Wednesday 20 July 2016

A Beginner’s Guide To San Sebastian's "Pintxos"

A pal on twitter (@Damo_Dee) asked if I had any tips for his upcoming trip to San Sebastian… this post is an adaptation of the email I sent him (plus pics). Hope it’s of use to folk. Please add comments if you have any further advice (or corrections).

“If you’re looking for a family holiday with food as a secondary thing, then staying near either of the beaches – La Concha or over the river in Gros – would be ideal.

La Concha Beach

If your holiday is mainly about food, then staying in the ‘Parte Vieja’ (Old Town) has gotta be the best bet.

That said, on our previous trip we stayed a little out of town at Hotel Astoria 7 in Amara – although further from the action, the bus services are excellent. It’s walkable too. There’s also a fab deli nearby called Don Serapio.

View from our apartment steps
This time, we stayed at the Santa María apartment (booked through Feel Free Rentals @FeelFreeRentals). On Calle del Treinta y Uno de Agosto, close to the porto, la Concha beach & the fab bars of the Parte Vieja, this was an excellent location .

View from our apartment steps
Calle 31 Agosto’ runs along the top of the Parte Vieja. The road has some of the area's best pintxos bars. Each place has different times opening times – some close completely in the late afternoon; others just shut their kitchens but still have cold selections available.

A good place to start any pintxos crawl from is Atari Gastroteka – from there you can work your way along Calle 31 Agosto to end at La Viña for their famous ‘Tarta de Queso’.

Atari Gastroteka - Pintxos
Atari Gastroteka - Foie a la Plancha
Atari Gastroteka - Carrillera
Atari Gastroteka - Brocheta de Gambas
Atari Gastroteka (Calle Mayor, 18) With regards to pintxos, they have an extensive selection on the bar & prepare various hot ‘classics’. Look out for the specials boards above the bar too. Their outside seating, if you can bag it, is a great place to ‘people watch’ – it gets the early evening sun.

Atari Gastroteka - Bonito, Antxoas y Guindillas
Atari Gastroteka - Tosta de Foie
Atari Gastroteka - Croqueta de Jamón
The ‘Platillo de Bonito, Antxoas y Guindillas’ (white tuna, anchovies & guindillas peppers) & ‘Tosta de Foie mi Cuit’ (foie with toast) & ‘Croqueta de Jamón’ are especially good.

Atari Gastroteka - Espárragos Naturales
Atari Gastroteka - Salmon Citrico con Espárragos
Atari Gastroteka - Merzula
On our visits, the specials at Atari Gastroteka included ‘Espárragos Naturales con Salsa Romescu’, ‘Salmon Citrico con Espárragos’ & ‘Merluza con Ships y Crema de Yuca’ – all were great!

A Fuego Negro (Calle 31 de Agosto, 31) [WiFi] A ‘contemporary-style’ place, offering ‘experimental pintxos’, A Fuego Negro is a little more ‘hip’ than most places… think neons & a banging soundtrack.

A Fuego Negro - Makobe

They do serve a pinxtos ‘tasting menu’ (which you have to book) but I just like propping up the bar & grazing. The miniature kobe beef burger, ‘Makcobe with txips’, is the thing that everyone orders but I think it’s the worst thing on the menu. For something different, get the ‘Ortiguillas Donostiarras’ (sea anemones). Also, definitely order the ‘Platiko de encurtidos de kasa’ (home made pickles). Other than that, just order what you like the look & sound of… it’s all good. We ate:

Txangurro-aguacate-regalíz’ (king crab, avocado, liquorice)

Pulpo parrilla, manzana verde, patata violeta & aire gorra’ 
(grilled octopus, green apple, violet potato & red air)

Paleta de Euskal Txerri’ (Paleta (front leg) of Euskal Txerri ham)

Txitxarro, oveja y menta en tosta de cereza’ 
(horse mackerel, sheep & mint over cherry toast)

Risotto crujiente txuri-black de oveja & txipirón’ (crunchy risotto of sheep & cuttlefish)

Ensalada de espinaca verde, roja, cebolla y queso feta’ 
(salad of green & red spinach, onion & feta)

Sandwitx helado de maíz & txokolate’ (frozen sandwich of corn & chocolate).

Gandarias (31 de Agosto Kalea, 23) A popular place that I’m not so keen on. They do good ‘Jamón Ibérico de Bellota’ but I’d skip this one if pushed for time.

La Txuleta - Pintxo de Txuleta
La Txuleta - Txistorra
La Txuleta (Plaza de la Trinidad, 2) Named after the famous steaks, as well as a restaurant, this bar serves a small selection of meaty pintxos. The local ‘Txistorra’ (sausage) & ‘Pintxo de Txuleta’ are a good start.

Bar Martínez - Pintxos
Bar Martínez - Brocheta de Pulpo
Bar Martínez - Patxaran
Bar Martínez - Champi
Bar Martínez - Mejillones Rebozados
Bar Martínez - Revuelto de Hongos

Bar Martínez (Calle 31 Agosto, 13) Their ‘Brocheta de Pulpo’ & ‘Mejillones Rebozados’ (like a mussel croquette served in it’s shell) are worth having. So are the two mushroom dishes ‘Champi’ & ‘Revuelto de Hongos’.

La Cuchara de San Telmo
Oreja de Cerdo - La Cuchara de San Telmo
La Cuchara de San Telmo (Calle 31 Agosto, 28) It’s a bit of a toss up between here & Borda Berri as to which is my favourite (although BB probably narrowly wins). There are no counter displays in either place – pintxos are cooked fresh to order from the chalk board menu.

La Cuchara de San Telmo - Cochinillo
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Pulp 
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Pulpo "Roca" Plancha
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Manita de Cerdo
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Ravioli de Pato Confitado
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Risotto Cremoso de Sepia
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Bacalao
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Foie
It’s all good at La Cuchara but popular dishes & my faves include ‘Cochinillo Salamancha’ (suckling pig), the ‘Pulpo “Roca” Plancha’, ‘Oreja de Cerdo’ (pig’s ear) & ‘Manita de Urdangarin Asada con Romescu’ (trotter).

La Cepa (31 de Agosto Kalea, 7) [WiFi] The ‘Jamón Ibérico de Bellota’ is a must at La Cepa, partly due to their gorgeous serving platters. Their ‘Hongos con Yema’ (Porcini mushrooms with egg yolk is also good here; as it is at Ganbara).

La Cepa - Hongos con Yema
La Cepa - Pintxos
La Cepa - Guindillas
La Cepa - Guindillas Fritos
La Cepa - Tarta de Queso
Some prefer the ‘Tarta de Queso’ at La Cepa to the more famous one next door at La Viña.

Tarta de Queso at La Viña

La Viña (Calle 31 de Agosto, 3) As well as the Tarta de Queso’, La Viña is a good place to sample the ‘Txakoli’ wine as they pour it here with a particular flourish.

Txakoli at La Viña

Chorizo a la Sidra at La Viña

There are other places on Calle 31 de Agosto but the above selection are the most popular ones – if you try any of the others, let me know what you had & think.

Going deeper into the Parte Vieja – it is largely set out on a grid system. Most of streets have bars & restaurants. There are also places on the ‘Plaza de la Constitución’ (make sure you read the tourist info on the plaque thingy, it tells you about the history behind the numbered shutters). Bar Astelena (in one of the corners) has the most character but I’d swerve the food in the square altogether.

Bar Nestor - Txuleta
One of the most popular places in the Parte Vieja is Bar Zeruko but, as mentioned, my favourite is Borda Berri. The steaks (and tortilla) at Bar Nestor are also “a must do”.

The battered prawns (Gamba Gabardine) at ‘Paco Bueno’ & ‘Hojaldre con Txistorra’ at Ganbara are widely regarded as “musts” too, but although very good, at the end of the day, they are just a battered prawn & a sausage roll.

Bar Zeruko - Pintxos
Bar Zeruko - La Hoguera
Bar Zeruko (Calle Pescaderia, 10) With one of the most impressive displays of pintxos, Zeruko is one of the busiest places on the tourist trail. Many of the dishes have ‘quirky’ presentation. Presented on a mini BBQ, the cod dish, ‘La Hoguera’ (The Bonfire) is the thing that everyone orders.

Bar Zeruko - Sashimi de Tolosa
Bar Zeruko - Tempura de Langostino

Bar Zeruko - Vieira a la Plancha 
Bar Zeruko - Hamburguesa de Txuleta
Bar Zeruko - Kokotxas, Bacalao y Foie
Bar Zeruko - Rollito de Primavera con Cebolleta
Similarly presented, is the ‘Sashimi de Tolosa’ – this consists of txuleta from the nearby town of Tolosa, served in three different ways. There is a kind of pastrami, some seared beef & another which has been marinated in soy & cider which, along with the shiso leaves, explains the Japanese inspired name. On top of a black sablé biscuit, the dish is dressed with piquillo aioli & a black garlic aioli.

Bar Nestor - Tortilla
Bar Néstor (Calle Pescaderia, 11) The steaks are what most people go for here but they are also famous for their ‘Tortilla’. They make two a day – one is served at 1pm & the other at 8pm. You need to arrive a good half hour plus beforehand to put your name down for a piece - then hang around. This way, you’ll also have a seat for when the kitchen opens & steak orders are taken.

Bar Néstor also offer a tomato salad & fried peppers, although these are not sides (they will be cleared before your steak arrives). I’d not bother unless you are a huge tomato & pepper fan.

Borda Berri menu
Borda Berri (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12) My favourite place; I ate the entire menu & it’s all good!). The ‘Oreja de Cerdo con Romescu’ ‘Risotto de “Puntalete” con Queso Idiazábal’ & ‘Kebab de Costilla de Cerdo’ are probably my top 3.

Borda Berri - Terrina Caera de Foie con Ciruela 
Borda Berri - Arroz "Bomba" con Hongos
Borda Berri - Gazpacho de Sandia con Mozzarella
Borda Berri - Risotto de “Puntalete” con Queso Idiazábal
Borda Berri - Tomate Relleno de Bonito
Borda Berri - Ravioli de Txipiron en su Tinta
Borda Berri - Pulpo a la Plancha con Membrillo
Borda Berri - Merluza a la Plancha con Tauboule
Borda Berri - Kallos de babalao con pil-pil
Borda Berri - Oreja de Cerdo con Romescu
Borda Berri - "Kebab" de Costilla de Cerdo
Borda Berri - Magret de Pato
Borda Berri - Entrecotte con Pesto de Rucula
Goiz Argi - Brocheta de Riñón
Goiz Argi - Callos
Goiz Argi (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 4) I’ve only had a couple of nibbles in this place but they were decent enough. The place opposite (Txalupa) looks good but I didn’t like it. At Goiz Argi I had the ‘Callos’ (tripe stew) & ‘Brocheta de Riñón’ (skewered kidneys).

Bar Sport - Foie a la Plancha 
Bar Sport - Manitas de Cerdo con Hongos
Bar Sport (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 10) [Wi-Fi] Other than the fact that it has Wi-Fi & is open when a lot of others are shut, there is something I find particularly charming about Bar Sport. Service is always friendly, as are the old boys who prop up the bar.

Bar Sport - Txangurro al Horno
Bar Sport - Crep de Hongos
Bar Sport - Crep de Txangurro
The food at Bar Sport is not mind-blowing but the ‘Foie a la Plancha (Grilled foie), ‘Manitas de Cerdo con Hongos (pig’s feet with mushrooms), ‘Txangurro al Horno (baked spider crab) & ‘Crep de Txangurro’ (spider crab pancake) are all good dishes.

Casa Urola - Espárragos Frescos con Mahonesa y Ajetes
Casa Urola (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 20) [Wi-Fi] Ramping up the quality a little, Casa Urola is another popular place (although not as popular as some on the tourist trail). I had their ‘Espárragos Frescos con Mahonesa’ (white asparagus with mayo) & their excellent ‘Cazuelita de Ajoarriero’ (‘Mule driver’s casserole’ made with cod & garlic).

Casa Urola - Cazuelita de Ajoarriero
Casa Urola - Ensalada de Primavera con vinagreta de café
The best dish at Casa Urola was the ‘Ensalada de Primavera con vinagreta de café (spring salad with coffee vinaigrette). The coffee vinaigrette is genius (I have the recipe if you want it) – salad ingredients included habitas (baby broad beans), zizas (St George’s mushrooms), foie, langostino & mesclun (small salad leaves).

Ganbara - Hojaldre con Txistorra
Ganbara - Croissant con Bacalao Ahumado
Ganbara - Tartaleta de Txangurro
Ganbara (San Jeronimo Kalea, 19) [Wi-Fi] Go for the ‘Hojaldre con Txistorra’ & ‘Tartaleta de Txangurro’ (spider crab tartlet). They also do good mushroom dishes, good foie dishes & a lovely smoked cod croissant.

Paco Bueno (Calle Mayor, 6) Go for the ‘Gamba Gabardine’ (battered prawns).

Sirimiri - Pulpo a Baja Temeratura
Sirimiri Gastroleku (Calle Mayor, 18) This place belongs to the neighbouring Atari Gastroteka. It’s a cocktail bar that also serves food. Although the menu showed promise, the dishes I ate didn’t deliver on flavour. Could still be worth a go. The best of them was ‘Pulpo a Baja Temeratura con Verduras de Temporada’ (slow cooked octopus with seasonal vegetables). At Sirimiri I also ate:

Pan Bao con Pato y Pepino’ (steamed bao with duck & cucumber)

Paella Thai con Langostinos y Cacahuetas’ (Thai style paella with prawns & peanuts)

Conejo Confitado con su Jugo’ (confit rabbit in it’s own sauce).

Casa Vergara - Caracoles al Estilo de Fitero
Casa Vergara (Calle Mayor, 21) An old school kinda place, the ‘Habanito’ is the most famous pintxo here. Although I didn’t have it after cocking up & ordering a ‘ración (full sized portion) of ‘Caracoles al Estilo de Fitero’ (snails with marjoram & leek).

La Mejillonera - Patatas Bravas
La Mejillonera (Portu Kalea, 15) With it’s stainless steel counter & backlit picture menu, this place looks like a chippy. Serving predominantly mussel dishes, patatas bravas (with a particularly fiery sauce) & Padrón peppers, I suppose this is San Sebastián’s answer to England’s finest.

La Mejillonera - Mejillones a la Vinagreta Refrescantes
La Mejillonera - Padrón Peppers
The ‘Mejillones a la Vinagreta Refrescantes’ was a beaut!

Santa Lucía - Churros con Chocolate
If you want ‘Churros con Chocolate’, the best place is Santa Lucía Chocolateria (Portu Kalea, 6) [Wi-Fi]. The place itself & the rest of the menu is a bit dodgy but the churros are ¡Muy bien!

South of the Old Town (parallel to Calle 31 Agosto) runs ‘Alameda del Boulevard’. Aside from getting busses, the only other reasons to go along here are to visit the Information Centre or access La Bretxa. Upstairs in the old market hall, there is now a shitty mall but head down to the basement for the market area (& Lidl). It’s good to have a mooch about the fish & butchers stalls & you can get decent fruits, pastries, bread, olives, hams & alike.

South of ‘Boulevard’ is Centro. Here you’ll find more shops than bars. There is a Cathedral if you like that kind of thing & a nice little park with swans called the Gipuzkoa Plaza. You’ll also find the San Martín Shopping Centre. There are decent grocers, more fish & meat stalls to mooch around as well as a handy Super Amara supermarket.

Food wise, the best Centro has to offer, includes:

San Marcial (c/ San Marcial 50) Go for their ‘especialidad de la casa’, cheese & ham filled ‘Gavilla’.

Bar Rojo y Negro (San Marcial Kalea, 52) Go for their ‘Brick de Veduras al Curry’. Open early, they also do an excellent ‘Tortilla’ at breakfast.

Bar La Espiga (San Marcial Kalea, 48) Comes highly recommended for their anchovies.

Bar Vallés (Calle de los Reyes Católicos, 10) Go for their Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. The ‘Gilda is alleged to have been invented here.

Ibai (Calle de Getaria, 15) Open Monday to Friday 12:00 to :15:30, Ibai is a small bar with a highly regarded restaurant below. I’m going to write a separate post about the meal I had there. It’s supposed to be tough to get a reservation but I just went on the Monday & asked (in my bad Spanish) & managed to get a table for the next day. If you’re not planning on visiting the restaurant, the bar is worth visiting for their ‘Tortilla’ alone.

Bar Antonio (Bergara Kalea, 3) [WiFi] One of my favourites in the central area, there is a restaurant downstairs but I’ve only eaten at the bar. Another plus is that they are open Mondays & have WI-FI.

Bar Antonio do a great selection of cured fish & have a menu of hot dishes. We had:

Antxoa ahumada con cebolla y melocotón’ (smoked anchovy with onion & peach)

Ensalada de Tomate con Ventreseca’ (tomato salad with white tuna)

Espárragos Frescos con Mahonesa’ (white asparagus with mayo)

Hongos con Yema y Foie’ (Porcini mushrooms with egg yolk & foie).

Foie a la plancha’ (pintxo of foie cooked on the plancha)

Kata 4 Oyster Bar (Santa Katalina Kalea, 4) This is one place in the central area (further towards the river) that I didn’t get to but looks worth checking out.

Kata 4 is just around the corner from San Sebastián Food’s ‘Gourmet Shop’ (@sansebfood) – a good place to get advice and goodies to bring back.

Heading over the river to Gros.

Gros is not an area where I’ve done much exploration. On my last visit we went to Hidalgo 56 & Bergara Bar. This time we only went to Hidalgo 56. There are a lot of bars & restaurants on that side Zinema Korner & Ramuntxo Berri are two that have caught my eye.

Hidalgo 56 - Volcán de Morcilla con Pasas, Yema y Manzana
Hidalgo 56 (Kolon Pasealekua, 15) Hidalgo 56 is another of my favourites. The ‘Volcán de Morcilla con pasas, yema y manzana’ (Volcano of black pudding, raisins, egg & apple) is their signature dish. They also serve particularly good coffee. Highlights of this visit to Hidalgo 56 included:

Escalope de Foie-Gras con Torrija de Melón’ (foie gras with French toast & melon)

Salmorejo con Centollo y Olivada’ (salmorejo soup with crab & olives)

Manitas de Cerdo con Setas y Manzana’ (pig’s feet with mushrooms & apple sace)

Tartar Tomate y Antxoas Marinadas’ (tomato tartare & marinated anchovies).

Bergara Bar (Calle del General Artetxe, 8) This place has won several awards for its pintxos.

Zinema Corner (De Pinares Plaza, 1) The mini hamburgers with funky coloured buns are the thing to have & their 'Pastel de Verduras' looks the biz too!

Ramuntxo Berri (Peña y Goñi Kalea, 10) The ‘Carrillera Ibérica Confitada comn Salsa de Perdo Ximinez’ looks like the one to have.

Drop me an email if you need any more help… with practicalities or where to get the best bread, pastries or breakfasts!

Enjoy your trip & “On egin” (Basque for “enjoy your meal”)”

Thanks and credit to fellow San Sebastian lovers, including ‪@Floweries1 @naylor_tony, @bigdannyspencer  ‪@peterdrinks  @wyahaw& @Beetrootrabbitfor help and advice putting this post together.


  1. OMG.....You`re an Animal. How can a human put this much food away ? Beggars belief.

  2. This has got to be in the top 10 of all web pages on the Internet. So useful! Impossible to read without booking a trip to San Sebastian immediately!

  3. Just seen this post and thinking San Sebastián next holiday.....the food looks amazing


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Twitter Feed