Essential food and wine experiences: San Sebastian

This article represents the personal favourites of Foodtourist’s editors Sue Dyson and Roger McShane. These are the places they haunt on their regular visits to San Sebastian.

San Sebastian is not a large city - but it packs a very large punch in the restaurant scene. In fact, it is arguable that there are more Michelin stars here per head of population than any other city on earth!

Our favourite is the sublime Mugaritz situated a short 20 minute taxi ride from the city where owner Andoni Aduriz serves up ethereal dishes such as gnocchi made with Basque idiazábal cheese served in a pork bouillon, edible works of art using flowers, herbs and vegetables from the restaurant’s garden, braised pork tails, and his moist chocolate cake with almond cream and chocolate bubbles.

Our other favourite is a longer drive to the mountains between Guernica and Bilbao where the village of Axpe houses the wonderful Extebarri where Victor Arguinzoniz displays virtuosity with grilling and smoking products sourced from the hills and valleys of the surrounding area. He makes basics such as chorizo, bread, and even butter, which he churns from local goat milk after first smoking it. All of the food here is quite sublime and certainly worth the journey.

But it is the pintxos bars that are the enduring feature of this seaside city. Each night the locals turn out to meet their friends and circulate slowly through the local bars having a drink of the local low-alcohol wine and a bite of their favourite pintxos for that bar. Some of our favourite bars which we have tested thoroughly are Alona Berri,  El Lagar (with its interesting selection of wines), Bar Cepa (baccala tortilla) and the amazing La Cuchara de San Telmo (modern, edgy pintxos).

Other restaurants that are worth visiting include Arzak in the city (just near Villa Soro), the traditional Bodegon Alejandro, Casa Nicolasa, Txulotxo and Kaia-Kaipe in nearby Getaria.

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Our book recommendation

We thoroughly recommend the excellent book by Marco Canora, a chef whose food we admire having eaten his food at Hearth and Terroir.