas – hake cheeks
• Marmitako – tuna stew
• Bacalao al Pil-Pil – garlic cod
• Bacalao a la Vizcaina – cod in red pepper (capsicum) sauce
• Merluza en Salsa Verde – hake in parsley sauce
So what are my top picks for the Basque Country's two major cities?
Calle de la Diputación, 8
Located in the centre of town and packed out with business people chowing down on delicious pintxos.
Calle Santa María, 8
Small, funky bar serving basic pinxtos to a grungy, rock vibe.
Casa Víctor Montes
Plaza Nueva, 8
Fantastic lively pinxtos venue with friendly staff and celebratory atmosphere. Great food.
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SAN SEBASTIAN - DONOSTIA
Arzak (Anna's review)
Avenida del Alcalde José Elosegi, 273
Amazing three Michelin star experience.
A Fuego Negro (Anna's review)
Calle 31 De Agosto, 31
Something a little inventive and unique. An excellent break from traditional pintxos.
Konstituzio Plaza, 15
Great traditional pintxos with particularly good meat skewers and seating in the square.
Calle de Fermín Calbetón, 40
Packed with local people delivering an authentic charm. A few of the rarer regional specialities are on the menu.
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Other posts from our Spain trip:
Arzak, three Michelin star restaurant
A Fuego Negro, San Sebastian pinxtos bar
Feasting in Galicia