My Other Blog

Ebuzzing - Top Blogs - Gastronomy

Hungry In London London restaurants

Finalist - MyTravelMoney.co.uk's Travel Blog Awards 2012

Featured On

Hungry in London on Instagram

 
November 21st, 2011

MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain) – The world’s third best restaurant?

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

fragrant fruit in paper wrapÂ

Category: Haute Cuisine ££££green traffic5 150x150 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

To finally dine at to  Mugaritz was a foodie dream of mine coming true and on the big day I was excited like a little child on Christmas Eve.  You have never heard of Mugaritz?  Let me share some key facts with you first before proceeding to THE meal.

Location:

Mugaritz is located in the little village of Errenteria, a 15 minutes scenic drive away from Europe’s culinary capital San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque Country.

Awards:

It has been voted 3rd best restaurant in the The San Pellegrino world’s 50 best Restaurants rating 2011 (5th place in 2010) and holds 2 Michelin Stars.

Type of Food:

The food at Mugaritz could be described as tapas style Spanish fusion which arrives in the form of 20 dishes (or more if you are not sated) over the period of 3 hours at your table. Expect a mix of fish, seafood, vegetables and meat, find influences of science and nature alike, and experience fun, creativity, zeal and passion.

Food on the menu changes every day (even though when looking at other peoples’ posts dishes do repeat frequently) and sometimes even from table to table. Ingredients used are local and seasonal.

Price:

*sigh* €180 excluding drinks. Wine list reasonably priced though.

The Chef:

…Andoni Luis Aduriz has learned from the best. Taken from his biography on the Mugaritz website: …” He did his time in the kitchens of Ramón Roteta, Neichel, Arzak, Zuberoa and Akelarre. He worked at El Bulli when few knew who Ferran was and along with Bixente, he inaugurated the R+D workshop. “It was magical”. He learned that values are always more important than money.” He also worked at Martín Berasategui.

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

I was allowed to see the kitchen and caught a glimpse of THE chef

The Atmosphere:

I don’t like the white table cloth atmosphere at posh restaurants. It can work sometimes, but mostly it just feels old fashioned and restrictive. Mugaritz has white table clothes too, but already with the table decoration made out of broken plates you realise that something more interesting is going on here.

The dining room is huge with room dividers in form of wood and white cloth screens. The large round tables are so far apart that you feel very private and undisturbed in your gluttony.  Mugartiz appears distinctively  low key and relaxed while at the same time providing the perfect stage for the show…

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

rustic and relaxed atmosphere at Mugaritz

 

The Service:

I rarely say this, but the service was spotless. Apart from being very efficient, professional and knowledgeable, the waiters were fun and charming. It felt to me as if they loved working at Mugaritz and we enjoyed chatting to them between courses as they had opinions and were not afraid of sharing them with customers.

The Criticism:

Before I start to indulge in sweet memories, I want to share 2 major criticisms:

- of the 20 dishes there were only few that were truly exceptional. Most of them were good, all of them were exciting, different and inventive, but I would have expected more WOW factor.

- we got food poisoned. I had a mild variant and was fine after a sleepless night, but poor S was more severely hit, lying flat for almost 48 hours. I don’t think I will get him back to Mugaritz…

The Controversy

I had a long discussion with S who also likes his food but might not be equally obsessed as me. For him, Mugaritz is a place for a ‘food voyeur‘ (as he describes me) rather than someone who just wants to have an exceptional meal (that would be him).  I feel however, that over-constructed food like you find it at many of the top restaurants is like a difficult piece of classical music or a challenging novel. You need the right state of mind and openness to understand what the chef wants to convey.

We agreed in one point though and I am sure you will agree with us too:  the most important thing is flavour and even though Mugaritz did not score all the points, it scored quite a lot for me.

Mugaritz appears to know that their food causes controversy – at the beginning of the meal we were handed 2 envelops…

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

secret messages?

which contained the following messages:

Mugaritz MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Food Philosophy

Which one are you?

The Experience:

An evening at Mugaritz has little to do with conventional dining. To me it felt like a performance, culinary theatre, a play with my senses and my expectations. I was constantly challenged to redefine my understanding of flavours, textures and appearances. Nothing is what it seems… If this sounds terribly stressful to you, Mugaritz might not be the place for you.

 

The Menu

20 dishes, here we go:

6 tapas like pre-starters were served at the same time:

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Toasted legume beer, olives, beans and thyme

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Grilled pueraria focaccia

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Starch and sugar crystal spotted with pepper praline and corals

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

pumpkin on something like posh hummer chips

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Edible Stones

 

The Toasted legume beer, olives, beans and thyme was a good start: I expected beer and got deliciously flavoured vegetable broth. My favourite of these tapas was the Starch and sugar crystal spotted with pepper praline and corals with its stunning combination of sweet and tangy, crunchy and creamy. The Grilled pueraria focaccia was nothing more than ok.

I admired the fragrant fruit in paper wrap which was not a sophisticate dish but simply and pretty – an apple seasoned with cumin (I think) prepared the palate for things to come.    And then the edible stones… so smooth and handsome! I was rather disappointed that they turned out to be just potatoes…

From then on, the dishes came one after the other in quick succession:

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Spoons of Bechamel and cauliflower

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

hazelnut and bean stew

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Curd cheese in its own rind, mushrooms and coastal herbs

 

One of the best courses of the evening was the Curd cheese in its own rind, mushrooms and coastal herbs. The cheese was creamy and mild and tasted fantastic with the selection of perfectly cooked wild mushroom combined with the salty flavour and crunchy texture of the sea purslane and samphire.

I thought the Spoons of Bechamel and cauliflower was interesting, but this dish was hated by my dinner companion.  The foamy thing on top tasted of cauliflower, and the consistency to be fair was a bit like wet powder. I am sure a lot of food science was applied here! I was not blown away by the hazelnut and bean stew as it tasted mainly of onions.

We are not even half way through….!

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

pork noodles with arraitxiki extract and toasted rice

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Silky bread stew, infused with pink geranium leaves covered in crabmeat

The pork noodles reminded of gelatinous and gooey udon noodles (even though I am pretty sure they were made of some part of the pig) and were swimming in a fish-flavoured broth made of local seabream. Lovely.

The first sea food dish was also delicious: Silky bread stew with crab was my first experience of eating anything flavoured with leaves of a balcony flowers, who would have thought that this works so well?  The slender slivers of swear crab meat melted soothingly and pleasantly in my mouth.

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Bread loaf with 3 flavours

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Portion of hake and milky reduction with daikon

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Textures of Coastal Fish

My favourite dish was not necessarily the prettiest or most sophisticated one (at least not at the first glance). Bread  loaf with 3 flavours revealed to me the wonders of my palate. I was explained to eat one spoon after the other (first one – bitter, second one – sweet and third one- salty) after having dipped each of them into the middle of the gorgeous fluffy and light loaf. Wow! This was a firework of taste sensations!

Portion of hake and milky reduction with daikon was a winner too. The fish was, as expected, perfectly cooked – moist and flaky and was beautifully complemented by the creamy milk based sauce seasoned with daikon – the Japanese white radish.

Then the dish which I expect was the culprit for our food poisoning as I still can’t even look at the picture without feeling slightly nauseous.  I did not like the Textures of Coastal Fish as they tasted too ‘fishy’ and somehow wrong and I only finished half.  S. ate the whole portion…

After this dip, things were looking up again and big flavours where about to hit.

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Piece of Beef, grilled steak emulsion and salt crystal

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Iberian Pig Tails and the Reduction of its own Juice. Crispy sweet millet leaves.

The Piece of Beef was a revelation. The last time I had beef that succulent, moist, tender and delectable was when I savoured wagyu beef in a Michelin starred restaurant in Kobe.

I was so full then that I couldn’t quite appreciate the Iberian Pig Tail. Too fatty and chewy for me.

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Cheese Platter

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

Broken Walnut, tasted and salted, cool milk cream and armagnac jelly

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

A crisp flax seeds and whiskey parfait

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

nails and flowers

 

 MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain)   The worlds third best restaurant?

I don't know anymore but it was good!

We just about managed the cheese, but then I fortunately got a second wind when we arrived at the desserts. I am still dreaming about the Broken Walnut, tasted and salted, cool milk cream and armagnac jelly. The ‘walnuts’ were actually made of delectable chocolate shells filled with armagnac jelly. The ice cream was spectacular and only after a while I realised that it was made of goat’s milk.

The crisp flax seeds and whiskey parfait was less convincing, particularly after having Launceston Place’s stunning Lagavulin ice cream in fond memory.  Nice but nothing to write home about.

I enjoyed the one bite creamy and indulgent dessert in the form of Nails and Flowers, served on a bed of chocolate seeds and nuts.  I actually asked for ANOTHER dessert after this, which was something lovely and steamed.

Enough! The bill please! And we rolled home, happy, stuffed, tipsy and broke.

 

  • Food: 7/10 (-2 for food poisoning and I am being nice here!)
  • Service: 10/10
  • Ambiance: 8/10
  • Value for Money: 8/10 (it is expensive but you get A LOT of food!)
  • Chances of Returning: 80%
  • Verdict: I am not sure this is the world’s 3rd best restaurant but it’s pretty damn good!

 

Contact:

Otazulueta Baserria, Aludura Aldea 20, 20100, Errenteria, Spain

Telephone: +34 943 522 455

Web Site: www.mugaritz.com

 

Read some more impression of Mugaritz by other London Food Bloggers: Skinny Bib, The Gourmet Traveler and Pig Pig’s Corner

11 comments to MUGARITZ (San Sebastian, Spain) – The world’s third best restaurant?

  • OMG – I can’t believe you got food poisoning! That aside, there’s a fair bit of invention going on here – my fave looking dish is the edible stones.

    And on another note, I hate these ‘world ranking’ for restaurants. It’s not as if they’re tennis players or golfers! And invariably the rankings are elitist and Euro-centric.

  • horstl

    congratulation, dein report vom mugaritz war klasse aber bei der fülle wäre wahrscheinlich auch mir die food poisoning nicht erspart geblieben.

  • Oh no….shame! Did you call them up about the food poisoning??

  • Ute

    @Mr Noodles – I agree, I don’t like culinary ratings either, but at the same time I do look at them… Mugaritz was good, but certainly not among the best meals I ever had, so clearly NOT the third best restaurant in the world as far as I’m concerned!
    I hadn’t realised that the 50 best restaurants have hardly any non-European/American ones, bad!

    @Horstl – haha, aber warn ja kleine portionen… ;)

    @Kay – No I didn’t actually, didn’t even think of it. I should have informed them probably. Maybe they would have invited me back… although I don’t think I will get my poor boyfriend anywhere close of Mugaritz ever again…

  • I am amazed with these fantastic & exotic food delicacies. The edible stones were the most interesting of them all. Cheers !

  • This has brought back such fantastic memories. We went on our honeymoon- nearly four years ago and it was the first meal out that completely floored me. The start of a very dangerously expensive addiction.

  • Ute

    @Tori – Oh nice! so that’s what kicked your interest (obsession?) in food of. I can understand… Lovely destination and location for honeymoon indeed, love and food is so deeply connected, isn’t it?

  • Thanks for sharing this post Ute. I’ve been wanting to go back to San Sebastian after my meal at Arzak this yr and all the wonderful Pintxos and have been eyeing up Mugaritz or Akelare for a return splurge meal next year. Am sorry to hear about the food poisoning tho, what a shame!

  • Ute

    @Guan – How was Arzak? There is so much to eat in San Sebastian, you don’t know where to start! I think Mugaritz should be next on your list, just be careful with the fish ;)

  • Hello? am I missing something here? you got food poisoning and rate this place 7/10? Isn’t the most important thing in a restaurant that you get out happy, full but not too full up and …alive?

  • Ute

    @Ilse – hahaha, you are right, I was torn, believe me! I so loved the place though that I just couldn’t give a negative review (but objectively I should have of course)… Would have been different if my boyfriend had written it, he indeed refused to ever go to a Michelin star restaurant with me ever again…

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge