Saturday, 3 September 2016

Arzak, San Sebastian restaurant review

Located in suburban San Sebastian, Arzak has held 3 Michelin stars without a break since 1989 and currently sits at number 21 in San Pellegrino’s 50 best restaurants in the world.

Overseeing the kitchen are Elena Arzak Espina and her father Juan Mari Arzak.

The dining room is split over 2 floors of their former family home, a building which dates back to 1897. There’s a super swanky yet friendly vibe to the place and service was flawless throughout the evening - staff were friendly, jokey and interested to know what we thought of each dish.

Furthermore, the maitre'd Adolfo was the slickest of operators. He explained we should send anything back immediately if it was not quite to our taste and he switched one of the desserts on our tasting menu so we could try an extra dish.

All this luxury comes at an eye-watering cost as the tasting menu will set you back a whopping €205 euros a head.

Snacks kicked things off.

The finest of white and wholemeal breads were served with a gorgeously grassy olive oil.

A wooden and metal shelving unit nestled a crispy sliver of banana topped with a spiced squid and banana concoction. It was good but not wow. 

Clean tasting cured sardines with a delicate brininess were balanced by the sweetness of fresh strawberry.

A moringa (apparently a “superfood” plant) and prawn gyoza tasted ostensibly of prawn but had a beautiful bright red exterior.

Milk bottles of super-refreshing ice cold raspberry soup were reminiscent of gazpacho. A melon cork was a nifty addition.

The final snack saw a sliver of mango wrapped around a smokey chorizo mousse perched on top of a crushed beer can. 

Onto the first course proper. Beautiful sea bream was marinated in patxaran, a sloe based liqueur, but still retained its freshness. It was served cold with a creamy sauce, spring onions, chia seeds, a dusting of purple corn and a gimmicky tablet computer with a video of crashing waves. 

Next up, vivid coloured scarlet prawns were paired with finely diced cucumber and avocado marinated in lemongrass and mint. They were topped with a crispy krill cracker which tasted like a prawny prawn cracker. Apparently krill is pretty difficult to get hold of (unless you’re a blue whale) but Arzak have some good connections.

Red spaced egg followed. I was a little underwhelmed by this dish but Mrs G loved it. A 65°C egg coated in a red pepper skin was all run and wobble. It was served with crispy pig ear pieces that weren’t that crisp and a trio of different blobs of sauce - parsley and spinach, red pepper and yellow turmeric.

My fish course smashed it. Beautifully rare albacore tuna was served with fresh melon pieces, a spiced jack fruit sauce and crispy potato straws. 

Mrs G’s monkfish dish was also a belter. Meaty monkfish, a crispy salty squid ink cracker, pecan nut paste, hieroglyphics (as you do) of pumpkin and a chickpea sauce were all on the nail.

One of the best pieces of lamb I’ve ever eaten came next. Stunningly medium-rare loin was served with a lamb sauce and potato shavings. It was joined by a nut and armagnac spread and the aroma of cypress - it was difficult to detect any of these individual flavours but the dish was beautifully fragranced. 

Before dessert, Elena Arzak came out of the kitchen to say hello. When we told her we were from Wales she said “Ah Gales”. I misheard her and replied “Yes, Gareth Bale”. Great work on my part and to compound it further I tried to initiate some chat about David Moyes. She departed soon after.

A palette cleanser of citrusy yuzu ice cream and acai sorbet was delightfully different and refreshing. 

Finally, a pair of desserts were a masterclass in chocolate. A giant truffle contained an intense chocolate mousse and meringue which began to melt when hot chocolate sauce was poured over the top. 

Meanwhile, a cube of chocolate was filled with a cooling mint liquid and served with shavings of dehydrated kiwi and a neroli (an oil produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree) sauce.

Fresh mint tea was accompanied by a bird cage of delights. Frozen chocolate exteriors contained a trio of different liquids - ginger, chocolate and apple. 

Dinner at Arzak was supremely good yet also supremely expensive.

It was the cherry on the cake of an incredible holiday in San Sebastian. But, it was just that, a lovely addition to the incredible pintxos we ate during the week which will stay in the memory for longer than our meal at Arzak.

The Details:

Address - Av Alcalde Elósegui, 273, 20015 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Web -  
Telephone - +34 943 27 84 65

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