Global restaurant fashions come and go, but San Sebastián in northern Spain, with its thrilling mix of casual pinxcho bars and cutting-edge, high-end restaurants, remains a place of gastronomic pilgrimage.
It's home to a constellation of Michelin stars, including Arzak, Mugaritz and Martín Berasategui, as well as Akelaŕe, run by legendary chef Pedro Subijana for nearly 40 years.
Occupying a commanding position west of the city centre with stunning views over the Bay of Biscay, Akelaŕe has maintained its three-Michelin-star status since 2007 for its imaginative New Basque Cuisine (the Spanish equivalent of nouvelle cuisine), which includes an amuse-bouche based around bathroom toiletries, with tomato-flavoured liquid soap, onion sponge, Idiazábal cheese moisturiser and bath salts made from potato starch, prawn and rice ‘sand'.
Spanish and Basque translations of the text occupy a significant amount of space; a tad galling if you've splashed out £30 on a relatively slim, glossy cookbook. Although beautiful to look at and a real pleasure to browse, the book suffers from a case of style over substance, something of which New Basque Cuisine itself could be accused.
Ingredients such as zopako bread, Beasain onion morcilla and 'cortezas de trigo' (wheat snacks similar to pork scratchings) may be difficult for British chefs to lay their hands on. It is perhaps best to treat AkelaÅe: New Basque Cuisine as it was probably intended; a memento of a meal enjoyed or an invitation to make a reservation at the restaurant, if this sort of Spanish sleight of hand still floats your culinary boat in 2018.
By Andy Lynes
If you like this, you may enjoy these
- My Basque Cuisine: A Love Affair with Spanish Cooking by Ash Mair
- Sabor: Flavours from a Spanish Kitchen by Nieves BarragÁ¡n Mohacho
- Borago: Coming from the South by Rodolfo Guz
AkelaÅe: New Basque Cuisine - by Pedro Subijana (Grub Street, £30)