Martin Berasategui walks around the restaurant stopping at every table and chatting with his guests. It’s the end of the Saturday evening dinner sitting and from the smiles all around, you know that it’s been a successful night. Some just shake the chef’s hand, others ask to take a photo. And Mr Berasategui obliges, with a smile.
He arrives at our table accompanied by the tall hostess, her blonde hair pulled up in a neat bun. “The chef doesn’t speak English,” she explains. We rave about the food we’ve just eaten, the wonderful dining experience, and she translates.
We’re in the north of Spain, in Lasarte-Oria, a 20-minute drive from the picturesque San Sebastian, bang in the middle of the Basque region. We’re at Martin Berasategui’s namesake restaurant, which has earned him three of his eight Michelin stars. It’s perched in the leafy hills and from the floor-to-ceiling windowed restaurant it feels like you’re in a tree house. A fancy tree house, but a tree house just the same. The dining room, with its antique furniture and starchy white tablecloths, is anything but stuffy. It almost feels like you’re one with nature.
Berasategui’s restaurant was the first reservation we managed to secure when we booked our flights to San Sebastian. It felt like a fantastic way to start our vacation and after an annoying delay at Heathrow — thank you British Airways — that almost made us miss our bus to San Sebastian, we were right in the mood for a good dinner.
We arrived at Berasategui minutes before our 9pm reservation and walked towards the large wooden door, which magically opened just as we were about to knock. Now that’s attention to detail. We were shown to our table and handed the wine list — two hard-bound volumes with some fantastic wines. We told our server that one of us has a seafood allergy, and were told not to worry. “The chef will take care of you,” we were told.
Sipping our glasses of Cava, we perused the menu, pondering our options. Finally having taken a decision and made our order, and were presented with a selection of amuse bouches to wet our appetite. Finally it was time for the main dishes. One of us started with marinated monkfish liver while the non seafood eater opted for The Truffle, a dish made with, yes, you guessed, truffles, and fermented wild mushrooms and is so decadent that you wish it will never finish.
For our main courses one of us ordered the stuffed Iberian pork trotters with crunchy black pudding
while the other went for suckling lamb chops.
We sat back in our comfortable chairs and allowed for the delicious food to be digested, taking time to sip the Spanish Tempranillo that we had ordered. We were almost too stuffed for desert, but couldn’t resist anyway. One of us ordered the vanilla apple pie with granny smith sherbet while the other opted for baked chocolate with crystallized pear, cinnamon and caramel ice cream and a mint mist that was surprisingly refreshing.
As we were walking out, one of the servers asked whether we wanted a copy of the menu. “Sure,” we replied, thinking that they’d give us a copy of the day’s menu. But no, that’s not how they do it there. Instead, each of us received a specially printed list of everything we had eaten, including the individual accompanying wines. Now that’s what a great restaurant is all about!