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Star Struck in San Sebastián

Star Struck in San Sebastián

With so many Michelin-stars to collect, San Sebastián is a gourmet’s paradise. But, sometimes, the best meals in town can be the most ordinary kind.

It takes a while to get used to eating in San Sebastián.

Not because the food isn’t good, but because, like everywhere else in Spain, they eat so late there. I mean, if you’re Asian, you’ve normally paid the bill and you’re on your way home by 7.30pm. (Or 6.45pm, if you’re my parents.) In Spain, show up at a restaurant at 9pm and be immediately branded a tourist. And in this age of immersive travel, who needs that kind of baggage?

On my last visit to San Sebastián - surely one of the prettiest towns on Spain’s sweeping northern coastline - I finally cracked the code of dining like a civilised local, but without simultaneously boiling over with the hangries.

The key, I realised, is to just never stop eating. Graze all day and somehow, you trick the stomach into thinking all the time of the next bite.

In a city with more Michelin-starred restaurants per square foot than anywhere else on the planet, this is not, as you can imagine, a difficult task. At lunch, you could be feasting on the splendid Basque cuisine at the legendary Arzak, and at dinner, you’re crunching on the scrumptious suckling pig roasted Segovia-style at Zelai Txiki.

However, it won’t take you long to realise that more than in any other part of Spain, in San Sebastián, the gastronomic experience is a way of life that extends beyond the Michelin Guide. Sure, you could drop three or four hundred Euros on a meal at the likes of Martín Berasategui or Alameda, and be blown away by the sheer creative chutzpah of the chefs in this little sea-wet town.

But, really, it’s in the every day flavours and lively meals in small establishments and wine bars - along crescent-shaped La Concha beach or in the narrow lanes of the Old Town - that never make it on any glossy magazine’s list that I’ve had some of the most extraordinary meals of my life.  

I’ve followed up a blow-out three-hour extravaganza at Kokotxa with a stack of fresh-from-the-oven sugared puff pastries studded with raisins at Pastelería Oiartzun. Or a pile of crisp churros and hot chocolate at Churrería Santa Lucia. One afternoon, I skipped the pastries and zeroed in on the OG Basque burnt cheesecake at La Viña.

And, of course, it’s never too early (or late) for a round of pintxos - the local version of the tapas which is best savoured in any random bar in the Old Town with a gaggle of white-haired Spaniards grazing at the counter. For my money, the shrimp skewers draped with a tomato and pepper sauce at Goiz Argi, plus the anchovies and tapenade or foie gras at Txepetxa are reason enough to hop on a plane en seguida, as they say.

Even if you might be eating long after your bed-time.


Are you looking to embark on your very own journey to Spain? Find out more here.

We look forward to journeying with you.

Daven Wu is a freelance journalist based in London and Singapore. He is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*, and also edits the Louis Vuitton City Guide Singapore.

Daven Wu is a freelance journalist based in London and Singapore. He is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*, and also edits the Louis Vuitton City Guide Singapore.

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