The secret to squeezing in every last delicious drop and devouring every conceivable morsel in San Sebastian is to go friends who will forget what decent consumption is to ensure no gastronomic sensation remains untouched.
We were invited to San Sebastián for our friend Cat's 30th. Although its reputation preceded it (it is one of the cities in the world to hold the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter) we weren't quite prepared for the heavenly, glutinous onslaught that awaited.
As we tried to establish our bearings and plan of consumption we popped into a pintxos bar. The local old men were already on their miniature beers at 11am, whilst we wisely, but with devilish difficulty, rationed ourselves to two pintxos per person. Pickled anchovy and blueberry with a walnut to top it off was a sublime, salty sweet combination - so much so it was recycled as a topping at the crumpet stand at my wedding. We had never intended to visit any Michelin star places as our budget wouldn't allow it, but there's honestly no need to as you can eat like a Queen for a few Euros.
Our air bnb held the San Sebastián crown jewels - a map stating the specialty dishes of each restaurant! Our mission path was clear; we began following the map from place to place, sampling approximately 2 dishes per restaurant. It's fair to say we ate solidly from 9am-9pm both days.
The star of the show was an unassuming restaurant called Bar Zeruko which served creative and theatrical dishes for under 5 Euros. Bob Limon is my death row dessert and worth the air fare alone. The lightest, airiest, holiest, springy sponge tower accompanied by the creamiest yogurt on which lies an egg yolk-esque passion fruit pouch ripe for popping, then watch its nectar ooze into the spongy crevasses. And then, when you think there could be no more surprises from this insanely balanced dessert, you casually toss the electric daisy in your mouth and the next adventure begins. Your mouth fizzes like licking a battery (in a good way - I promise there is a good way!), your mouth goes tingly then numb. It's very nearly unbearable, like pins and needles, but so much fun. I ordered another immediately. And then went back the next day.
Every mouthful of every dish was a joy; we delicately stuffed our greedy faces merrily. The pintxos flowed freely: black pudding and fried quails egg on roasted red pepper paste being the most divine. Jude kept sneaking back to La Cuchara De San Telmo for a solitary duck ravioli adorned with sweet sticky soy sesame dressing that slipped past your lips and languished lovingly in your mouth before melting away. Smoked salt cod on hot coals and gauze with a test tube shot of liquid salad was unexpected yet joyful. In keeping with the 'try and move on' ethos, a long thin cafe called La Mejillonera was lined with stainless steel troughs to discard mussel shells into. The brutal efficiency with which they were ejected highlights the high turnover of this place, but fear not the mussels were lavished with love - in tomato or garlic sauce before being abandoned fondly. They couldn't have asked for a more sumptuous life or satisfied resting place. And I haven't even touched upon the cockles, cheesecake and copious amount of rioja all mercilessly devoured.
In the evening we tore ourselves away from San Sebastián's labyrinthine streets and ventured 7km up into the hills to Sidrería Petritegi - a cider farm with banqueting tables, 3 course set menu and all you can drink cider. The main was truck loads of T-bone steaks and baguettes, which wasn't the most vegetarian friendly so I busied myself with catching the refills of cider directly from the massive 1,000 litre barrels.
There's so much fun to be had in San Sebastián I'm already plotting my return - definitely one day for Jude's hen! You can get so much delicious food for your money, especially if you're able to show an ounce of self-restraint, but why would you want to do that.