San Sebastián, Pays Basque (Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, St Jean de Luz, Biarritz, Espelette, Hondarrabia) Suggestions
We are embarking on a 8 day roadtrip beginning in Madrid July 16th and driving straight to San Sebastián for 3 nights, then onto Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle (France) where we will be staying at L'auberge Basque for 3 nights, and then down to Madrid for 2 nights.
Obviously there are endless options when it comes to exceptional pintxos in San Sebastián. On the long list so far is Casa Gandarias, La Cepa, Fuego Negro, La Cuchara de San Telmo, Zeruko, Bodegon Alejandro. Not sure at all if these are tourist driven places, which is what we would like to avoid. Tips on which places are not to miss and which ones to avoid would be great. Please feel free to add more to the list.
Is it worthwhile to stop in Hondarribia on the way to Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle? And if so where would you recommend grabbing a bite?
We will have dinner at the restaurant at L'auberge Basque one of the evenings we are there. We also plan on heading into St-Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz, and Espelette (or other towns you think are worthy of visiting) so any guidance on where to dine in those towns is appreciated.
Lastly, we would like to stop in Rioja either on the way from Madrid to San Sebastián or on the way back. Will a couple hours in Rioja be sufficient? Our way in will be a Monday and return will be on a Sunday (in case the wineries and local restaurants are closed on either day).
Thank you for your tips in advance! Will post a follow up once we're back.
It appears to have been said and you have acknowledged, but it bears repeating: do NOT miss La Cuchera de San Telmo. Go ahead and get the half racion of the foie instead of just the pintxo size. Hell, get the full racion. Also great are the veal cheeks and pig's ear. And the suckling pig. And everything else.
Did someone mention Rekondo? In an effort to discourage you, the food is not as exciting as you'll find elsewhere in and around San Sebastian. But if you're a wine lover, there may not be (shhhhh) a better place (keep it under your hat) in the whole wide world (I wish I could whisper it in your ear). It's special, it's not for everyone, and we need to keep it between us.
One of the bottles my wife and I shared there recently was a 1968 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, my birth-year wine and - fortunately for me - a great Rioja vintage. Soft, gentle, delicately perfumed, as Bordeaux used to be before Parker, Rolland, Chateau Pavie, et al., turned it into a beastly caricature. Old enough to justify opening it with the port tong, a ritual involving fire and water and the most dramatic wine service I've ever witnessed. And the cellar, oh god, ask for a tour of the cellar....
(I need to shut myself up about this place. This post will self-destruct in 24hrs.)
I would definitely say not to miss La Cuchara de San Telmo (great pintxos of Cochinillo, Veal Cheeks, Octopus, Foie Gras and goat cheese) and Zeruko (everything was great, but we particularly enjoyed the squid tempura and Bob Limon). La Cuchara has a lot of tourists, but I would not call it "tourist driven," and even if it was, who cares? The food was great!
Sounds like you have a great trip planned.
As for a tip in Biarritz, a new restaurant just opened a few months ago right in the center of town, it's called "L'Impertinent". The very talented young chef, Fabian Feldmann, is originally from Germany, but he spent years honing his craft in Italy in France.
His wife, Sarah, is from the south of France and in 2003 they decided to return to his hometown in Germany where they opened a restaurant and earned a Michelin star within the year and held it until they closed the restaurant.
I got to taste his food many times and was impressed every time, the whole region was devastated 2 years ago when the Feldmanns decided to close their restaurant and move to France to try their luck there.
Finally they opened their new venture and personally I cannot wait to eat Fabian Feldmann's food again, already have a dinner planned in September.
His food modern and ingredient-driven, he likes to buy seasonal from small farmers and fishermen etc.
I could only find links in French, but here's their webpage and an article about the restaurant:
http://www.l-impertinent.fr/ and http://www.gillespudlowski.com/52297/...
Did a trip in San Sebastian and Rioja back in May. A journey that I will remember...
For San Sebastian, I didn't go to any pintxos bar... (what a shame!) so I am going to recommend something else: Rekondo. Great, no wait, AMAZING wine list.
If you have some interest about wine, Spanish wines especially, this is the place. This is a friend who is sommelier who recommended it! and he knows what he is talking about!
For the anecdote, I went to Martin Berasategui 3 stars restaurant during the trip (wonderful meal), I was with my Sommelier friend. He starts to talk with the restaurant sommelier and eventually tell him we are going to Rekondo the next day. A few minutes after, he comes back with a kind of encyclopedia... It was Rekondo wine list! MASSIVE!
I don't know if Berasategui is involved in Rekondo, but it is not often you can see the wine list from another restaurant in that kind of places... If you do go there, try to visit their cave.
Im not a wine expert, but when the sommelier showed us their vertical of Mouton Rothschild from 1945 to present, I knew I was seeing something quite rare...
Food is solid Basque/Spanish fare. Great emphasis on meat, lovely suckling pig there. Do try the Kokotxas there as it is a truly Basque experience (as I've been told!)