Wednesday 1 July 2015

Azurmendi, Bilbao Spain.

To review somewhere, I often feel it's to try and condense the evening into a neat and tidy little package. I'm amazed at how some of the best reviewers (Elizabeth on Food, Andy Hayler) can accurately describe and take photos of an extended taster menu such as the one at Azurmendi. Our night is typically lost in a fog of wine, bad memory and general confusion. I often find too that it's hard to recall exact flavours of a dish. Yes I remember liking that but what was the precise flavour of it? It's hard to tell in hindsight if you don't write it down. This would for me hamper the enjoyment of the evening. It's enough to take photos. It's a very long night with many courses. You can feel elated, surprised and charmed but also tired and impatient all on the same evening. It's a marathon! Also to compare it to our last visit is a mistake. Azurmendi had only just received it's third star then and was fairly quiet in comparison. We had most of the waiters to ourselves and so the experience was phenomenal. On this evening it was very busy with some large parties and I'd guess they may have been a waiter down as service was quite slow. Also they don't start until 9pm! (Spanish people always dine late).
Anyway we must start at the beginning. Azurmendi is always a breathtaking place, arriving in the taxi and walking into the large glass fronted greenhouse entrance hall. It's a hive of activity tonight. We are taken around the show garden upstairs which is such a charming way to begin. Our friends who are keen gardeners have lots of questions. We make stops and pick up little snacks, some hidden in the greenery. "Act One: Our Greenhouse."
Citric Bark - Peanut - Asparagus - Cotton Candy - Avocado Pit - Pickled Courgette.
We arrive back in the greenhouse and to a picnic basket with the most beautiful array of little snacks. "Act two: Our Garden. " Anchovy millefeuille - CaipiriTxa - Roe and dill.
Then The Third Act; Consommé of the day and Winter leaf.
The Fourth Act is when you get shown to your table. The sun is going down over the emerald green landscape and the lights come up in distant little houses.
You know you're in for some of the finest food of your life. But have you drunk too much to remember it all? Thankfully we're old hands at this and have 'paced ourselves' well!
Frozen olive and vermouth.
Egg from our hens, cooked inside out and truffled.
The magnificent signature dish. I actually can recall the taste and texture of this from last time. I pause taking photos until I'm the last to enjoy the warm all consuming flavour of truffle and yolk.
Oyster, tartar and geleé.
Spider crab and sea urchin. 
Tomato and eel. For some reason this stays in the memory more than others perhaps because it is such an unusual combination. It is one however that really works so well.
Roasted lobster out of the shell on oil herbs and sweet chives.
Stewed wheat with farmhouse milk emulsion and ox tail.
Pigeon, artichokes and fried egg.
Hake, red pepper infusion.
Idiazabal bonbons and its dressing sauce. I could eat this all day every day. A sweet sticky meaty broth with cheese bonbons that explode on your tongue.
Roasted Foie gras, peach and ashes. 
Having this as the very last savoury course was perhaps a mistake. Two of our party were 'down and out' and I could only manage mine and half of Mrs Bacon's! Foie gras is of course so wonderfully rich. At this point of the evening it is past midnight and the slow service was starting to take its toll. I asked them to speed it up and they did so, very efficiently.
Apple, caramel and yogurt. 
Cheese, red fruits and mint. 
Sheep milk and black olives.
Petits fours. 

 If we were to return here again, I think we'd do a shorter lunchtime menu. The Adarrak Menu is world class but it is a long succession of rich dishes and a very long evening, so be prepared! The experience of Azurmendi is always an unforgettable one. To dine here changes you in a small way, as then you become aware again of what is possible. If you're serious about food, again it is another pilgrimage you must make at least once in your life.

 The Adarrak Menu costs us 175€ each.
See the photos in high res here.

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