On my final day in San Sebastian the weather was at its worst – blustering winds and torrential rain! So, huddled up in a cosy café I was able to write this final blog post with my top tips for the best places to eat in San Sebastian, what to eat and when to eat it! It’s going to be difficult but I’ll try to limit myself to two/three entries per category:
Breakfast and cosy cafés
- Koh Tao (C/Bengoetxea, 2. Centro. Next to plaza Gipuzkoa) For breakfast try their ‘Andaluz’ – toasted wholemeal or white bread with olive oil, fresh tomato spread and Iberian ham. For a cool pick-me-up try iced coffee or colacao with chocolate sauce. Or in the winter indulge in their different flavours of thick hot chocolate : dark, white, toffee, hazelnut! Plenty of comfy, eclectic armchairs to sit on. Mon – Thu: 07:30 – 22:00 Fri: 07:30 – 01:30 Sat: 09:00 – 01:30 Sun: 09:00 – 22:00
- La Guinda (C/Zabaleta, 55. Gros) Good range of teas – my favourite being liquorice and aniseed. Terrace perfect for enjoying a glass of homemade lemonade on a sunny day. Some interesting cakes including courgette and walnut. They also do a very reasonable toast with tomato for breakfast. Mon: 08:00 – 19:00 Tue – Thu: 08:00 – 23:00 Fri: 08:00 – 00:00 Sat: 09:00 – 00:00 Sun: 09:00 – 19:00
- Barrenetxe (Plaza de Guipúzcoa, 9. Centro) One of the oldest pastry shops selling an array of different cakes, pastries and great-quality breads. They have numerous different stores. Their ‘pantxineta’ is certainly worth a try.
- Otaegui (C/Narrica, 15 Parte Vieja) Again, one of the oldest shops with various branches. The one in the old part is the best with its old-fashioned façade and wooden and marble interior. Often when indecisive about what to get I’ve gone for a selection of petit-fours.
- Aguirre (Alameda del Boulevard, 7) Modern shop with classic pâtisserie. Their gigantic brioche in the window display are delicious and have never failed to tempt me to go inside.
Best value lunches
- Bodegón Alejandro (C/ Fermín Calbetón, 4. Parte Vieja) By far the restaurant I have frequented the most this year. It is the breeding ground for many of San Sebastian’s most famous chefs, including Martín Berasategui. Great value set-lunch for €16.50 Mon-Fri. Includes three courses, a bottle of wine, bread, an amuse-bouche and petit fours. Lunch 13:00h. – 15:30h. Dinner 20:30h. – 22:30h. Closed Sunday and Tuesday evenings, as well as all day Monday. Closed annually 21st Jan – 5th Feb. Best to reserve but you may still get a table if you turn up at the right time: +34 943 427 158
- Basque Culinary Centre (C/Paseo Juan Avelino Barriola, 101. Aiete. Get the bus 31 from Avenida de la Libertad No.19 getting off at the stop C/Oriamendi, 112) They offer a fantastic sit-down lunch menu for 16€ which includes three courses, drinks, bread and an amuse-bouche. Or there’s a more snacky menu for 10€. Monday-Friday only, 10am-4pm. Book online or by phone: + 34 902 540 866
- Mailazen (C/Embeltran, ? Parte Vieja. Next to La Muralla) An unexpensive place to get a filling, tasty lunch. Homemade breads and generous portions. Sandwiches to take-away and main meals to eat-in.
- Zeruko (C/Pescadería, 10. Parte vieja) The best presented pintxos in town, beautifully and creatively displayed. Award-winning combinations. Sea urchin served in its shell, reconstructed egg, black pudding covered in pistachios, peppers made to look like tomatoes.. it’s a feast for the eyes. By far the tastiest for me was the fresh cheese ball with honey drizzle and nuts. Closed Monday and Sunday evening. Mainly standing room. Phone to reserve a table +34 943 42 34 51. Pintxos from 3€.
- Borda Berri (C/Fermin Calbeton 12. Parte Vieja) Unlike other places Borda Berri only serve hot pintxos, all freshly made to order. It’s a small place and can get crowded, but the squid tentacle with membrillo, slow roasted beef cheek in red wine, or orzo mushroom risotto are worth a little pushing and shoving. +34 943 430342 Closed Monday. Pintxos from €2.50
- Txalupa (C/ Fermín Calbetón, 3. Parte Vieja) I like this traditional place for the sheer quantity of different pintxos on offer. There’s something for everyone. Favourites include goat’s cheese with tomato marmalade or apricot jam, piquillo pepper stuffed with crab and a portion of deep-fried green chilli peppers sprinkled with salt. Again, mainly standing room but you can phone in advance to book a table + 34 943 429 875. Closed on Monday. Pintxos from 2€.
Other favourites include: La Cuchara de San Telmo, A Fuego Negro, Atari, Hidalgo 56.
- Mugaritz ** (Otzazulueta baserria, Aldura aldea 20 zk, 20100 – Errenteria) If you really want to push the boat out Mugartiz or Arzak are certainly the way to go. Be prepared to be surprised, indulged and above all engaged – the staff and chefs aim to interact with guests, sharing perspectives and introducing you to new techniques developed in the kitchen laboratories. Everyone is served the same tasting menu of 20 courses but if you give them advanced warning about allergies or dislikes they will happily cater for you. Reserve well in advance online.
- El Mirador de Ulía * (Paseo de Ulia, 193. Monte Ulia) If you want to experience fine dining on a smaller budget this restaurant with breathtaking panoramic views over San Sebastian is a great place to go. Look out for offers online on discount sites like Oferplan. The foodie highlight of my entire stay – their incredible slow-cooked duck breast with praline sauce, apple purée and melon. The mushroom dish ‘in its natural environment’ is also a must-taste! Reservations +34 943 27 27 07
Drinks and cocktails
- Cider House, Petritegi (Petritegi Bidea, Astigarraga) A short bus ride out of San Sebastian and you can be drinking authentic Basque cider from huge 14000 litre barrels! Even if cider isn’t your thing, I challenge any meat eater not to be won over by the cider house traditional menu – chorizo cooked in cider, cod tortilla, cod with crispy peppers and onion, rib-eye steak, and finally cheese, membrillo and walnuts for pudding. Reserve by phone +34 943 45 71 88
- Pecaditos (C/ Usandizaga, 22. Gros) Great value delicious cocktails: ‘Negroni’ and ‘Martini Glacé’ for only 1.80€. The ‘Martini Glacé’ is perfect if you have a sweet tooth whilst the ‘Negroni’ has a deeper, tarter flavour. Be careful though as they are made purely with alcohol, no mixer. They also have a large selection of pintxos to order – they’re nothing special but it’s hard to complain for 1.20€ each! Mon-Sun 8am-11pm
- Salt (Avenida de Navarra, 2. Gros) The best cocktails I’ve ever tried. At 6.50€ each they’re on the pricier side for San Sebastian but still very reasonable. Cherry, chocolate and salt. Or raspberry and chocolate mojito! Modern stylish interior with views of Zurriola surf beach. Mon-Sun 8.30am – midnight.
- Hondarribia, La Hermandad de los Pescadores (C/Zuloaga, 12) Fishy highlight of my year. I think I still have dreams about the squid with red pepper marmalade. It’s a little pricey (40€ +)but you can’t get any fresher than this. Booking recommended + 34 943 642 738 Closed all day Monday as well as Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday evenings.
- Pamplona, Casa Otano (C/San Nicolas, 5) Local favourite. Good, hearty cooking using regional produce. Weekday set menu for 18.80€ or 30€ at the weekend. The food may be good but the hotel has received some poor reviews.
- Biarritz, Bistrot des Halles (Rue du centre) Small, cheerful bistrot. Affordable set menu for 13.50€. Fun, eclectic decor.