We’ll be traveling from Bayonne to Bilbao, on our way home from France. We would appreciate recommendations for places to stop, and places to eat . We like country style, local cuisine, rather than fancy places. It is not a matter of price but rather our preference. Recommendations for particular dishes/foods/products for this area are also appreciated.
Thanks in advance!
In ther Basque Country, on both sides we do a lot of casual dining and country dining, from Bayonne to Bilbao.
Do you want recommendations for the cities of Bayonne and Bilbao, or places in between?
In St-Jean-de-Luz don’t miss the wonderful indoor market and outdoor market that happens on Tuesdays, Fridays and in summer on Saturdays in the morning.
For dining in St-Jean-de-Luz we enjoy Pil-Pil Enea for great hake (merlu) and the tiny La Boete for oysters from Arcachon and other crustaceans. Both are found on side streets in the center.
In the countyside we love Ferme Ostalapia. Bourdain filmed a scene of his Basque Country episode here. Great country style food in a charming setting.
In Guethary on the coast we like Briket Bistrot off the main road, not in the heart of the village.
On to the other side of the border-
In Hondarribia, a truly charming fishermen’s village, in the upper town, the Old Quarter, you simply can’t beat the Gastroteka Dononzat, whose chef-owner will charm you. Best casual restaurant in town. Shared tables and 2 top high tables inside and low tables outside on the small terrace.
West of San Sebastián in another charming fishing village surrounded by txakolí vineyards, birthplace of Elkano and designer Balenciaga, we love TX, the casual canteen of the owners of the famed txakolí vineyards, Txomín Etxaniz. Lovely people, nice tapas.
For a seafood feast of hake, turbot, sea bass, etc. that will not break the bank, we like Txoko, supervised by chef Enrique Fleishmann. Less expensive than the seafood temples of Kaia Kaipe next door and the impossible to book Elkano, but that serves a fine product of impeccable grilled fish with less formal trappings.
On towards Bilbao…
I would recommend that you stop in the fishing village of Lekeitio but it´s not on the main autoroute, and there it´s impossible to park.
So, if you don’t mind a detour north from the autoroute at Amorebieta up towards Gernika, the spiritual capital of the Basque Country, on the road south of town, you have the rustic-chic Remenetxe. Not cheap but very well-regarded, housed in an atmospheric, ancient Basque farmhouse, or caserío.
I read in your other thread that you like the Michelin Bib Gourmands, and we do as well.
In the Pays Basque, Briket Bistrot in Guethary is one, as is a very lovely place down towards St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Art Zain in Irissarry, if you want to venture further south.
In Bilbao we love Los Fueros in the Casco Viejo, with a beautiful tiled interior and very creative chef, yet with reasonable prices and small plates, so that you can order as much or as little as you like.
For exceptional red meats, Laia Erretegia (an asador), also in the hills above Hondarribia (not starred but M. recommended)
Andra Mari and Boroa in the countryside, both housed in a beautiful Basque farmhouse, caserío with lovely views
If 3-starred Azurmendi in Larrabetzu isn’t a possibility (some love it, some don’t), there’s his casual Eneko below, attached to the Txakolí winery.
Or with 1 Repsol sun, just above Azurmendi, is the Asador Horma Ondo, where I met José Andrés.
Or speaking of a Txakolí winery, the lovely Bodega Katxiña up in the hills outside of Orio, where we had a lovely anniversary dinner—lovely views. Two Repsol suns but no Michelin star. It’s between Getaria and San Sebastián. Go there for the grilled turbot, rodaballo, or the sea bream, besugo.
For casual in Bilbao, again, we love Los Fueros (Bib Gourmand) in the Casco Viejo and La Viña del Ensanche on Diputación for the best jamón ibérico. https://lavinadelensanche.com/es/.
I loved Boroa with a charming interior farmhouse decor but… I was also very, very impressed with Horma Onda with a female chef, Jayne Hardcastle. Her husband, Mikel Bustinza. serves as the sommelier.
She does a delicious chuletón a la brasa served to you on a mini grill. It’s considered one of the best asadores (grill houses) in the Basque Country. The chef of Nerua in the Guggenheim loves it, as do many other chefs.
Hi Maribel - This may be too far out of the way for the OP but what are your thoughts on Restaurante Alameda Fuenmayor vs. some of these others you mentioned? I’m also traveling from BIO to San Sebastián with a free day to explore before checking in (land at BIO at 830am). I’ve been to Rioja a few times but was considering a quick stop to buy some wine from López de Heredia and then Alameda Fuenmayor. However, I’ve never been to the cheese farms in Idiazabal (Quesería J. Aranburu caught my eye from Google reviews) so I could do that along with lunch a little closer to the coastal area (Casa Julian is close). I’ve already been to Azurmendi, Elkano, and Katxiña. Thank you!
You’ve done a lot of great eating!–Azurmendi, Elkano, Katxiña…
I’ve been to Alameda in Fuenmayor several times, and it´s a great family-run Asador for grilled meats and fish, but it is a bit far off your direct route from BIO to San Sebastián.
The Goierri (“tierras altas” in Basque) valley, on the other hand, south of San Sebastián, is just beautiful. It would give you the chance to visit an Idiazábal cheese farm, either Aranburu or Agroturismo Ondarre in Segura and then dine at one of the 2 other great Northern Spain asadores, either Casa Julián or Casa Nicolás in Tolosa, across from each other, across the bridge.
(Casa Julián does have 2 sibling restaurants in Madrid, Julián de Tolosa on Cava Baja and Casa Julián de Tolosa on Ibiza).
Since you’re a txakolí fan, on the way back up from Tolosa to San Sebastián on the A1 you might have lunch instead at the Bodegas Hika, where Roberto Ruiz, formerly of Frontón in Tolosa, heads up the kitchen with grill and serves his famous alubias de Tolosa stew. It sits on a hill above Villabona-Amasa.
Basque gastronomes consider Casa Julián and Casa Nicolás equal, actually.
Both are run by father-son teams and both asadors specialize in txuleta.
For me personally, it’s a toss up, but Casa Julián has more international recognition because it appears in many travel guidebooks and has been written more about in the press.
Maribel, Maribel…do you realize that your comments here are pretty much “forcing” me to think about another trip to Pais Vasco (with possible forays possible to Tudela and Logrono???) Eventually I will begin a thread on the 2 latter towns, as those ideas have now just begun forming.
Of the restaurants mentioned in this thread, I’ve “only” been to Elkano and to Etxebarri (not that many years ago, neither was so very difficult to book; I think we reserved a table for comida at Elkano on the morning of that day.), and to Remenetxe, which you recommended to me when we were staying at a lovely casa rural nearby (which you also recommended!)
We enjoyed our dinner there very much, but I’d have to look at my photos from back then to remember what we ordered. That entire trip, which began at the divine Abadia de Retuerta with lunch visits to Campaspero and Rua, for lechazo, of course, continued on to Burgos; the casa rural near Remenexte whose name escapes me now; enchanting Getaria; and finally, about a week in San Sebastian, was one of the best I’ve experienced in Spain. And much of that is due to your travel planning skills and sound advice! So once again, mil gracias!