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Gourmet tour through Basque Country and Rioja wine country

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Basque Country is paradise for gourmands. Hardly any other region can claim so many Michelin-starred restaurants as operate as in Euskadi, the Basque name for their homeland. Here are my tips for a gourmet tour:

We let several starred chefs do their magic for us in their restaurants on our road trip through Basque Country and Rioja:

  1. Akelarre in San Sebastian – three Michelin stars
  2. Atelier Etxanobe in Bilbao – one Michelin star
  3. Gastrobar ‘Patri’ by Martín Berasategui
  4. El Gastronómico – Marqués de Riscal in El Ciego – one Michelin star
  5. The Viura Gastronomic Restaurant
  6. Pintxos – the hallmark of Basque cuisine

Akelarre Restaurant in San Sebastián – three Michelin stars

San Sebastián (in Basque, Donostia in Gipuzkoa province) alone can boast of no less than three restaurants awarded the highest 3-star Michelin rating!

In total, this coastal town is home to establishments with 16 Michelin stars. 

One of  the 3-star restaurants that comes paired with a luxury hotel is the ‘Akelarre’.

‘Akelarre’ means ‘witches’ dance‘…

Let’s hope this turns out well!

Akelarre Gourmet Restaurant & Hotel von Pedro Subijana

Entrance to the gourmet restaurant

Chef Pedro Subijana has been cooking here for several years. He is part of the historic founding generation of the ‘nueva cocina vasca’, the ‘new Basque cuisine‘.

With Subijana, guests choose from three gourmet menus of nine courses each. Naturally, it is ok to combine dishes from the different menus.

By way of welcome, he starts us off with a ‘Bloody Mary’ –  not the liquid variety, but one made with dehydrated tomatoes and vodka foam!

He accompanies it with souffléed shrimp dumplings and a kind of cracker with creamed boudin.

Akelarre Gourmet Restaurant & Hotel von Pedro Subijana

Mini dumplings with shrimp as amuse-bouche

But from the menu come surprises and little miracles one after the other:

Akelarre Gourmet Restaurant & Hotel von Pedro Subijana

Hake in seaweed pot liquor with plankton cream and oysterleaf

Akelarre Gourmet Restaurant & Hotel von Pedro Subijana

Gooseliver mousse shaped like a leaf

Akelarre Gourmet Restaurant & Hotel von Pedro Subijana

Prawns cooked at the table

Akelarre Gourmet Restaurant & Hotel von Pedro Subijana

Prawn dish

 

Not least does the Akelarre captivate with the spectacular view of the Bay of Biscay. Guests staying at the hotel belonging to Relais & Châteaux are bound to be pleased.

Unless it happens to be shrouded in fog…

 

Address:
Akelarre
Padre Orcolaga, 56 (Igeldo)
20008 San Sebastián
Phone: +34 943 311 209
E-mail: restaurante@akelarre.net
Website: akelarre.net

Hours:
13:00 – 14:30 and 20:30 – 22:00  (arrival time).
Closed Sunday evenings, all day Mondays and Tuesdays.

Prices:
Choice of three menus à 240 € (excl. beverages).

The prices of the hotel rooms are also hefty. We had to pass.

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Atelier Etxanobe in Bilbao – one Michelin star

Star chef Fernando Canales in his gourmet restaurant ‘Atelier Etxanobe’ in Bilbao surprises with experimental taste explosions and original creations.

Chef Fernando Canales

Chef Fernando Canales in front of the Spanish National Bank’s stained glas

Gourmet restaurant by Fernando Canales

Nice atmosphere: Atmospheric Michelin starred restaurant by Fernando Canales

The tasting menu comprises 14 courses. Two of these Canales prepares personally at table side. With dazzling showmanship: He brandishes the flame gun over the plates with wild gestures worthy of a star conductor!

Chef Fernando Canales

Canales flambés a tuna carpaccio at our table

Atelier Etxanobe by Fernando Canales

Grilled red Mediterranean shrimp

Atelier Etxanobe Bilbao

Codfish with eggplant and olives

Atelier Etxanobe

Wineglasses sparkle in Atelier Etxanobe

Something else that is special about dining at Atelier Etxanobe: a diminutive projector on the table first projects an image clip and subsequently the individual courses onto the tablecloth.

Atelier Etxanobe

Chicharro or horse mackerel with red beet and lemongrass. And the menu projector

That this star chef has an affinity for the digital realm is further revealed when he serves us dessert: Using VR glasses, he procures for us a taste experience involving all the senses.

Address:
Atelier Etxanobe
Calle Juan Ajuriaguerra, 8
48009 Bilbao
Phone: +34 944 421 071
E-mail: etxanobe@etxanobe.com
Website: atelieretxanobe.com

Hours:
13:00 – 15:00 and 20:00 – 22:00; closed Tuesdays and Sundays.

Price:
Experiencia Menú Chef Atelier: 120 € (excl. beverages)
Menù Chef Atelier with wine accompaniment: up to 200 €

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Gastrobar ‘Patri’ by Martín Berasategui

I really have to single out Martín Berasategui’s gourmet temples even among so many first-rate Basque restaurants. He is one of the leading lights among Spain’s star chefs.

Martín Berasategui operates restaurants in several cities. As of now, five of his restaurants can claim a total 10 Michelin stars….His restaurants alone would merit their own tasting tour.

His main restaurant is ‘Restaurante Martín Berasategui’ in San Sebastián (three Michelin stars).

Regrettably, we could not get a table during our stay.

Tip: To sup in Martín Berasategui’s top restaurant requires reserving a table several weeks in advance!

However, chance will have it that we are residing in the Hotel Tayko in Bilbao – and it houses not one but two of Michelin star chef Berasategui’s establishments: the elegant ‘Ola’ and the lively ‘Patri’ gastrobar.

Katja und I try a dinner in the ‘Patri’ and come away totally stoked!

The restaurant presents itself in a completely relaxed and stylish ambiance.

Assorted delicacies, from oysters to ceviches to tartares, are served here.

Patri open kitchen

Patri open kitchen

Restaurant Patri Bistro Bilbao

Astronaut Tayko in the Patri gourmet bistro by Martin Berasetegui

Hotel bar in the Patri Restaurant

Hotel bar in the Patri Restaurant

Katja orders a grilled hake with bacon on purèe peas.

As for me, I still revel today in the tantalizing memory of an Iberian pig: it comes on truffle potatoes and melts on the tongue – just like pulled pork.

Outstanding! Possibly my favorite dish on the entire trip…

Grilled hake with bacon

Grilled hake with bacon on puréed peas

Restaurant Patri Bilbao

Iberian pig served on truffle potatoes – out of this world!

No trip to Bilbao is complete without a visit to the ‘Patri’ gastrobar. Don’t miss it!  Because here you will find top cuisine by a star chef at affordable prices in a relaxed industrial-chic ambiance.

Address:
Hotel Tayko
Erribera Kalea, 13
48005 Bilbao
Phone: + 34 944 652 069
Website: taykohotels.com

Hours:
Lunch: Monday through Sunday, 13:30 – 15:30
Dinner: Monday through Sunday 20:30 – 22:30 or 23:00 (Fridays and Saturdays)

Prices:
Individual dishes are reasonably priced.

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El Gastronómico – Marqués de Riscal in Elciego – one Michelin star

The Hotel Marqués de Riscal is an eyecatcher coming and going.

Hotel Marqués de Riscal

Design hotel Marquès de Riscal by star architect Frank Gehry

Like Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum (see our article on Bilbao here) the hotel was designed by star architect Frank Gehry.

And in the restaurant, too, the utmost importance attaches to design:

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Katja in the restaurant’s deconstructivist architecture

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Katja and Walter eagerly waiting to see the menu

Star chef Francis Paniego loves to tease customers on a tasting discovery tour: some of what we are served isn’t at all what it appears to be…

So, the friendly waiter will serve what looks like black olives for the apéro – which turn out to be grapes filled with cream cheese…

Fascinating!

Later, we are served what resembles a grass lawn with fresh herbs and flowers growing in it: actually, it’s sheep’s milk cheese with goose liver and powdered fresh herbs.

Ingenious!

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Shadow play of wine glasses

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Tondeluna appetizer

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Squab on Gran Reserva sauce

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Green asparagus, caviar and mushrooms

El Gastronomico Restaurant des Marqués de Riscal Hotels

Dessert of peach “Zurracapote”

The design hotel sits surrounded by vineyards.

They produce 5 million bottles annually here. In the cellars repose three million bottles of wine and innumerable wooden barrels…

Winery Marquès de Riscal

Barrels of wine in the Herederos de Marqués de Riscal cellar

Wine cellars Marquès de Riscal

Wine cellars of the Marquès de Riscal estate

Address:
Marqués de Riscal
Calle Torrea, 1
1340 Elciego, Alava
Phone: +34 945 180 888
E-mail: reservations.marquesderiscal@marriott.com
Website: restaurantemarquesderiscal.com

Hours:
Lunch: Wednesday through Sunday, 13:00 – 15:00
Dinner: Tuesday through Sunday, 20:00 – 22:00

Prices:
Menù 14 Ideas (14 Gänge) 110 € (excl. beverages)
Menù 21 Ideas 140 € (excl. beverages)

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The Viura Gastronomic Restaurant – no stars

In Villabuena de Álava, not far from Elciego, the lucky traveler has landed in the heart of the Rioja wine country.  The tiny village of 300 inhabitants can boast 43 vineyards!

All the Tempranillos and Viuras with Garnacha or Malvasía please my taste buds no end ;-)

Tempranillo wine

Walter tasting Tempranillo in the Rioja wine region

With its cubist design and avant-garde details, the Hotel Viura is simply spectacular. The hotel’s restaurant is also nothing to sneeze at!

Design hotel Viura in Villabuena de Álava

Cubistic design hotel Viura in Villabuena de Álava

Designhotel Viura in Villabuena de Álava

Decorative easy chair in the hotel passage

Designhotel Viura in Villabuena de Álava

Table in the Cuisine gourmet restaurant

Chef de cuisine Javier Alesanco has a knack for paying homage to the authentic cooking of the Rioja region and Basque Country but he also puts his own mark on it.

While Alesanco may not yet have a star, his tasting menu strikes us as clearly up there in star quality!

 

Address:
The Gastronomic Restaurant Hotel Viura
Calle Mayor
01307 Villabuena de Álava
Phone +34 945 609 000
E-Mail: info@hotelviura.com
Website: hotelviura.com

Hours:
Monday through Sunday: 19:30 – 22:30 Uhr
Added Saturday hours: 13:30 – bis 15:30 Uhr

Price:
Tasting menu starting from 50 € (excl. beverages)

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Pintxos – the emblematic Basque food

For those who like things not quite so upscale will also not be disappointed by Basque Country.

That is because pintxos (pronounced ‘pintchos’) – a variation on Spanish tapas – will make any gourmet fan’s heart beat faster.

All tips having to do with pintxos we collected in this article.

Pintxos im Mercado de la Ribera

Typical pintxo plate
Here to our pintxo review

A good overview of the starred restaurants in Spanish Basque Country is also provided by the Euskoguide web site.

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About Author

Walter Schaerer’s extensive background in the travel industry, passionate enthusiasm for photography and a firm belief that luxury destinations can also be affordable; were some of the main factors that motivated him to create the travel blog travelmemo.com. In his day job Walter is an online marketing manager based out of Zurich, Switzerland.

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