I am a food tourist. It took me a long time to come to terms with this, but now I have life is now easier. Locations of holidays are more easy to pick, satisfaction more guaranteed. Why then, have I not been to San Sebastian before?
Planning this suprise trip was great fun. A many enthused chef has travelled here and filmed their experiences and so there was loads of material to pour over and get excited by. Anthony Bourdain names this town one of his favourites, and only recently did Rick Stein travel through and bring some great eats to our attention.
San Sebastian lies on a beautiful crescent bay that curves around an island which acts as a defence from the atlantic waves, making the beach calm. Hundreds of locals run along this stretch and play outdoor squash and generally enjoy their beautiful surrounds daily, which perhaps answers the question of why there are few wide waists. Even when it rains, which it did do, continuously, folks were out. As were we: Our eating itinerary is below.
Strolling out of our apartment which was up the hill in the equivalent of Beverly Hills, we hit the beach and headed into the old town where it all happens. I had my trusty todo Pinxtos guide which lists all the best dishes from all the best bars which limits the volume of average bites you need to take and increases your jackpot of winners.
Txepetxa – Calle Pescaderia, 5
Anchovies. Anchovies, Anchovies. And Gandalf. Go see for yourself.
Goiz Argi – Calle Fermin Calbeton, 4
Feeling the hit of jet lag from arriving from LA only the day before, we trundled on for one more bite, and feet soggy and the rest of us damp, the Goiz Argi was the greatest medicine. Heaving with happy people, we squeezed ourselves to the back and ordered the prawn brochette (brochetta de gambas) and the marijuli. It must of been past midnight by this point, and the bar was busier than the grand opening of Westfield. And I know where I would rather be..
Bar Martinez – Calle 31 de Agosto, 13
Taken by all the good things that came out of interior design of the 70’s, Bar Martinez has a great long bar packed with cold pinxtos.
La Cuchara de San Telmo – Calle 31 de Agosto 28 / Corredor de San Telmo
This is the place that people keep talking about, and thankfully we found it on the Friday as it was shut on Monday and missing out on the ox cheek would have been criminal. There are two menu’s here – The one in English has the prices at around 10E a pop, but the one on the board is the normal 3-4E. The items are the same, and I couldn’t quite work out if this was a typo or a tourist tax but either way, if you make an attempt (ours was a beautiful combination of French and Italian – very proud am I) it appears that the price given is the lower one. Saying all that, the food is that great, that even if you do pay 10E, it still is fantastic value, and if you pay 4E then it is bonkers. Don’t forget to eat the cheek, the foie gras.
This deserves another post unto itself. If you go to San Sebastian, and you don’t get to Extebarri, then you are only punishing yourself.
Gandarias – 31 de Agosto, 25
Gandarias is one of the more traditional joints, but then they have the Enomatic machines for their wines, so they aren’t as traditional as they first appear. Sirloin is the favoured pinxtos here, and it is so good that we had it twice. Even with the Enomatic machine, the wines didn’t travel higher than 8E and most were still around the 2E mark. Just shows you how high the taxes are over here, and how they still don’t work.
Bar Astelana – Iñigo 1
Our last stop, and thankfully one of the best was Astelana. On the corner of a fairly deserted square, was the low-fi bar. Heaving with cold and re-heated pinxtos, the bar obviously has its attention to what is important. We sat on top of a Coke Zero table, next to a re-used ice cream freezer. We had it lucky, Others were almost standing in the kitchen and leaning on old crates, but this was all irrelevant. The people next to us were eating a fantastic version of steak, eggs and chips, and as we were almost to the point of breaking, we ordered the house specialty of tuna which was delicious, and a small pudding of Txakoli with mandarin sorbet. The Foie looked amazing as did most things that left the tiny kitchen, so we will have to return earlier and hungrier next time.
I have been checking the weather since we returned and it is has been a gorgeous 28 degrees and sunny. We may of missed out on that aspect of San Sebastian, with lolling on the beach and the much needed Vitamin D, but then perhaps we would have missed out on some of the above. Therefore, on contemplation, I don’t think we missed out at all.