Please give me dining tips for my Spain trip
I am two weeks away from an 11-day trip through Spain with my fiancée and we are looking for some dining suggestions. We are looking for a mix of high-end places and more rustic/traditional places. Please feel free to offer up other pieces of advice.
We are flying into Malaga in the morning and that night we will stay in Granada. We do not know if we will drive or take the bus yet but if we do drive and are there any “to-die-for” places to stop along the way? We will be in Granada for two nights and two full days. From Granada we are going to Ronda for one day and one night and then to Seville for two full days and nights. In Seville, we have a reservation at the restaurant at the El Bulli hotel. Anybody been? If somebody has any suggestions for how we should get from Granada to Ronda and then to Seville, please let me know.
After Seville we will be in Madrid visiting a friend, so most of our dining will be taken care of but I’m always open for additional suggestions. After Madrid, we will spend the rest of our time in the San Sebastian area. We are staying the first night in the Parador in Hondarribia, has anybody stayed there or visited this town? After that, we are staying 3 nights in San Sebastian. We have reservation at Arzak one night. I know some people prefer Arkelere, so should I go to both places or is there one that is better? What are the costs like? I know that San Sebastian is a food-focused town so we don’t want to limit ourselves to just high-end places. I’ve heard of the tapas crawls and the dining clubs, can anybody shed some light on these?
In addition to dinners, we are looking for advice on great lunch spots and particular dishes/pintxos that we should not miss.
Thanks in advance.
So much choice!
Granada is overrun with tourists and dining is problematic (hope you have your tickets reserved to Alhambra - you can't just book on the day, but can book online). Our best meal there was Cunini (on Pescaderia behind the cathedral) - good food but they don't promote their menu del dia to tourists - you have to ask for it - and it's the best deal.
La Alqueria (at El Bulli hotel) is well worth a visit- but it's 20 km outside Seville, so a cab both ways (or a car if you drive from Ronda) is necessary. La Alqueria tasting menu is superb - second best meal of my life. #1 was Akelare (which sort-of links to your San Sebastian visit).
Hondarribia is a bit outside san Sebastian (Donostia) - but Arzak is at that end (east) of san Sebastian. Whereas Akelare is on the west side - again outside - maybe 15km. There is 1 bus/hour to Akelare but again, cab or driving are more feasible. Many people choose lunch at Akelare to enjoy the view - but Spaniards in the north eat LATE. We arrived at 1:00 (when they open) and nobody else came until 2:00 - when we left at 4:00 the place was full!
Many people love the pintxo bars, but this was (for me) mostly disappointing. The good places were packed and I had to almost arm-wrestle to get hot food as it came out of the kitchen. So we ended up with mainly luke-warm items. The lesser (unknown) places had so-so food - hence they had space!
Sebastian is a terrific food town. There are many terrific pinxto spots in the Parte Vieja. It will take many days of serious eating to get through most of them. Just stroll, find what looks good and you can't go wrong. Some of my favorites are: Alona Berri, Bergara, Casa Gandarias, Ganbara, La Cuhana de San Telmo and La Cepa. It is true that they can be very crowded and but that is the fun of eating pintxos. Not doing the pintxo crawl in San Sebastian is missing the most important aspect of eating in the Basque country.
Akelere and Arzak are both wonderful restaurants though somewhat different. Arzak has great food and a sense of history. It has a relax feel of a family owned restaurant with excellent yet informal service. Akelere, 20 minute by taxi, is more modern with a great view of the valley. As stated in the above post, it is better for lunch to take advantage of the view. The service is more formal than Arzak. Which of the two restaurants one should go is an individual preference. I've eaten at both the past couple of years and can recommend each. The tasting menu at both restaurants is about 120E, service included by not tax. Wines prices are very reasonable. If you have a chance, Bilbao and the Guggenheim is only about 50 minutes away by bus and a very easy day trip. The restaurant inside the museum, run by Martin Berasategui, is very good and not expensive. It also has some excellent pintxo in the old part of town.