San Sebastian is one of my top food cities, and every time I visit I feel a real connection to the place and a pull to stay.
Of course the food is a big reason for wanting to move there, but as a city it really does tick all my boxes; it’s on the coast with fantastic summer weather, it’s beautiful with some wonderful architecture, the shopping is good and there are one-off boutiques galore, its super stylish all over, there are loads of cultural things happening from cool art exhibitions to world class jazz gigs, and the Basques are really nice people – what’s more to want?!
Our visit a couple of weeks ago was to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than a trip back to France where we were married and San Sebastian where Mathew proposed. I’d been daydreaming the trip for weeks ahead and when it came, I loved every minute of it.
France as usual brought great eating treats...
Irregular tomatoes that we took to a picnic by a local lake looked so natural and knobbly and tasted so fresh, why can’t we get gems like that here? And we had some seriously tasty bavette steak with shallot sauce in the hotel, it’s a cut that takes a little getting used to but is well worth a try if you can get hold of it here.
We ventured out of the hotel to eat of course, a little restaurant in the opposite valley to my parents had delicious char-grilled steaks topped with Roquefort butter, tasty boudin noir, juicy queen scallops and succulent snails cooked just enough and given a dash of garlic butter, all served in the sunny outside terrace garden overlooking the fruit trees and mountains beyond. And in the next village square we enjoyed rich and creamy cep omelette followed by a cafe gourmand – a petit cafe with miniature dessert bites, all delicious.
Then came San Sebastian...
We ate some fantastic food, from pintxos in the back streets of the old town to a full on 13 course tasting menu at the top restaurant in San Sebastian, Martin Berasategui.
Not that the food itself isn’t amazing, tasty and of course, filling – it’s an enhanced, extraordinary eating experience, one that goes beyond sustenance and sits firmly in the indulgent and pleasurable category, and they’re all so beautifully presented, it’s like eating little pieces of art!
Anyway, I’m not going to wax lyrical about the menu in some kind of restaurant critic style, other than to say it was incredible. Not the kind of place you go to all the time of course, and made all the more special because it’s an infrequent treat.
We ate pintxos all over the old town in traditional bars like Gandarias Taberna and in the more contemporary bars like Fuego Negro, and we ate fantastic foods in all of them, some of our favourites were vinegared baby eels, iberico shoulder and goat's cheese lollipops, black cod on pureed cauliflower, and a plate of iberico shoulder with a red pepper puree.
If you like food, style, substance and value having a great time in a glorious setting you should visit the Basque capital – but be warned, you may never want to leave!