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Feedback on BCN/San Seb/Madrid Dining Itinerary - ABAC vs Gresca? Hisop vs Gelonch vs Cinc Sertis?

Hi all,

After a comprehensive review of many posts on this site, my girlfriend and I have compiled the following itinerary. Given the short amount of time we have (and we want to make time for tapas/pintxos), we have to make some difficult choices and wanted your thoughts on how to trade off some of the restaurants.

Would really appreciate your feedback! Also, to avoid the inevitable "you need to extend your stay/everything is too rushed", we would love to do that too! Unfortunately, just can't afford the time/leave from work sigh.. hence, the need for advice on our dilemmas!

Also, the days of the week below don't run in order as we have non-gastronomy focused trips organised within the gaps.

BARCELONA

Day 1 (Fri)
- Lunch: Alkimia
- Dinner: Dilemma #1 - ABAC or Gresca?
- Supper: Dilemma #2 - would we be too full to enjoy Cal Pep? There are only two of us so they don't take reservations. Would it be impossible to get seats if we show up ~10:30/11:00PM?

Day 2 (Sat)
- Breakfast: La Boqueria
- Lunch: Fonda Gaig
- Dinner: Dilemma #3 - Gelonch or Hisop?

Dilemma #4 - How to fit in Cinc Sertis: afternoon snack? supper? cancel one of the above meals?

Dilemma #5 - Tapas/pintxos: how to whittle down the list below into 3-5

Quimet y quimet, La Vinya del Senyor, Escriba, Tapas24, Taktika Berri, Jamonismo, El Vaso de Oro, Euskal Extea

Day 3 (Sun): Major challenge as most places appear closed. Any recommendations? Right now, all we have is:

- Lunch: Kaiku

To add to our heartache, Sant Pau has no availability during the days we will be in Barcelona.

SAN SEBASTIAN

Day 1 (Wed)

- Lunch: Etxebarri
- Dinner: Dilemma #6 - Thinking of pintxos, given heavy lunch expected. Any advice on how to choose amongst Alona Berri, Bar Txepetxa, Bar Ganbara, and La Cepa?

Day 2 (Thu)

- Lunch: Akelarre
- Dinner: Mugaritz

Day 3 (Fri)

- Lunch: Arzak

MADRID

Day 1 (Mon)

- Lunch: El Club Allard
- Dinner: [Open for recommendations]

Day 2 (Tues)

- Lunch: Sergi Arola Gastro
- Dinner: Restaurant Ramón Freixa

Thanks so much in advance to everyone for your help! Really appreciate your feedback/advice.

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  1. Your choices are some of the best and most high recommended places. Are you planning to do anything else but eat.? Or just to chalk up as many places you can? The Barcelona day one of Alkimia for lunch, dinner at Abac or Gresca then trying to make it Cal Pep at 10:30 would be insane; since Abac and Gresca (like most sit down restaurants in Barcelona/SS and Madrid) do will not open until at the earlier 8:30 or 9:00, I can't see you making it to Cal Pep at that time. And if you do, you will be a bloated elephant by midnight. And trying to squeeze Cinc Sentits into day two would require an extension of a few extra hours into a 24 day; there is no 'snacking' menu at Cinc Sentits. If you do either day as planned, you'll probably consume 15000 calories per day before wine.
    As for any tapas/pintxos eating, best to group them by location so that you don't have to trek around too much. For me, three places for one meal is enough in Barcelona; though one might squeeze another such as Vinya del Senyor in if one just enjoy a glass of wine during early evening, etc. You might be able to do more at SS since the Parte Vieja is packed with pintxos places, making it easier for hopping.
    SS: Akelarre Mugaritz and Arzak for lunch, dinner then following lunch in succession will turn into one big blur. Aside from your stomach, your brain cannot process all this high-end food in such a short period.
    If you are an experience traveler/eater and have done heavy heavy heavy duty food intake, go for it. But a sensible person (and I don't mean cost budget), I would cut down on eating. And probably your doctor would advice it. Or maybe, I am not reading the post correctly.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      I have never eaten at the restaurants mentioned by OP, but couldn't agree more with PBSF. Unless you are playing restaurant bingo, and just trying to check off as many boxes as possible, this is far, far too much. Relax, slow down, enjoy yourself.

      1. re: PBSF

        Agreed.
        Bloating is not even the problem with the list of eateries.
        The problem is with the diminishing return of enjoyment. When one has two major meals a day, the culinary experience, so closely spaced, obscures each other. You need time to digest not only the food but also the experience.
        Especially since the OP's list is a good one, those places deserve a better pacing than that.

      2. I would avoid Sergi Arola gastro, it does not (by and large) get good reviews at all, and many people are absolutely baffled as to why it has 2 stars.

        El Club Allard and Ramon Freixa along with DiverXo are the hottest things going right now in Madrid. If you are willing to countenance a suggestion outside the Michelin guide, might I recommend Conlaya (cantabrian cuisine) or La Fayette (French, outside the center though), if it must be michelin I'd go for DiverXo, La Terraza, or Santceloni before Sergi Arola Bistro

        1 Reply
        1. re: avrv1

          I've had one of the best meal of my life at Gastro but it was 4 years ago (deer god, time flies)!

        2. By the way agree with the other two posters, this seems like an overambitious eating schedule. I cannot do more than one of these places a day, I would actually give myself a full day between them to recover

          1. Thanks so much to everyone for replying. Everyone is really knowledgeable and as outsiders coming to a new country, we respect your opinions greatly. Particularly avrv1 whose Madrid advice is much appreciated.

            To move things along, just want to address the point that we are squeezing a lot of large meals into a short time frame. Of course we agree/feel the same way! But have to make the most of our constraints.

            Perhaps it might help clarify things that (1) we are traveling from Asia and do not have much opportunity for repeat visits; (2) cannot extend the trip; and (3) ordinarily would share a single degustation menu in order to make the itinerary possible.

            With that in mind, could I trouble the community to one more time address the dilemmas highlighted in the OP? If you can help us whittle down the options, that would also help address the challenge!

            Thanks so much again for considering our query!

            3 Replies
            1. re: jonpflug

              <ordinarily would share a single degustation menu in order to make the itinerary possible>

              This is not a normal practice. When you order a degustation, it is expected that each person at the table will have one. If you want to do otherwise, I would strongly advise that you check if the restaurant will accept this when making your reservation.

              1. re: rrems

                You might be able to do it if still pay as if you had two, but even then some of the single-bite and smaller courses just wouldn't be easily shareable.

              2. re: jonpflug

                As rrems said, you will not be able to share a single tasting menu. What you might do, if you insist on fitting all these places in, is 3 things:

                If it isn't too late, space your reservations out as much as possible. I.e. lunch at 1:30 which is earlyish here, and dinner at 10:30 or 11. The problem is some places will not serve, especially tasting menus, after a certain time. Give yourself plenty of time between meals, and make sure to take some long walks...

                In some places, order the shorter/shortest menu. Freixa Mugaritz and Club Allard all have menus of differing lengths. The shortest menus are still generally plenty of food, and you can get a good idea of what they're doing in the kitchen.

                In other places, order a la carte. For example in Mugaritz and Club Allard I'm not sure this is a possibility but in Freixa it is, and I'm sure it's true in other places as well.