Mugaritz ** The third best restaurant in the world

It’s not every day that you get to eat at the restaurant voted the third best in the world. I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while, simply because I’ve been lacking the words to describe an experience which is beyond words. Through its innovative yet utterly delicious food, minimalist presentation and extensive research, Mugaritz is far more than your standard gastronomic, tasting ‘experience.’ As my parents and I found out, the team at Mugaritz have managed to flesh out the word ‘experience’ in ways which exceed one’s wildest imagination…

Instead of making macaroons using egg whites they used pig’s blood and sandwiched the shells  together with game pâté and slithers of pigeon heart.

Tiny, baby turbot fish, raised in the restaurant’s own aquarium, were fried and their crunchy, delicate bones served with cayenne pepper, lemon juice and garlic.

The research kitchen discovered the radish is the only vegetable that retains its flavour without going bitter when burnt to a cinder. The radish ashes were served on toast with bone marrow, rocket and coriander.

What appeared to be cheese, was really a Béchamel sauce made with linseed protein, cow’s milk and lightly set with gelatin.

We were led to believe we were eating mother of pearl with hazelnuts cooked in a black bean sauce ; but really the iridescent half-moons on our plate were made from gluten-free starch (kuzu) cooked with vegetables, dehydrated and dusted with silver powder.

We were encouraged to bond with our fellow guests through the synchronised serving of a dish requiring us all to grind down linseeds and spices in individual pestle and mortars. As we were reducing it to a pulp the tinkling sound of stone on stone (oddly reminiscent of cow bells in the hills) echoed around the restaurant. The dish was completed with a broth and morsels of bacalao which we added to our makeshift bowl.

Cauliflower was the main ingredient of one the best puddings I’ve ever eaten.  We were served apple parfait and chocolate ‘poof’ pastry, according to our waiter who was ironically camp.

Even the toilet paper dodged convention by being black!

Here’s what we feasted upon, in further detail:

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Game and heart macaroons. If this is anything to go by savoury macaroons have a big future ahead of them.

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Fish bones with nuances of lemon, garlic and cayenne pepper. Nuances may be a little exaggeration – my Dad was hit by a rather powerful bit of cayenne.

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Carrots, carrot cream and flowers.

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Flax and wheat ‘craft’ paper with crab.

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Grilled endive with pumpkin seed praline.

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Grilled toast of bone marrow with herbs and radish ash. Simply delightful! The highlight of the menu.

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Tagliatelle of concentrated milk lightly soaked in a silky juice of roasted squash and tomato.

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Clam and spinach in coastal herb juice with lime kaffir.

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Home-made ‘cheese’, cured in its own rind, mushrooms and fleshy leaves.

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Hazelnut and bean stew.

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Bonding: linseed, spices, broth and bacalao

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Pork tails with squash.

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Roasted loin of hake with contrasting grains of aged mascarpone, cauliflower and fresh almonds.

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Coastal fish stained with trimmings of aged sourdough, parsley and Huacatay.

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Breast of guinea fowl with lobster emulsion and roasted lobster skin.

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Crispy sweetbread, bitter leaves and artisan praline. Again, sweetbreads are not really my thing – but with the artisan praline they were irresistible.

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Apple parfait with chocolate puff pastry.

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‘Forgotten childhood memory’ – milky wafer with lemon ice cream.

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Traditional almond fairy cake.

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Cauliflower with grapes and nutmeg.

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Frankincense candies smoked in eucalyptus bark. A fragrant end to the meal, like having a little bonfire at your own table.

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Finally to settle the stomach, mint tea.

The quality of the food was mind-boggling and the level of their research highly impressive. As a dining experience goes, however, my only criticism would have to be the number of different waiters who served us – almost every dish was served by a new face.. leaving us a tad confused as to who was our actual waiter. Nevertheless, an experience never to be forgotten. Thank you BJD!

Ah, if only I could afford to go back…

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