A guide to Pintxos
We were determined to eat as much pintxos as we could in our 4 days in San Sebastian and to do that we needed a little guidance to navigate the hundreds of bars that line not only the cobbled streets of the old town, but the surrounding areas too.
We booked ourselves on to a tour with San Sebastian Pintxos Tours who regularly go in search of the best pintxos on offer from season to season. Their private tours are very reasonably priced and give you a real insight into the city and its culinary habits. Best of all it can be entirely tailored to your interests.
- Don’t over do it in the first bar you visit! Difficult as it is to restrain yourself from pulling up a pew and stuffing your face with all of the tempting dishes in front of you, each bar has its own specialities so try to only eat one or two at each location.
- Only tourists take a big platter to be filled with lots of pintxos from the bar. For an authentic experience order your pintxos one by one.
- Much of the best pintxos are not to be found on the bar. Order hot pintxos. Many bars will offer an English menu or if in doubt, point.
- A little Spanish goes a long way, a little Basque even further. Thank you in Basque is Eskerrik asko.
Top pintxos bars
Atari Gastroteka (Calle Mayor)
Stylish, contemporary and a place to watch and be seen, it offers one of the best visual presentations of pintxos on the bar. The hot pintxos come recommended but I developed an addiction to one of their cold offerings: morcilla and melted Idiazábal on bread.
Bar Txepetxa (Calle Pescadería 5)
Specialises in anchovies – freshly prepared silvery fillets marinated in a secret family recipe, arranged on a slice of olive oil-drenched crisp baguette and topped with a variety of ingredients. We tried Crema de centolla – spider crab cream – which was a beautiful contrast against the anchovies; Black olive pate and Piquillo pepper and pickled shallot which was a probably my favourite.
Bar Zeruko (Calle Pescadería 10)
Inventive, ‘hip’ and very crowded (though not so with locals), Zeruko goes down a molecular route specialising in showy creative pintxos. It’s best known for ‘La Hoguera’ (‘the bonfire’), bacalao smoked over charcoal on an ingenious mini-grill. We weren’t sure but if you’re looking for the latest modern take, it’s the place to go to.
Borda Berri (Fermín Calbetón 12)
Incredibly popular and justifiably so this was our second favourite bar specialising in a melt-in-mouth stewed veal cheek in red wine and a oozingly unctuous Risotto de Idiazábal, orzo rice with a regional pressed cheese made from unpasteurised sheep milk.
Ganbara (Calle San Jerónimo, 21)
We were there to sample the seasonal speciality white asparagus in batter, but it wasn’t this that impressed us so much but the Txangurro (spider crab) tartlet. We discovered afterward that they are famed for their Revuelto hongos (grilled mushrooms with a fried egg) so we have to return!
La Cuchara de San Telmo (Calle 31 de Agosto 28)
Very local, our favourite pintxos bar was one of the smallest and busiest in town. Hidden away on the corner of the plaza Valle Lersundi, off Calle 31 de Agosto 28, there is no pintxos on display as everything is cooked to order. Our rule went out the window as we enjoyed 4 divine dishes each as good as the next.
La Cepa (Calle 31 de Agosto)
Living up to its name, their meaty slow-braised mushrooms skewered on to a piece of bread that soaked up the meaty goodness really wowed us. Washed down with a glass of txakoli, we were in heaven.
Recommended (but untried) bars to try:
For their fresh tomato salad which is raved about
Bar Goiz Argi (Calle Fermin Calbetón 4)
For their specialty Brocheta de gambas a la plancha (grilled prawn skewers)
While our experiences focused on the old town a particular recommendation that came up time and again was Hidalgo 56 in Gros. We ran out of time to visit but if you are in the area, give it a try.