San Sebastián (or Donastia in Basque) is on many folks’s must visit list and it is not hard to see why: it has some of the most stunning beaches of any city in the world, top notch shopping to rival much bigger cities and the awesome Museum San Telmo and Kursaal Cultural Center. But it is food that is San Sebastián’s raison d’etre. Even the acclaimed food & travel writer AA Gill confesses that “I’ve never been to San Sebastián…it’s one of those niggling things that disjoint the equilibrium as I lie awake…making lists of all the things I’ll regret when I die…And the reason I want to go to San Sebastian is to eat…”
And eat we did…San Sebastián is deservedly famous for pintxos (though many other fantastic foodie things are shake’n in the area) which is the Basque word for tapas. There are two main styles of pintxos: the ready-to-eat or quickly-warmed-off-the-bar style or the made-to-order, cooked version, with the latter being slightly more expensive and the former being crazy cheap (usually 1 to 2 euros). Many of the pintxos bars are in the Parte Vieja (Old Section), a spider’s web of narrow lane ways which seem to change character with the time of day or night, as shutters come up or down. A typical evening would begin about 7:30PM or so, with a leisurely stroll up & down the catacomb of passageways and whenever hunger and/or thirst pangs struck, we eyed the most hop’n joint & popped in, grabbed a plate & loaded it with pintxos from the bar (see below), all washed down with a decent Rioja, a cold cerveza, or a glass of the local white wine, txakoli.
At the upper end of the pintxos bar hierarchy is La Cuchara de San Telmo, with an old style, minimalist decor and about a dozen made-to-order pintxos on offer. We tried 3 or 4 but is was the seared sea scallop that captured the Hounds’s thumbs up.
Just around the corner was another highly regarded pintxos joint, A Fuego Negro where we tried the Corazones de Pollo – chicken hearts – which looked almost too good to eat…but we did.
For our daily lunches we often opted for the ‘Menu del Dia’ deals that many of the restaurants promoted for 10 to 12 euros ($15 to $18 US or Aussie). This is a 3 course meal (starter, main & dessert) and includes a bottle of wine! Estupendo!
The Basque Coast is renowned for its seafood so we made it our mission to verify that reputation. Squid in many shapes & forms was in season & plentiful on menus…
So if the galaxy’s stars line up in your favour, and you like fab food & the most slurpable vino, then San Sebastián should make your list so, unlike AA Gill, you will have no regrets…