Monday, 6 June 2016

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Mugaritz, San Sebastián


The reason for our trip to the Basque Country (Bilbao and San Sebastián) last October was to celebrate my 29 years on Earth. I love food, I love trying new restaurants and I love to indulge therefore it made perfect sense to visit somewhere spectacular for dinner on the night of my birthday. On the night of my birthday we were in San Sebastián. For such a small city there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from come dinner time, including three with 3 Michelin stars each. In all honesty my first choice was Arzak (3*) but it was already full when I tried to book a couple of months in advance. Having frequented the top of The World's 50 Best Restaurants list my next choice was Mugaritz and to much excitement we were able to book a table for two.

Mugartiz is one of the many gastronomic temples in San Sebastián, boasting an impressive 2 Michelin stars. It is situated in a the beautiful hills of Errenteria, a 20 minute taxi ride out of the city. As we were dining during an October evening we didn't get to see much of the surrounding gardens as it was already dark when we arrived. A shame really because the pictures I've seen look beautiful and green with the kitchen's herb garden on display to guests. The restaurant itself has the formal atmosphere you'd expect from such an award winning culinary establishment, however there is still a somewhat casual element thanks to the clean cut interiors, subtle partitions and large tables devoid of any cutlery except a broken plate. I certainly didn't feel out of place in my not-the-smartest floral dress.

The lack of cutlery was certainly baffling at first but we were told by our waiter that the first seven courses required only our hands and fingers to eat and that we should enjoy feeling the food on our skin. The bare bones table suddenly made a lot more sense. We were also given help when choosing a bottle of wine which I stupidly forgot to record. Steve and I aren't big wine drinkers but we were recommended a bottle of local white wine that was fresh, crisp and exactly how I like my grape juice. Before the wine came I had a very nice glass of gin and tonic, the restaurant had an impressive choice of gin but I went for my standard, Hendricks gin with tonic and cucumber. Steve had a glass of a locally brewed beer but for the life of me I can't remember what it was called.

I'm not going to go into detail about every course, I think there were 26 in total if you include the different chocolates at the end. Plus we were there for more than 3 hours so I could barely remember everything we had eaten after finishing the meal, let alone thinking about it all these months later.

I started writing this blog post last year but for some reason I never got around to finishing it (story of my life) and now I'm struggling even more to remember what everything was.

Vegetal bestiary

Squash and coffee treacle

Confit grooved razor clams

The clams were delicious, quite meaty but full of flavour. I'm glad we were given two each.


Stew of crunchy suckling pig, wild sorrel

The tiny little pork sausage was rich and incredible moorish. The sorrel gave it a lovely freshness.


Walnut omlette


Barnacles and stems

I remember struggling to eat this dish because I had no idea what you were supposed to do. The barnacles have a meaty, shellfish tail which you basically bite off. It tasted like the sea, but in a good way.



Lacquered duck neck with herbs and dry grains

The thinly cut duck skin was slightly sweet, caramelised and ever so tasty. It had an excellent crunch and combined with the leaves it had a great contrast in textures.

Mussels and mint

Steaming empanadilla

This miniature empanada was wonderful. It tasted of perfectly seasoned pastry but far more impressive than your normal puff. Great crunch and perfectly formed in shape. The butter didn't add much in terms of flavour but the small amount of fat did bring out the taste. This was one on the most simple things we ate but one of the most memorable. 

Mousse of cream and stone crab

This crab dish was bizarre. Stuck to the top of the plate, it was creamy but with a texture I've never experienced. The spoon had a light dusty of spice, not hot but just for added flavour


A thousand leaves


Loin of hake, tiger nut starch and concentrated clam juice



We were able to go on a quick kitchen tour which was fascinating. There are 3 kitchens in the restaurant. One for experimenting new dishes. One for preparing dishes in advance and the main one (above) where the bulk of the food is prepared.



Grilled mochi


Oily fish, beetroot and horseradish


Ail glacé

I loved roasted garlic and for this dish you have to squeeze the roasted bulb onto the slightly sticky bread. Delicious.

Roasted duck liver and textures of meat

Beef jelly

I loved the look of this cow shaped Haribo sweet. The taste is pretty much what you'd expect from beef jelly.

Beef and chicories

Our 'main' dish was a delicious but small (thank Goodness) cut of beef, cooked perfectly rare. Succulent, melt-in-the-mouth, and full of flavour.

The cheese

I'm not a huge cheese fan. I love simple English cheeses but I don't like anything to stinky. I was delighted to be presented with a mild Spanish cheese quite similar in taste to Cheddar. The three slices are made from the same milk but are matured for different lengths. I wish I could remember for how long but the third cheese really was quite strong in flavour compared to the first mild slice.


Grape and brioche


Roasted fig and honey

This was the only thing I really didn't like. I don't like figs and I don't like honey so it's hardly surprising given the 2 main ingredients. On the other hand, Steve loved the sweet and sticking taste of this.

Neapolitan ice cream

This was such a fun but strange little dessert. It looks like an ice cream sandwich but it was sort of crunchy and not very ice cream like in taste. I did enjoy it though.


Jasmine and hay




Pride

Envy


Wrath

Gluttony

Lust

Sloth

I had seen these wooden towers arrive at the tables near us and had no idea what they were. On receiving our we discovered that each layer contained a different type of chocolate. The chocolates represent the seven deadly sins. Funnily, the greed layer didn't contain anything! I particularly liked the caramel envy, the berry flavoured lust and the crunchy with a hint of chilli gluttony.

Our meal at Mugaritz really was spectacular. It was a dining spectacle like nothing I have ever experienced before. The food was wonderful, inventive and full of different ingredients and flavours. The menu changes all the time and the ingredients are locally sourced. No two tables have exactly the same menu because there isn't enough ingredients to go around. This really was one of the best meals I have ever had.

Of course this meal was not cheap. In fact it's safe to say that this was the most expensive meal I've ever had. I can't remember the exact price but I think it was probably in the region of €500. That included 26 courses, a bottle of wine, a massive G&T, a beer, and service. Fortunately, the Pound to Euro exchange rate was pretty good during our visit which helped soften the blow but I'm still very aware that this is a ridiculous amount to spend on dinner. I don't feel the need to justify spending this much on one meal. I love food, I love trying new restaurants and I love the theatre of Michelin star dinning. It'll be a long time until I spend that much on dinner again but for this occasion it really was 100% worth it.

If you're wondering how I managed to remember the descriptions of the food it's because at the end of the meal you're given a little menu plus a key to match up the seven deadly sins with the symbols. We were also given a local food guide for where to find the best pintxos which was a really nice touch.

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3 comments:

  1. Everything sounds so good, but the grilled mochi sounds so interesting!

    - Elodie x

    www.elle-yeah.com

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    Replies
    1. This looks incredible - I love how there was no cutlery. I would have loved that fig and honey dessert! x

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  2. I enjoyed our evening at Mugaritz a lot, and would recommend the experience to people who enjoy innovative and experimental dining. The atmosphere is a bit plain, however this experience is all about the food and your senses in play with the creativity presented.

    Mariz
    Redmond iPad Repair

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