Restaurants in the countryside outside San Sebastian
I will be in the Basque country in a couple of weeks - and I'm reeeeeally looking forward to it. i think I'll be spending most of my time in San Sebastian. As a treat we're going to Mugaritz but i'm also looking for somewhere in the countryside outside Donostia that will do a great lunch - not overly expensive or flashy, just somewhere that'll do delicious grilled meats and is set on a hillside or somewhere with rural charm. Any recommendations?
If you are going to the area after August, I highly highly highly recommend Etxeberri in Axpe. It was the best meal we had on our trip to the area last week. It's not cheap but worth every dime - I would travel back to the area just to go there in a second. Among the finest grilled meat and seafood we have ever had. Tasting menu was around 100 euro per person when we were there. Also, we had a terribly disappointing meal at Mugaritz as well, so if you go, shy away form the Natura menu which we frankly thought was bad.
Be sure to check out the town of Astigarraga - about 5 miles out of San Sabastian. It is full of sidrarias which are the ultimate expression of Basque exuberance. Etxeverria is one, but there are many in this town. One price to enter for afternoon or evening meals - all the hard cider you can drink shot into your mug by you out of enormous oak barrels . And hundreds of singing people eating walnuts - grilled meat and cider. Don't miss it. The ciders are made from the local orchards and each barrel has a different brew.
Etxebarri hands down. Just had lunch there today...unbelievable. Just came back from Mugariz for dinner...quite the opposite..Personally I'd skip it. Not one dish stood out for me as amazing tastewise. Presentation was spectacular though but some of the dishes were downright quite subpar in taste.
re: miguel angel
Miguel to be honest I actually come to expect Mugaritz to polarise opinions. I find Mugaritz to be a fairly challenging restaurant. I love it because of this, but I know others dislike it for the same reasons. I only been twice but on both occasions loved it.
The first time six of us shared diner and all had different likes and dislikes, some loved a dish whilst others saw little of merit in the same dish. We all visited The Fat Duck in the UK but here had very similar views.
I find the comparison between Etxeberri and Mugaritz to be odd, are they not very different restaurants? I have not been to Etxeberri but I imagine the comparison is similar to the Rafa/El Bulli comparison. Both great restaurants, one simple the other complex. Some love both (us) others like one or the other.
Can not agree more Phil, it makes no sense to compare Etxebarri and Mugaritz, excep for one thing I find they share: Víctor and Andoni are two of the most passionate chefs one can find, both are completely devoted to what they believe in.
As you say, some love both (us) others like one or the other, but I believe both deserve recognition for contributing to take food one step ahead.
Hope you can visit Etxebarri soon, I find it exquisite!
re: miguel angel
To give it credit, Andoni was actually not in the kitchen that night (I toured the kitchen as well). To give a little idea of some of what I did/didn't like:
Koktaxa de bacallo served with acacia oney emulsion- probably one of the better dishes of the night. Silky smooth and very tasty
Roasted tomato salad and its own cool water- one of the other 3 dishes I liked mostly because of the creativity of how the tomato was created...
Carpaccio of watermelon- signature dish which did not disappoint.
That was it however...
Crab and fresh walnuts in a clear consomme- Consomme was very aromatic but there was really no distinct or even subtle flavor in the crab and walnuts. I did however have a small sharp crabshell in one of the raviolis which the waiter seemed to dismiss.
Roasted tuna over sea chamomile and coastal herbs- The dish did smell very oceanic due to the herbs but the tuna tasted very lifeless.
Wild turbot under borage stalks- IMO the worst dish of the night. Fish was extremely chewy and rubbery. We both could barely finish the dish.
Piece of milk fed veal- One of the signature dishes. While the taste was ok...for veal I expected a little more juice and flavor. It wasn't a bad dish, but not something I found very special at all.
Loin of duck- Again, like the veal, I expected more flavor out of the dish, especially with shavings of truffle in it as well.
The deserts were ok, but coming after tasting the cheese ice cream at Extebarri...it was hard to compare.
Also, I did have the opportunity to try Arzak the next day for lunch and that definitely did NOT disappoint. It was excellent really from start to finish tho we did order a la carte.