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Jun 5, 2014 05:56 PM

Traveling through Spain this summer

I would love some advice and feedback on a trip I am planning through Spain in August. I have researched three of my destinations and am becoming overwhelmed so I would love feedback on them as well as ideas on the locales I have not yet researched. I am hoping for a combination of Michellin star, casual to nice sit downs and tapas.
San Sebastián three nights; first night Pintxos "hopping", second night Arzak, Sunday lunch torn between Akelare and Mugaritz???

One night in Lograno, a Monday, most of the better restaurants are closed so I am thinking a fun tapas "crawl".

Madrid, three nights, looking for suggestions for one night michellin star, one night nice sit down and one night tapas hopping. It will be in August and Diverxo is closed, actually a lot of the nicer restaurants look to be closed

Barcelona, three nights; first night I am looking at Fonda Espana, Cinc Sentits and Cal Pep....suggestions please! Second night I am torn between Lasarte and comerc24. The last night is Sunday and I have not seen any restaurants that are open?? Any ideas.

Seville for three nights. I know I want to do a tapas crawl one night but would like suggestions on the other two nights. Nicer casual to michellin star

Cadiz for four nights. We are actually staying at the Parador and got a great deal that includes dinner although I do not see eating there all four nights...thinking we will want to venture out for two of the nights. Any good suggestions?

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  1. >> Second night (BCN) I am torn between Lasarte and comerc24.

    These are really different, Lasarte is a small formal expensive Michelin 2* and a good choice IF that's what you are looking for. Only place I've dined at in Spain that had a dress code :)

    >. The last night (BCN) is Sunday and I have not seen any restaurants that are open??

    If you search "Barcelona Sunday" you'll find some threads on this. There are some good options. I think Paco Merlargo gets recommended a lot here, and some of the hotel restaurants like Sauc (1* Michelin) are open on Sunday. The Michelin guide has a list of about 20 or so recommended restaurants in BCN open on Sunday.

    The most popular Sunday meal is probably a seafood lunch on the beach though ... the better ones require reservations. That's what we did on our last trip.

    >> Sunday lunch torn between Akelare and Mugaritz???

    I haven't been to Akelare so can't compare, but I was at Mugaritz a couple weeks back and thought it was terrific.

    7 Replies
    1. re: willyum

      Thank you William! I do want to have at least one GREAT dining experience in each city but do not necessarily want to break the bank, especially after the two meals in SS. I was thinking about Lesarte because we were not going to MB's restaurant in SS. If it is fabulous I do not mind spending the money.....Any suggestions?

      The Sunday lunch on the beach sounds perfect! Where did you go or where would you recommend? Thanks!

      1. re: Homesteadmem

        >> Any suggestions?

        There are a lot of good suggestions for the 'high end' meal in BCN, most from folks who have a wider experience there than me.

        But I would suggest looking at these three ... Lasarte, which you already are aware of -- we liked it but had a long tasting menu and it was just too much. Probably ALC would be best. For sure the chocolate soufflé was epic.

        Another M2* we want to try is Abac ... food is more 'modern' than Lasarte but it gets good reviews. This will be the next one we go to in BCN.

        Finally, maybe look at making a day trip to Sant Pau, about an hour up the coast by train. This is a M3* restaurant in a small town overlooking a garden and the sea, with just 10 tables. We weren't blown away by the food the day we dined there (a couple of items were unavailable due to supplier problems) but the overall "dining experience" was really high level with the service and atmosphere.

        I think I'd pick one of those three for a 'high-end' meal.

        >> "The Sunday lunch on the beach sounds perfect! Where did you go or where would you recommend?" <<

        Again, there are a lot of recs here from folks with more experience but I'll tell you what we heard while there in mid-May ...

        We had a nice Saturday meal at Montiel and were talking to the head man about the following Sunday, when we had a reservation for an 'old-style' paella place one street off the beach. He said that place was good but that he felt there were others cooking seafood a bit better at the moment, plus they were closer to the beaches.

        He gave me these four names after consulting with his chef (2 from him, 2 from the chef): Xiringuito (Chiringuito) Escribá near Port Olimpic, Kaiku (he said service can be a bit rude here), Cheriff and La Mar Salada.

        We made a reservation for Escribá and really enjoyed our meal there the next week. Reservations are a good idea as a lot of walk-ups were turned away while we were there.

        I suggested this place to another poster recently and he was there last week and liked it too ... here's that thread:

        1. re: willyum

          Thank you! I was actually thinking about Abac as well. So I am thinking we will decide between that and Lasarte.

          I will research the beach ideas as that sounds like a perfect Sunday afternoon. Would love to do Paella, did one of them specialize in that?

          Lastly, do you know anything about Cal Pep, Fonda Espana(another much simpler MB restaurant) or Cinc Sentits for my first night? I have heard about San Pau, but with all the travelling we will be doing between cities to go to a restaurant an hour out of town might be too much...

          1. re: Homesteadmem

            >> "Would love to do Paella, did one of them specialize in that?"

            Our informant said they were all known for having excellent seafood paella. We had small plates of 'patatas bravas' and fried squid plus two small paellas at Escribá and liked everything, though splitting one small paella would have been enough. The 'patatas bravas' were especially good.

            >> "do you know anything about Cal Pep, Fonda Espana or Cinc Sentits for my first night?" <<

            Sorry, don't know much except from researching like you. We tried to go to Cinc Sentits for Saturday lunch but they were full, so we went to Montiel instead (and really liked it). So it's on our list ...

            We walked to Cal Pep to check it out (a bit hard to find), it was really full ... has a great reputation for tapas, if you can get in, but some people are now saying it's too touristy. Probably someone else reading this will chime in about now with more recent info.

            1. re: willyum

              Cal Pep IS very touristy in the sense that it is patronized by many tourists, from all over the place including Spain. People who will line up in anticipation of the opening, when they can snag a seat, will almost certainly be tourists. But who cares if the food is great. On that score, my opinion based on about 5-6 meals there over the course of the years is that your satisfaction will depend on your choices.
              Last time I was there, I ordered the dishes that I preferred, while the party adjacent to mine at the counter, allowed the chef to make the choices. Our dinners were totally different, of course; theirs was predominated by fried foods including several variations of fried fish and shellfish. They were moderately pleased, while I thought that my meal was quite good.

              I had asked for pa amb tomaquet, clams and berberechos in three different preparations,
              butifarra with a Port reduction, artichokes, and a few other things in which they excell.

              There is so much written on dining in Barcelona that I encourage you to find these threads with a search of this board; in addition to this report, I wrote an extensive one about my stay in Sevilla and Malaga in late 2012:


              1. re: erica

                Thanks Erica

                Cal Pep sounds great and I think getting there early is the way to go! Pardon my ignorance but If there is no menu how do you know what is available? I am not into fried foods but would love fresh seafood such as clams and foie gras....
                Do you have any suggestions for beachside restaurants for Sunday lunch?

                An another note, do u mind sending me the link to your discussion on Seville


                1. re: Homesteadmem

                  As I remember they had some of the specials written down on a board near the entrance. Only in Spanish, I think.
                  They may even have a written menu with English by now, due to the many non-Spanish-speaking diners, but I did not see this. Many diners take a seat at the counter and either ask what is best (at least some of the servers speak English), or ask them to provide a sampling of dishes. But maybe someone else can be more clear; since I speak Spanish and have been there, I do not pay attention to the menu and am not sure about this point.

                  Seating is at the counter; there is also a sit-down space in the back, but I never went there and am a bit confused about the details of eating there.

                  Here is my Sevilla report; you can find others with a search in the box on the upper right:


    2. On your tapas hop in San Sebastian, make sure to stop at La Cuchara de San Telmo. That is where I fell in love with Foie, which I never tried previously. Also, the tapas at Zeruko are very creative, quite pretty, and very tasty.

      We found Akelare to be a good one-time experience, but $400 for lunch for two was a bit much. Did not find the food to be worth the price.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Hoc

        Thank you all for these great ideas it is making my research much easier and Erica, the Seville report is great!!

        Does anyone have any suggestions for Madrid? How about Cadiz?

        I am also rethinking Mugaritz or Akelare for Sunday brunch. We are definitely going to Arzak for Saturday there a good one star for Sunday lunch or is it worth taking a short train ride into France for lunch? Any ideas?

        1. re: Homesteadmem

          I can happily eat two big meals back to back but it may be better and more enjoyable to spread them out.

          Could you do two lunches with tapas in the evening? I only do lunches in SS saving the evenings for the tapas action as I find that the ideal mix. Especially if heading out of town to restaurants.

          I like France but you have more than enough options in SS to make the side trip a poor use of time.

          1. re: PhilD

            We will be in SS for three nights and do plan on doing tapas hopping on both Friday and Sunday night.

            I have heard so many mixed reviews of Arzak, Mugaritz, and Akelare and know I really, really want to go to at least one. We have decided definitely Arzak because it's been around forever and has remained in the top 50 in the world for twenty some odd years. I am going back and forth on doing a second and trying to figure out which one would be a good follow up to the evening before? Any suggestion? I do not have a problem for spending the money if it is going to be a GREAT experience....

            1. re: Homesteadmem

              On another recent thread willyum's advice was that there are 5 (or 6) top tables in the area. Choose any and don't look back, and fret about which is best. They are all slightly different but good in their own way.

              My only word of caution is that if you are not used to the top end of Spanish food then go with an open mind as they push boundaries and if you are a conservative "meat and two veg" diner then any can be a challenge. I often think this is the reason you see such contradictory reviews - to use a music analogy if a person likes Kenny G then Miles Davis may not be to their taste.

              1. re: PhilD

                Well Played! I am in catering and my boyfriend in fine dining, definitely not conservative diners. This will be a chance of a lifetime as we have eaten in many top restaurants throughout many states but never a three Michelin star. We do not have many in the states....Arzak for dinner on Saturday and Akelare on Sunday for lunch it is! Thank you!!

                1. re: Homesteadmem

                  >> "We do not have many [Michelin 3*'s] in the states"

                  Actually we have more Michelin 3* restaurants than Spain in just three cities/areas :)

                  1. re: willyum

                    I stand corrected! My bad, I have actually been to Daniels twice! It is excellent

                    1. re: willyum

                      It is actually odd. In the states I feel Michelin stars are not "spoken of" or "advertised" as they are in Europe. Last summer in Italy Michelin stickers were prominently placed on restaurant doors and always mentioned in write ups. I really don't see that here so I falsely assumed we did not get rated....

                      1. re: Homesteadmem

                        The problem for the States is that only 3 areas (NYC, Chicago and SF Bay Area) are actually rated by Michelin, meaning Michelin issues ratings and then publishes a guidebook. They want to sell guidebooks and at one time tried marketing to LA and Vegas but apparently few people bought the books (and they didn't find a single 3* worthy restaurant in LA :) and Michelin stopped rating those areas.

                        So most of the country isn't even checked by Michelin. Whereas in Spain and France (and I assume several other European countries) every little town seemingly has mention in the country-wide Guide.

                        I think in the US we have maybe seven 3*'s in NYC, just Alinea in Chicago, and French Laundry + Meadowood in the Bay Area, so maybe 10 all told (I may be missing one in NYC). So if you're not in one of those areas there is zero Michelin presence, even if you have some great restaurants.

                        In Spain I know of eight 3*'s in the entire country, with three of those added in just the past couple of years, but maybe I'm forgetting one or two (Can Roca, Sant Pau, 3 in SS, Azurmendi, DiverXO, Quique D'Acosta and ?).

                        I have to say that I pay less attention to the stars the more restaurants I try. Two of my favorite four restaurants are rated just 2*'s by Michelin (Ledbury and Mugaritz) and I rate those higher than 11 of the Michelin 3*'s I've dined at. They (Michelin) are glacially slow to take away the third star once you earn it, and pretty slow to award a 2* at times, I think.

            2. re: Homesteadmem

              I had a really superb dinner at LUA on my last visit to Madrid about a year and a half ago. I have recommended the restaurant to a few others since then and each one was very pleased. Their set meals represent a great value @ 78e and 52e at dinner. Also open for lunch.

              It is off the beaten tourist track, in Chamberi, but now seems to have received some recognition on TA, so perhaps not so hidden any longer.
              Very small, handsome-sedate place that represents the best of the cocina de autor genre under Chef Manuel Dominguez.


              1. re: erica

                I am so glad you said that!! I had read about LUA and was very interested in trying it out. My biggest problem is that so many places seem to be closed in both Madrid and Seville in August...
                Do you know if LUA is open? I cant tell from their website. I will be in Madrid the 5th, 6th and 7th of August.
                I am happy to find out that both La Azotea and Eslava will be open! I cannot tell if Puratasca will be open, do you know?? Thank you!!

                1. re: Homesteadmem

                  I don't have any info on the vacation closings of those restaurants. If I find anything, I will post back, but meanwhile, I would just write an e-mail to both of these. One of the owners of PuraTasca speaks impeccable English, and there will be someone at Lua that speaks English as well. So call if you do not receive an e-mail response. Just keep in mind the time change!

                  1. re: erica

                    Thanks Erica, I have looked at both of their sites but I do not see an email anywhere? The one for puratasca looks like it is not neccesarily the restaurants website as its listings are from a year ago? Do you per chance have their email addresses....sorry, I am not fluent in spanish so I might be missing it.

                    I easily found the emails of the other two, thats how I know that they are open....

                    1. re: Homesteadmem

                      Looks like this is the e-mail for Lua:


                      And for PuraTasca:


                      But do call if yoou do not receive a response in a day or two.

                2. re: erica

                  Erica, do you have any other Madrid recs? I had Lua on my list but I was hoping for something a little less pricey and less farther afield (unless they offer a cheaper daily menu, but I can't find that on their website). We're basically only going to have about a day and a half in Madrid, a breakfast, 2 dinners, and a lunch (and many drinks!). We want casual, fun, laidback moderately priced places. (lunch maybe $50 total for 2, dinners no more than $100 for 2 with a few drinks each) Think we will end up in mercado san miguel one night for sure. Would love your opinion... Cucurucha del Mar looks cute for lunch and the price is right...Delic looks cute for lunch too

            3. I had a much better experience at Akelarre than Mugaritz. Mugaritz was super creative and there were a few good dishes but there were several flat out misses too that were sorely lacking. I just didn't think that the highs and consistency were as good as comparable restaurants I've been to (Noma, Fat Duck, In De Wulf, etc.). I found Akelare to be a much more special experience that was rooted in the cuisine of that area; modern and upscale takes on very traditional Basque dishes. Plus it has the most amazing view on top of a cliff looking over the water (not that Mugaritz' spot in the foothills is ugly). The service at both restaurants was good but I found Akelare to be a little more warm and friendly. Great and affordable wine list at Akelare too.

              That was 2 years ago now though so maybe things have changed, but I personally would definitely go back to Akelare before Mugaritz.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DougOLis

                Thank you Doug, very good to hear this. I had Akelare as my first choice and your response is going to have me rethink sticking to my original plan! I know it is a lot of money and hearing the mixed reviews was making it hard to decide but you have put me at ease.

              2. We just got back from a two-week Spanish vacation including San Sebastien, Barcelona, and Madrid, so this looked like a good place to share our impressions of our fanciest dinners in each city.

                Akelarre in San Sebastien was completely amazing, perhaps my favorite dinner at a Michelin 3-star yet. We had the Aranori and Bekarki menus and nearly each dish redefined just how good such food could be. My favorite dish of the evening was the "salt and pepper" foie gras - great humor in the presentation and tremendous taste on the plate. The wine pairings went tremendously well and taught us a lot about Spanish wine.

                In Madrid, Lúa was our fanciest dinner. This was a great choice for us - a shorter tasting menu with a well-selected wine pairings. This was at the beginning of our trip and we didn't keep a copy of the menu, so alas I'm not remembering specific standout dishes right now. We also took Gourmet Madrid's tapas tour which I would highly recommend for your tapas night - great quality and diversity, introducing us to some new favorite dishes that we would sample again elsewhere later in the trip.

                Cinc Sentsis was our most elaborate choice in Barcelona. We had the Sensacions tasting menu with the wine pairings. The dishes and pairings here were very good but perhaps not quite as spot-on food combinations and pairings as at the other two places. Highlights included an outstanding corvina dish and a great lemon dessert. The focus on local Catalan and Spanish ingredients and wines was really nice here. We were staying in El Born so most of our other meals were in that neighborhood, including great dinners at Llamber and El Pecat.



                2 Replies
                1. re: mdg

                  Thank you Michael! We are definitely going to Akelarre for lunch lunch and to Lua for dinner so I am psyched!

                  We are thinking about Cinc Sentsis but have reservations at Lesarte for one night and were thinking about going casual to Cal Pep the other.... Sunday we are planning on going to El Xiringuito d'Escriba for a hopefully long lunch of Paella on the beach and probably just some tapas hopping for dinner, any suggestions on the tapas front that will be open on Sunday night?

                  1. re: Homesteadmem

                    >> "any suggestions on the tapas front that will be open on Sunday night?"

                    See this thread, especially the comment from PBSF re: tapas on Sunday:

                    PBSF mentions Paco Meralgo, which gets a lot of praise here on Chowhound, if you want to do a quick search here to see what others have said.

                2. We are leaving in three weeks for Spain. After many hours of research this is what we are thinking for Barcelona

                  We are wanting to mix up Michelin star and more casual good tapas

                  Friday night either Cal Pep or Cinc Sentits
                  Saturday night Lasarte
                  Sunday lunch at beach either Can Majo or Xiringuito d'Escriba and then dinner at Paco Merlago

                  Am I missing anything? Would love some feedback