Saturday 14 May 2022

San Sebastián Pintxos Tour 2022.

 It was over the New Year 2019-2020 that we last visited the greatest place on earth for food, San Sebastián. Back then, we sedately celebrated the New Year with fireworks over the city hall and out to sea. This was supposed to be a great year! Little did we know. Over the long Covid period we had a trip cancelled so couldn't wait to finally return.

It's amazing to be back, La Concha beach as big and beautiful as ever. Everything looked the same on the surface but how about the Pintxos bars in the old town? Would all our favourites still be there? Most still were but some have sadly gone. Old favourite, Zeruko, has closed for good at both locations. I still remember our first trip to this bar and being blown away by the display, still the greatest bar top at any pintxos bar I've ever seen. A Fuego Negro has also permanently shut down. This was always a must visit at some point on a bar crawl, so sad to see this place shut too. Zazpi has changed venues and is a proper sit down restaurant which didn't appeal. It seems some of the charm of the old place has been lost by some accounts. 
However most other places were open and this occasion was probably my favourite of all our trips as we visited all our old favourites and discovered some new places and some that we'd somehow missed before.
One of our traditions is to always go to Borda Berri as a first stop and order their risotto. It seems a good start to begin our first session doing this but sadly it was closed (only temporarily I believe for holidays).

So instead we ordered Foie & Truffled Rice (€4,70) at Mendaur Berria plus some squid and 10 beers between  6 of us. A fine start to the weekend. (€62,80). Interestingly, this place is Number One on Tripadvisor if you hold any merit in that. I find it can be useful in quickly checking what a bar is especially good at.

Down a few doors to Casa Urola. Another absolute must visit. We always order the scallops here.
(€4,70) this time we also had some gorgeous Mushroom Tartlets. (€2,60), some more beer and wine to follow.Total Cost €36.


This is where it gets a bit hazy, maybe we went to La Cuchara de San Telmo at this point, which was surprisingly not insanely busy. I've seen this place when it's almost impossible to get in but we've been training for this for some years so we squeeze onto the last table outside. I forgot to order the Pig's Ear but we do manage some divine Foie Gras (€6). I send a quick message to Luke Unabomber who I know loves this place. Quite right, La Cuchara de San Telmo is another absolute must on a visit to the old town. Plus as it's sister to the closed Borda Berri it felt good to go here at least. Ordering more, we all enjoyed the Bacalau (€4) and a fine black squid ink risotto. We ended up spending about €60 here but again it was between six of us and who's counting? It had been too long.

For editing purposes I'll write it up as one long boozy lunch but it was actually several sessions. It's good to have a plan but you must be flexible to be able to break that route if somewhere is too busy or a bar not on your map looks inviting. It's all part of the fun. I wanted to visit all the old favourites, plus some bars I've hardly been to over the years. Txuleta is one of those places. I'm not sure why but it's never been on my must visit list, but it's as good as anywhere. We visited twice and loved it. We didn't even care that the young bartender was so moody with us especially just because we cheered when the cheese arrived. Why worry with food this good? The croquetas (€2 )are superb here as is the steak as you'd expect. They give you free chicken drumsticks here which are good and I recall a wonderful plate of scrambled eggs and wild mushrooms, so full of flavour.
Another one is
Txepetxa. I'm a real lover of anchovies so this is an obvious stopping point. Sat here with a beer and a pintxo, you start to wonder, how are they all this good though? If you're a fan of anchovies, try the fine new place in Bilbao Antxoa Taberna.

We always end up at Atari Gastroleku it seems. I doubt I've visited totally sober. It's always super busy, the beer is always good and no matter how crowded it seems, ordering never seems a problem. A round of French Toast and Cream Cheese Ice Cream finishes us off. 

Walking over to the Gros area. First stop is always Bar Bergara. Forever in my Top 5, I just love the little pastry dishes we get here. It's difficult not to order everything on the menu. The Udaberri (€3) is a must as is the Anchovy Tortilla. Amongst several (€3.50) other pintxos, our bill here comes to €85 for 6. Amazing value for food this good. We also try out Eguzki Bistro Bar another busy bar, we enjoy their croquettas.
We have some raciones at another favourite place over the years, Gure Txoko Taberna. The cod and the squid were both good although their veg in tempura wasn't the best, being a bit soggy. The owner though enjoys a glass of cava at the end of another long shift.
Back to the old town Goiz Argi is rightfully famous for their prawn skewers (€3.30 each ) but we also enjoyed a crab dish I think. 
People often mention Bar Nestor as one of the places on any pilgrimage here, it was finally time we did this place justice. We did, our first visit was for the amazing steak. The following day I queued up at 7pm for the most exquisite Tortilla whilst my friends and Mrs Bacon enjoyed drinks at a bar over the street. Of course it was worth it, probably the best tortilla and not just because I had to queue for it and wait an hour. So moist and gooey inside Nestor was never going to disappoint.  I think we all enjoyed their military super organised ordering system.
We also had some fresh seafood and oysters at Hemeretzi. Off piste, we just walked in at random. Of course the food was excellent, in a modern clean setting and waiter service.

We went to La Vina twice for cheesecake, always amazing and always a must do.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, so it was at Bar Sport one afternoon. We managed to get an early table the last one left outside and planned to have a few and leave for somewhere else. We didn't leave for several hours. On Saturday afternoon in Donostia, tables are hard to come by. Why leave? Beside the food was so bloody good, I especially remember the Crab Crep and squid stuffed with crab and mini steak frites. I don't think we've ever been here, partly put off by the name (I hate Sports Bars but it isn't one) and the fact that it always seemed impossible to get into. But it's so worth it. Chatting, drinking and eating the finest pintxos known to man. Could there be a better way of spending an afternoon?

Postscript. Where is good for Breakfast in San Sebastián? We like Argitan, an excellent café and bakery in a prime spot. Also The Loaf great coffee and bread in this minimalist café .They have a few branches in the city.

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