Monday 18 May 2015

Mina, Bilbao, Spain.

Mina is exactly my favourite sort of restaurant. It's in Spain for a start which helps. It's contemporary, small, local and friendly. The food here is relatively simple yet still innovative. Most importantly, it's just a real and absolute joy to eat here. It's not really on the tourist trail yet, in the same way that the big three starred restaurants are but the food is equally as impressive, to me anyway. It has one Michelin star right now but it deserves another at the very least. Mina is very reasonable too, with a 7 course taster menu setting us back at just €69. I can guarantee that no restaurant in Manchester can hold a candle to the food they're producing here right now and yet they're selling it at such reasonable prices. £50 is more or less the price of dinner at an average mid range Italian chain restaurant in our city. This is exactly why we come to Spain. The quality of food and value for money is incomparable.
I'd recommended it to more than one group of friends who were in Bilbao even before we'd gone ourselves. One pal who has never been to a Michelin star restaurant before, said that he understands what 'it's all about now' and why we do what we do; travel and visit places like this just for lunch. On this grey Saturday morning, we make our way across the river and past the grand ornate food market opposite. Chef Álvaro Garrido visits here every morning before deciding what he'd like to cook that day. Of course we're eagerly early, (all the chefs are eating their lunch and look on our arrival with some surprise). So we retreat to sit outside a local grungey but friendly neighbourhood bar for some cold drinks before heading back at 2pm for a most memorable lunch. You enter up the stairs to an elegant, modern, light dining room with windows along one wall, looking out over the river. It's empty when we arrive but totally full (of locals) within the hour.
We begin with a light taste of Crunchy cod skin. Something like this sets the scene and gives you a feeling you're on for a good one.
Panna cotta of black garlic.
 I love everything that is put in front of me here but this Mussels in lemon grass and coconut soup and spice tomato sticks in the memory, such vivid flavours.
Oyster Gillardeau, gin and citric. 
Cod and grapefruit soufflé. Quite acidic with the grapefruit, overly so for some of our party. I love the way the light, fluffy soufflé melts on your tongue.
Season asparagus served with 'bearnaise' sauce and blood orange. 
More wine?
Norway lobster and fennel.
 The partridge ravioli. Even Mrs B with her slight aversion to partridge loved this one. The flavours are strong and intense but never unbalanced or overly salty.
Hake from the Cantabric Sea, roasted and served with seasonal vegetables.
Grilled sirloin steak served with balsamic pumpkin.
The Sea". Crème brulee, pear and frozen Amaretto.  All the desserts are extremely accomplished.
Not only is the food a real pleasure to eat, the service is actually the best we encounter on this trip to The Basque country and the taster menu is well paced too. Yes we all loved Mina. I'd strongly suggest a cheap flight to Bilbao and a visit there yourself, we couldn't recommend it highly enough, it's one of our best meals of 2015.
Larger photos here.  


  1. I am glad he is still doing that mussel dish- it evokes subtle Asia to me immediately somehow.
    Agree with it being 2 stars comment- we have been saying the same for some time now.
    I also like the fact that you can eat at Mina close together in time and get different food, as Chef Alvaro decides what to cook after visiting the market- difficult in this class of restaurant nowadays that so many do not have a la carté anymore

    A curiosity is the name Mina (mine). It's because along that embankment were tunnels where the mineral (iron ore) would be brought down from the mountain-mines above to be loaded onto boats. You can't visit but they are still there- I have only seen it on TV

  2. Did you prefer Mina to Asador Extebarri? I am booked in to Asador in July but I'm wondering if Mina is better. Any advice greatly appreciated!

    1. A difficult question we loved them both.
      For value for money, service & innovation Mina wins, for simplicity and quality of product - Etxebarri but they're really very different so it all comes down to personal taste and what you prefer. Mina is much more like a Michelin star restaurant as we would understand it, Etxebarri is like a rustic restaurant but they just got really very very good at what they do. I'm not sure if this helps. Do both if you can as Mina is only €50 for lunch!

  3. Great review, I'm really glad you posted this as I'm off to Bilbao in July to go to Azurmendi. Anywhere else you would recommend in the city and surrounding region?

    1. Thanks Tom. Would you be going to San Sebastián? It's the best place for pintxos bars. Otherwise Asador Etxebarri which is roughly between the two cities in the countryside. For pintxos in San Sebastián there's lots to choose from, Borda Berri, La Culchara de san telmo, A Fuego Negro etc.

  4. Yes, 2 days in Bilbao then off to San Sebastian for a little longer. Extebarri is a consideration, but two 3 mish restaurants might corrupt my bank balance! Just wondering about the slightly less famous places that are worth a visit, there are so many starred restaurants and such a high standard in general, it's almost a little overwhelming!

    1. Totally agree! Michelin lists quite a few one stars in San Sebastián which maybe cheaper. You could also try the restaurant in our hotel: Narru in the Niza Hotel. I hear nothing but good things about it by a young chef. But it was shut when we were there (Sunday/Monday).

  5. Excellent, I'll look into it, thank you!