Azurmendi – breath taking stuff

A feast for the eyes… 

Homemade salted anchovy millefuille came with piped anchovy cream and pitch perfect pastry. A sign of good things to come with pastry this good.  

Roe and dill – a delightful crispy black corn cracker topped with roe had the right about of salinity to arouse the palate and get the saliva glands working.Isn’t it pretty? 

And to be eaten last was the CaipiriTxa which is inspired by the Caipirinha. The cachaca is replaced by local Txakoli and it was a very pleasing one-bite palate cleanser.  

Before our brief tour of the kitchen we were presented with a ‘mushroom leaf’, served on a glass panelled box of leaves for extra effect. It was as much to do with playing with your senses than to really make a flavour impact in my humble opinion. The boozy punch it was served with was a nice touch though. 

The kitchen quarters are pristine and looks more like a science lab than a place where your food is created!

Moving on from the appetisers to the following course..

Frozen olive with vermouth and edible soil. The bonbon looked and tasted like an olive but it had punchy vermouth within. A clever take on a dirty martini, kinda. It came with a shot of citric orange too for palate balancing. 

Onto the menu’s and I chose the Adarrak. 

The recommended wine was faultless here.

Egg from the restaurant’s hens are cooked inside out and truffled. So the egg yolk was injected with a black truffle consommé making it super exuberant in richness and flavour. 

The steamed milk bread made in-house with olive oil was something that we couldn’t get enough of. It reminded of Chinese steamed bread, with all the positive, spongey addictive sweet qualities. We kept asking for them, they obliged, it was the gift that kept giving!

Chef at work. 

Getting ready for the next course… 

Oyster, tartare and gelée. The tartare was a diced oyster, with a poke of apple for sharpness, black olive oil and a mayonnaise emulsion to bind it all together. The oyster is then blanched for exactly one minute to give the mollusc a meatier texture. With the oyster juice with other shellfish forms the sphere which is placed on the top with more piped mayonnaise emulsion. The plate is also dressed with algae emulsion. This is belly beckoning stuff for tall the oysters lovers out there. 

Natural spider crab, emulsion and fusion – here an emulsion of tomato was poured at the table for theatrics and to bring out the inherent sweetness of the crab. This was a diehard conviction that simple flavours can be elevated with the slightest of touches.

Tomato and eel – the juice of a local Busteria tomato is used which is made into a salsa and then goes through a process of liquefaction to form a liquid bonbon. Then a yellow Antzoula tomato is used to make an ice-cream along with a semi-seco tomato flower, finally the eel is placed into a clear tomato gel. The resulting dish is just WOW.  

Roasted lobster out of the shell on herb oil and chives. The lightly roasted lobster was nestled on a blob of herb emulsion with more of the same of the side in a pool of herb oil. It was then crested with seasoned red lobster roe emulsion and a cornet filled with marinated lobster meat and chives as this makes life a better place. The colours and flavours were nothing short of vivid and I can safely say that the lobster was handled with very skilled hands. 

After the lobster course, I couldn’t resist having a nosey around the gardens. 

Artichokes and pesto. A mousse of artichoke, tulip flowers, crispy artichokes, local idiazabal goat cheese rolled in dehydrated pesto. I don’t need to tell you that from the description that this dish was another stroke of genius and it was a revel to eat. 

Stewed wheat with farmhouse milk emulsion and oxtail – this dish had the positive notes from a reduced rich beefy jus, it had ox cheese too along with a garnish of carrot leaves. It was seriously delectable. 

Roasted red mullet on bone shoots, fried eggs and the broth of the bones. It sounds simple but it’s not as the amount of technique that goes into the egg spheres, cauliflower caviar & jamon is unparalleled. 

Foie spring onion and cherries was as decadent as can be and came with a dainty little cubed sandwich of foie and tuna paste and not forgetting that cherry pebble.  

Onto the deserts now.. 

Coconut and passion was a sublime palate cleaner. 

‘Cheese, fruits and mint’ was a melange of marshmallow, blue cheese cake, Belgian raspberry framboise sorbet, dehydrated framboise crumb, mint gel along with cream cheese with mint. So much technique, so much flavour. 

Sheeps milk and black olives was a beautiful construction of sheeps milk ice cream, coca leaves, coca cubed and olive earth powder. Again another stunning technique driven desert. 

A bamboo filtered green tea before the petit fours and why not? 

A marshmallow of natural yogurt and a white chocolate bonbon with an infusion of pink pepper and hazelnuts.

Petit four of chocolate orange stones, mango jelly and a macaroon with caramel cream. They were so good that they could have been deserts in their own right. 

And then came the crispy chocolate to end the magnificent meal. It was a gastronomic riff on chocolate covered corn flakes – if you like those then you’ll be aroused by these.

The service was seamless throughout which made the experience even more enjoyable, huge props goes to our sommelier/maitre’d who knew the wines and the menu inside out. He even recommend some rum and whisky bars in Bilbao for us too.

The verdict:

When did I go? September 2015
The damage: Expect to pay circa €230 per head for the tasting menu and wine (£200ish at the time)
The good: Chef Eneko Atxa had the dream of building an ecological, 100% sustainable restaurant powered on renewable energy. He did that and more by creating ornate modernist Basque cuisine that puts a permanent stamp in your memory bank, eating here was a spectacle for the senses.
The bad: It’s not in London!
Rating: 4.5/5
Would I go again? Yes in a heartbeat
Address: Barrio Legina s/n (48195) Larrabetzu (Bizkaia)
Phone: +34944558866

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