We have been lovers of Basque cuisine ever since we visited San Sebastian, the culinary capital of Planet Earth, five years ago. That weekend in the northwest of Spain was a real eye-opener to us and made us realise what a great ingredient good food is to our lives.
Michelin-starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction opened in our adopted home town London in 2013, four generations since the family tavern opened in San Sebastian in 1897. ‘Arzak’ (three-starred since the 1970s) is generally considered to be one of the world’s ten best restaurants.
Since we started our travel and food blog three years ago and since we started researching Michelin-starred restaurants, we were surprised to read so many bad and mediocre reviews about Ametsa. We don’t spend big on restaurants, so it was only when we found a £59 deal on Buy-a-Gift for a three-course meal for two and a glass of cava hat we decided to check this place out.
From the moment we arrived, the service was impeccable, unusual even for Michelin-starred places. Best of all, staff really appeared to enjoy their jobs and were all smiles all the time.
Our Buy-a-Gift deal included tomato and raspberry soup, prawns with hemps, and red pork on bamboo as three tapas-style starters, hake with bronze onion and chicken and seeds as mains, and colourful crystals and anise doughnut as desserts.
The cold tomato and raspberry soup (a bit like gazpacho) was served at the table over a pair of mussels and dried bits of raspberry in a bowl. It was unexpectedly flavoursome and a real winner. Next came the other two starters. We both felt that two of the four prawns were not very attractive in texture, but the other two were delightful, even though not outstanding.
The mains really blew us away, though: both dishes prepared to perfection. The play of chicken with seeds worked extremely well and what can I say: give a Spanish person a hake and they’ll know what to do with it (merluza is the #1 fish on the peninsula by an extreme margin). The onion paper added much in terms of looks and we liked the taste too. The salad that accompanied the chicken was absolutely exceptional and the strange black hollow pasty bit with the little bits of glass noodles sticking out of it, that came with the fish, was perhaps strange to look at, but nonetheless a pleasure in terms of taste and texture.
The desserts were equally impressive. I loved the ‘donut’, which was sorbet covered in a wafer-thin layer of chocolate. Ms B immediately fell for the ‘crystals’, which were undoubtedly the most beautiful dish of the meal. When we asked for the bill, we were presented with a lovely set of petit-fours.
We had a marvellous time at Ametsa yesterday and will return as soon as they do another voucher deal. 4.5 out of 5 in our book.