The early start on Sunday morning, sea air, alcohol and a very comfortable bed assured us both a long and uninterrupted sleep. The Hotel de Londres’s beds are exceptionally large and combined with the hypnotic sound of the Atlantic breakers crashing on to the sandy shores of the Playa de La Concha below us were the perfect bedtime cocktail.
Rising far later than normal we were somewhat disappointed with the warm but slightly overcast day that greeted us. So we decided to put the weather behind us with a glass of champagne each!
Taking a short walk into town we dispensed with breakfast to concentrate on soaking up the atmosphere of the Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
On the edge of the Old Town a farmers market was offering artisan breads, goats cheeses and acorn fed saddleback pork products.
Returning to our hotel just after midday and starting to feel a little peckish we thought a visit to one of the traditional sagardotegias (cider houses) up in the hills surrounding San Sebastián was in order. Many of these only open for lunch at weekends but being an Easter Monday the helpful lady on reception at the Hotel de Londres told us that it would be open.
In just twenty minutes by taxi we had left the bustle of San Sebastián behind and arrived in the tranquil hills of Astigarraga at the Petritegi Cider House . Neither of us really knew what to expect but could not have predicted the rustic gastronomic feast that was in store for us.
I pulled back the large wooden door to reveal a large barn like interior lined with trestle tables and benches and reminiscent of a Bavarian Bierkeller but instead of the stale smell of lager the air was filled with the delicious aromas of oak chips, barbecued steaks and the apple like aromas of cider!
We were shown to our table in another adjacent hall which was almost empty and felt quite disappointed as it lacked any atmosphere. We really needn’t have worried and should have been grateful that we secured a table for within half an hour the place was buzzing with families and groups of friends out celebrating Easter Monday. I’m reliably informed that this places seats 700 and is often a sell out during the short cider season from January to April.
The first course arrived; some of the most delicious fresh chorizo sausage I have ever tasted and 2 empty glasses!
We followed a group of locals into a room off the main dining area which was filled with ten or more 15,000 litre cider barrels!
As one of the staff tapped open the vast chestnut coloured kegs we queued up to fill our glasses with the cloudy apple nectar.
Returning to our table the next course arrived promptly, a Tortilla de Bacalao or salt cod omelette. One of the simplest and most delicious things I think I tasted that day! A creamy mixture of salty fish, leeks and free range eggs.
We returned to the cider barrel store to refill our glasses with another brew. On returning another plate of food arrived! This time it was Bacalao frito con pimientos or salt cod grilled over a wood fired barbecue and topped with a melange of fried onions and green peppers. A beautifully executed dish fresh and with the fish cooked to translucent perfection, its saltiness balanced out with the sweetness of the slow cooked onions and peppers.
Grateful for having skipped breakfast we were astounded when the next course arrived a large rib-eye steak on the bone cooked rare and again grilled over a wood fired barbecue.
Another obligatory visit to the barrel room followed as we recharged our glasses for the third time!
The finale was a simple plate of fresh walnuts in their shells, membrillo paste and the local Idiazábal sheep’s cheese with almond ‘tiles’ and ‘cigarettes’ biscuits, which was the perfect end to this amazing feast.
At around just 30 Euros head this proved to be both great fun and excellent value but if you’re thinking of going be sure to book ahead. Details on the web link above.
After lunch we decided to take a short walk around the apple orchards and feeling the need to engage in a major calorie burn consulted Google Maps on how far it was back to the hotel. At just under 4 miles we decided, that was our penance for indulgence and strutted off down the hillside to pick up the walking trail into San Sebastián.
As we strolled away from the orchard the sun broke through the clouds and we enjoyed a lovely countryside walk picking up the suburbs of San Sebastián for the last half an hour or so and enjoying a stroll across the dramatic sky walk linking a park to the riverside.
Our walk had raised our body temperatures somewhat and may be the combination of cider induced delirium and too much sun had us fixated us on cooling off in the tempting and cooling waters of the Playa De La Concha.
A quick change into our swim wear and with our luxury robes preserving our modesty we marched down to the waters edge.
I think we both knew the water would be really cold despite kidding ourselves otherwise but we both adopted different approaches! I the all or nothing plunge and die method and Gillian the slow immersion!
When my head broke the surface of the water after diving in, I found myself catching my breath and I wasn’t really sure if that was the wisest strategy but as I ran back to cover myself with my warm bath robe I knew that although breathless I was done and it took Gillian a full ten minutes or more to achieve immersion!
Our dip revitalised us both and after a quick turnaround we headed out again into the Old Town for our first Pinxto adventure. Just before we set off we were rewarded with this dramatic view from our balcony.
Our destination that evening was the highly recommended A Fuego Negro, renowned as exponents of the nanogastronomy that has become synonymous with pintxos.
Highlights here were:
The rich intensity of crab was offset by the soothing cooling liquorice parfait and fused with the creaminess of the avocado purée cream.
Initially the first hit is the smoky notes from the cure of the mackerel balanced against the richness of the sheep’s cream and the fresh zing of mint but the finish is all about the sweetness of the cherry toast which completes the whole flavour explosion!
A good selection of wines by the glass, we opted for a balanced Albariño which paired well with both pintxos.
With a chic dark interior and cool vibes of Ella Fitzgerald , Stevie Wonder and Desmond Decker to compliment the food this is definitely one of the Pintxo bars not to miss.
Located at: Calle 31 de Agosto, 31, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, España
A short stroll along the promenade back to our hotel and we were ready to crash!