Outstanding food in every way served at one of San Sebastian's 3 Michelin starred restaurants overlooking the Bay of Biscay
This was a return to the greats, plain and simple. From the printed goats butter, the best (black squid) risotto ever had, the beautiful beef tendon to the perfect apple tart and all round clever designs, this was a superb experience. This was creative without going too over the top and with some wonderful moments. Not every course was knock out, but there were enough superb moments to be content that this was special. All three tasting menus were asked for and the whole package totalled €966 for the four of us (£241 each incl wine and service). For the marathon of privilege that this was overlooking the Bay of Biscay from a 5 star hotel, I thought this was quite reasonable when considering the Fat Duck is £255 at time of writing, for just the food alone. If you have this experience, I believe you should be walking away very happy and not uncomfortably bloated at the same time. A superb meal all round.
There are a huge number of components within one tasting menu here, let alone three and therefore the only sane thing I can do for this review is provide a typed translation of all three menus that were provided to us at the end. The three tasting menus were the only ones available and I chose The Classics, therefore I will comment on those dishes and others that I sampled from the Aranori and Bekari menus that I had. I should also mention that I had the best Rioja I have ever had in my life here and this particular kind has made me wish to source a case of it immediately on return to the UK. Current mark ups place the Miguel Merino at approx. £43 per bottle in the UK which, I will pay in a heartbeat it was that immense.
A quick word on the introductions: the welcome was a bloody Mary greeting made of a spicy tomato chopped base with vodka and egg white foam which had a fair kick and whilst beautifully done, I thought the foam could have had more vodka flavour and more calming effect for the spice. The olives stuffed with ham & anchovy were simple and whilst goats butter is quite strong and not my favourite, this was done well and with the restaurant logo printed on using black rice there is no knocking the design effort. Herbed pomme soufflés, breads and baked bread crisps completed a healthy selection of nibbles that were not amazing on balance, but were definitely inviting.
So, the three menus in full (with my thoughts in brackets at courses tasted):
- Variety of leaves with cold foie gras with aromatic dressing (without olive oil).
- Raw and smoked monkfish fillet, cut in thin slices, scampi barely cooked served with a bag made of oblulato & monkfish crisps and prawn powder that melts when pouring the broth on top.
- Squid crown and Venere rice’s groats, Venere rice cream and edible flowers.
- Hake in seaweed steam, plancton, oyster leaf.
- Sea Bass Umami.
- Roasted suckling pig, bone and Iberian emulsion (garlic). The baby pig is cooked in Iberian broth and finished in the oven (this was outstanding).
- Gin and tonic on a plate – jelly made out of gin and tonic with a juniper sauce (clever and refreshing at the same time).
- Coconut iced mousse – traditional tolosa cake made with egg and almond with a slide of foaming coconut ice cream mousse (the texture of an ‘aero’ chocolate but lighter and with a soft, coconut flavour which was very good).
- Prawns and green beans cooked in orujo flame and sea roes – prawns that had tails peeled, cooked at the table with wine spirits, green bean cream and fish roes (lovely to have at the table).
- Chickpeas and violet potato with legume and tuber.
- Beef tartare with new potato soufflé and aromatic herb bread.
- Crystalised cod presented in a fish box, over edible cod shavings and cod tripes in tomato water (reportedly this was the best cod in existence).
- Squid risotto – squid cut in brunoise, cooked with edible flowers and parmesan with no rice (I had the privilege of having a bit of this and new immediately this was the best risotto I have ever had it was that smooth, rich and gratifying).
- Grilled lamb loin, mushrooms, sweetbreads and garden herbs in skein roll (explosive power of the herbs reported).
- Melting cupcake made with yoghurt foam, coffee, chestnut with a small amount of grapefruit.
- Apple tart – a different apple tart made of puff pastry toasted apple cream puff, praline and edible apple paper (perhaps the best apple tart I’ve ever tasted and with such a clever, chewy edible paper on top with the restaurant logo printed on in edible sugar).
- Lobster with cider vinegar, mesclum and vegetable sprouts (this was virtually perfect lobster with a fun little leg on top to suck the meat out once broken in to two, although I couldn’t get mine out of one bone it was stuck too hard).
- Pasta carpaccio, piquillo and Iberic with mushroom and parmesan (a superb presentation of pasta that was just wonderful pasta with perfect cheese and accompanying ham and mushroom that complimented as well as it possibly can do).
- Soufled kokotxa, white garlic sauce and sodium seaweed tempura (this had superb texture and lovely, soft garlic sauce with the total freshness although the cod was a little difficult to find).
- Sautéed fresh foie gras with ‘salt flakes’ that were sugar crystals and ‘grain pepper’ that were charred bread crumbs (this was good foie gras with original presentation and nice to be unspoilt but ultimately, I was expecting more and have had better foie gras dishes at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Le Gavroche).
- Red mullet with sauce ‘fusilli’ – Red mullet fillet, head and bones praliné, liver and onion with fusilli capsules stuffed with parsley, soy and ‘ajo blanco’ sauce (mine was actually substituted for the beef foie gras which was very light and served with blissful pomp soufflés, but I would actually say that I prefer that served at Chiltern Firehouse, sorry).
- Carved beef tendon and lacquered skin potatoes and peppers – tender beef with gelatinous juice and crunchy skin served with coppered peppers and piquillo peppers (without doubt this was one of the best beef dishes ever had with an incredible beef flavour, beautiful, moist textures and delicate potato – a superb dish).
- Various and Idiazabal cheeses (these were beautifully done as they were not too much but allowed various samplings of Spanish cheeses with appropriate chutneys).
- Broken jar of yoghurt ‘gatzatua’ and berries made from sugar and edible ink and paper (wonderful presentation and the soft of the yoghurt worked very well to cool the sharp fruits and juices provided).
In order to sum up this meal as simply as possible, I can only say that it was a strong 3 Michelin starred meal served in a Relais & Châteaux hotel overlooking the Bay of Biscay which is a brilliant equation. Even if the setting was not as lovely as it was (bit cloudy on our visit but on a hot, sunny day, this would be magical), the food was still of a very strong standard in terms of creativity and let’s not forget the most important thing….the actual taste of the food. Moreover, none of us were bloated or bored at the pace of the meal; we were all, in fact happy to munch on all the petit four at the end and that shows great skill in the balance of all three menus served with world class service at all times of the meal. If you are ever going to celebrate anything, this is a prefect contender if you are having your holiday or passing through San Sebastian.
Food Grade: 93%