Food: Basque Country

World-acclaimed chef Eneko Atxa reveals the best of Basque cuisine in Spain's gourmet heartland.

By Eneko Atxa
Published 16 Apr 2016, 09:00 BST, Updated 7 Jul 2021, 12:24 BST
Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum.

Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum.

Photograph by Spanish Tourism Board

Wine tasting
Don't leave the Basque Country without tasting txakoli, its venerable white wine that's fresh, distinctive and lively. At Bodega Urbana in Bilbao, you can try a fantastic range of txakoli, including Gorka Izagirre, representing the vanguard of the variety. Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro (T: 00 34 94 441 61 81).

Best for fine dining
Set on the outskirts of Bilbao, triple Michelin-starred restaurant Azurmendi comes with a menu inspired by the team's Basque roots and plenty of local produce. Amidst standout, eco-architecture, it presents a unique, living garden of a place. Diners are first invited into the indoor garden for an appetiser 'picnic' and aperitifs, before moving to the kitchen for more chef's table-style nibbles. The main meal takes place in another interior garden complete with a greenhouse that displays more than 400 local vegetable seeds.

Best for traditional food
In the centre of Bilbao, traditional Basque restaurant Markina is a great place to taste the most popular Basque dishes, such as Revuelto Markina or 'scrambled Markina', a humble dish made with eggs, potato and onion that's full of flavour. Markina is renowned for using top quality local produce such as black pudding, fresh fish including turbot or nape of hake, chuleton (large steak) and homemade desserts — its fabled caramelised French toast is out of this world.

The pintxo (small plates/tapas) crawl is a very popular tradition in the Basque Country, with Bilbao's Old Quarter a good place to find genuine Basque tapas. In the New Square, the historic Víctor Montes offers an excellent assortment of some of the more traditional dishes, while at 8 Jardines Street, Berton Sasibil is noted for its excellent menu of pintxos and paired wines.

The chef
Basque-born Eneko Atxa's three-Michelin-starred restaurant Azurmendi, in Bilbao, is ranked number 19 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Sister eatery Bistró Prêt À Porter has a Michelin Bib Gourmand. His newest opening will be at One Aldwych hotel, London this summer.

Published in the May 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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