If you have caught the episode of ‘Munchies’ on Youtube where a group of Basque chef’s drag a young reporter around the bars of San Sebastian, you may have heard of Gandarias Jatetxea.
Irene, the reporter, ended up losing her battle with Txakoli wine that night. However, we fared slightly better as this was our one and only stop of the evening – no pintxo crawl this time! Gandarias Jatetxea is situated right in the middle of our favourite food street, possibly in the entire world, the 31 de Agosto Kalea.
From the entrance, this looks like any other run of the mill pintxo joint that you’re likely to find anywhere in town. Just past the bar, there is a large restaurant area complete with a lobster tank – should you feel inclined to splash the cash.
This place gets busy quite quickly but luck was about to head onto our side. I managed to communicate in basic Spanish about a table for two with the waiter scanning the reservations book for a suitable gap. He agreed to our request as long as we gave the table back by 9.15pm. What a guy.
I really wanted to try this place due to three dishes on their menu. The Kokotxas – a local delicacy, cod cheeks in an emulsion of garlic and parsley, Turbot – served fresh off the grill and Suckling Pig – something that goes for crazy prices in the UK.
The prices on the menu were more than decent, where else can you get a whole prized fish like turbot for €21.50 (£19.21)? Likewise the pig – a similar price at €22.15 (£19.79). Other offerings like the lobster are done by weight.
Two glasses of Txakoli are ideal partners with fish, so we went for those. Soon after, a large plate of Kokotxas arrived garnished with fresh clams, a very pretty dish. So, what does a cod’s face taste like? It actually tastes rather good.
Somewhere between scallop and fresh oyster in texture, very delicate and actually rather tasty. The sauce is an emulsion of the natural juices from the Kokotxas plus garlic and parsley, this was also very good. The clams were both fat and juicy rounding off a perfect plate from the sea.
Right after that, a large fish landed on our table. The Turbot is a perfect size to share between two people, as we did with all of the dishes. The fillet just slid effortlessly off the bone while swimming in olive oil and garlic with a side of potatoes.
Turbot is a special fish to us, we had it on our wedding day and have enjoyed it numerous times down the years in top restaurants. This was absolutely superb. Juicy and so good cooked on the bone, it’s definitely one I need to try at home.
Now you’ve heard about fish and chips, but what about pig and chips? Well that’s what we got. A huge side of Suckling Pig hacked into three and served with the roasting juices and steak cut chips, you don’t get this at a fine dining place.
Suckling Pig features in a lot of the books that I own. It’s always something that’s incredibly expensive online and can only really be bought from high-end stores. Getting the opportunity to try it here in San Sebastian was a real privilege.
Let’s start with the crackling – oh my god. This isn’t the chunky crackling from your mum’s roast pork. This is wafer thin sheets of glass kind of crackling. It was exceptional. The meat itself was just like a good quality regular pork but so well cooked – the belly especially just melted in the mouth. The fillet also is one of the best parts in my opinion.
We were stuffed, it’s fair to say. Also, we were sweating – if I had to sling one criticism Gandarias way, it would be the lack of air conditioning. The total bill rolled in at €75.90 (£68.37). About the price of a Turbot in a London restaurant.
Gandarias is favoured by Basque chefs and for good reason. The food here is exceptional. Whether it’s pintxos at the bar or a sit down feast, Gandarias have got you covered. Booking is strongly advised but if you walk in early enough, you might just get lucky.
Opening Times: Daily 1100-0000
Nearest Train Station: San Sebastian (Donostia)
Website: http://www.restaurantegandarias.com/en (English)