The first gourmet experience of the weekend was a trip to Azurmendi – a restaurant that a number of sources ensured us wasn’t to be missed. They weren’t wrong!
Set high up in the hills a fifteen minute taxi from Bilbao, Azurmendi is made of glass and is meant to have a fantastic view over the countryside; sadly we were running a little late and so missed daylight hours. Neverthless, the restaurant and our meal was unforgettable. You can see through to the immaculate kitchen from the restaurant and it is amazing seeing the chefs at work while you eat; the creation of the beautiful desserts being a particular highlight to watch.
The service was brilliant –informative but without being overbearing or stuffy and they were very indulgent of my slightly fussy food habits and changed around a number of things on the tasting menu for me. Much of the food is produced on site (there is a vegetable garden and a greenhouse on the roof of the main restaurant and the restaurant even owns its own vineyards) and there is an emphasis on the use of local produce.
The evening started with a ‘picnic basket’ of amuse bouche in their indoor garden.
We were then given a tour of the kitchen given by Eneko Atxa himself. We both felt that this really added to the evening, I find that in the western restaurants you’re often left wondering if the chef who gives the restaurant its name is even cooking!
Once sat at our table, we worked our way through course after course – so many that I won’t go through them all, only the best (but then that still runs to about seven dishes!)
Our first course was the famous egg cooked ‘inside out’ and truffled.
This amazingly rich dish melted in the mouth, and there was just enough balsamic to prevent the eggy taste from overpowering.
One of my favourite dishes was ‘the garden’; an amazing showcase of the best of the kitchen garden.
The confited lobster with essential herbs was full of flavour and beautiful to behold.
Having only recently come back from Japan, I wondered whether it was too soon to come face to face with raw tuna again but the Marinated blue fish, tomato bush infusion and spring flowers rivalled some of the best in Japan. The potent tomato infusion was a really interesting combination with the fresh, melt-in-the-mouth tuna.
I wished at the time the portion hadn’t been so small (but I think I was glad of this by the end of the tenth or so course!)
They were on a roll with the fish courses the night we visited (although I’m sure this isn’t unusual…) The squid, black croquet and crispy onion was almost decadent it was so rich and flavoursome and the crush of the onions was the perfect compliment to the soft, fluffy croquet.
The stand-out meat dish for me was the pigeon. Perfectly cooked (just red enough on the inside) and brilliantly complimented by crunchy hazelnuts and the buttery duxelle mixture.
Our meal ended on a serious high with the unbelievable honey ice cream, served on top of an incredibly generous slab of honeycomb. This dish was so beautiful (as you can see above) and somehow managed to taste light and natural but also extremely opulent; I guess there’s a reason honey was considered the nectar of the gods by the Greeks.
I don’t think there was a low point to this meal – the food was exceptional and the wine pairing was the perfect compliment. All the pictures of me from that night attest to the fact that I was a happy lady!
In my opinion, this restaurant was more than deserving of its three Michelin stars and I’m longing to return.