A very short weekend in the Basque cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian was a living proof of the extreme abilities of the human stomach to expand endlessly and the incredible power of mother nature to inflict all its might – gale force winds and quantities of rain not seen since Noah – on a bunch of people that just wanted to... eat.
There was the minimum dose of the obligatory culture at the Guggie in Bilbao, but that wouldn't have sustained us for very long. So off we went to San Sebastian, the culinary capital.
On the way, in the mountains between the two cities, was the absolute highlight of the trip: a meal at Etexbarri. This is where we had the best chorizo, the best jamon and the absolutely best charred beef we have ever tasted: fatty and moist and very very beefy. This is worth the biggest detour.
We skipped Arzak and all the other big names in San Sebastian in favour of long hours in the hotel – rain, rain, rain – and hopping from one pintxos bar to the next. The pintxos (Basque tapas) are so varied and complex that you need to go and sample the specialties of each bar to really get the full experience.
A few pointers: Paco Bueno in the old town does beautiful gambas. Have it with Vermouth. Borda-Berri, also in the old town, is for the octopus.
In the new town Meson Bidea Berri does sensational piquillo peppers. And the most fantastic coquettes in the world are at Gaztelu-txiki. Never had anything like them, particularly the mushroom variety.
And then it rained so badly, that we had to run away, which is good, since our bodies would just not tolerate one more gram of fat.