Martin Berasategui – The Spanish Legend

Martin Berasategui began cooking at a tender age of 14 when most of us were still playing Nintendo. He gained his first Michelin Star at the age of 25 and currently holds eight in total across his repertoire of restaurants in Spain, which is more than any other Spanish chef. In 2001 his self named restaurant Martin Berasategui received its third Michelin star and has kept them ever since – this guy is a serious player. It’s situ is just outside San Sebastian, in Lasarte-Oria, overlooking the gorgeous mountainous region of Gipuzkoa. The decor is a simple white table cloth affair with huge ceiling pillars, is hued with warming colours and huge curtains when opened, reveal jaw-dropping views.

Naturally we opt for the tasting menu. The year beside the dish denotes the year in which the dish was invented. 

The detail of this place is phenomenal. 

The bread was lovely paired with the peppery, floral olive oil. First impressions always count.

2014 Amuse bouche of sea crunch tempura (sea anemone) with txakoli wine mayonnaise and citrus gel, kumquat, potato firewater, olive & anchovy. The teeny tony morsels wouldn’t fill up a mouse but I guess you can’t peak too soon. 

The wine list was remarkable. 

1995 Mille-feuille of smoke eel, foie-gras, spring onions and green apple. This 20 year old recipe was a uniform piece of skilful cookery that garners attention. It was a expertly constructed stack of smoked eel sandwiched in between two pieces of foie, with a slab of caramelised sugar on top. The balance of a richness came from citric apple, along with vibrant spring onion cream.

A shroom dish was served to ‘Elbert’ – our foie adversed diner.

“Red Shrimp Royale” soon followed. The sweet shrimps came with a lovely royale sauce, lentils for body and flavoursome fennel foam too. The sauce reminded me of a rich, velvety fish pie in the best possible way.

Hake kokotxas with pil pil sauce for ‘Elbert’. 

More juice!

‘Elbert’, our fussy dinner guest came with many allergies including towards shellfish, so the kitchen put together a fermented liquid herb salad with truffle oil and morchilla for him.  

2015 Lightly marinated oyster with iced cucumber slush, K5 (txakoli) and spicy apple. The marinade intensified the oyster flavour which was tempered with the spiced apple foam and cucumber slush but then oyster pearls lifted the dish to another dimension. 

2015 Monkfish liver marinated in sea chlorophyll was served with seaweed salad. This dish was easy on the eye and of course came with a tonne of technique – there was creamed salmon, liquid seaweed sauce, siphoned clouds made from capers, tomato, mango and green apple which were frozen until set. Pure genius. 

‘The truffle’ with fermented wild mushrooms, collard greens and Alma De Jerez oil. The truffle was in fact foie mousse rolled in black mushroom powder nestling in mushroom foam, a fermented mushroom cut into the shape of a cockscomb, along with a puree of mushroom & truffle. The result gave all sorts of intense umami 

Grilled sirloin over a bed of swiss chard chlorophyll and cheese bon bon. Since Elbert doesn’t like foie he got this delectable piece of meat. 

The wine didn’t stop, but with this decanter I didn’t want it to!

2001 Vegetable hearts salad, cream of lettuce and iodised juice. Course number 4 was a stunning ensemble of salad leaves, macadamia nuts, cherry tomatoes, piped avocado, a jellied vinaigrette, lobster, and a dressing of “iodized juice” (a seafood infused mayonnaise). It was a great emphasis on seasonality. 

2011 Corrotxategi egg resting on liquid herb salad and dewlap carpaccio. Again another delightful ensemble of chives, parsley, spinach, a 15 degrees sous vide egg yolk from a farm of chickens with only a population of 100, some morcilla and a pork jowl carpaccio. Stunning and flippin’ ornate! 

2015 Crispy golden swiss chard stems, with scallops in their own aniseed-flavoured sea juice. Somehow things got even better with course number 6 with these sweet scallops with fennel. The texture element came from the crunchy stems of the Swiss chard and crispy fish skin. It was game changing for the palate. 

2015 Roast hake fillet, truffled spinach, mellow spider-crab and sparkling K5. Course number 7 was spider crab foam accompanying the main event of roasted hake with slices of Iberico pork, a crispy roasted crouton of red shrimp and tapioca garnish with the most intense umami flavour. It was a lovely dish but not as stunning as the previous ones. 

Jan got traditional tripe stew instead and to be fair it was delicious. 

2015 Red mullet with scale crystals in red wine, celeriac velouté and ale beer.  It sounds simple but it was far from it as the red wine stew was cooked down with the bones and livers from the mullet. Then cubes of Iberico pork are added from the breast of the animal and fresh eel which made for a beautiful viscous sauce. The crunchy beetroot “rock” is made from stale ciabatta bread dunked in liquid beetroot which is then vacuumed of its moisture. The result is a sensory overload of new flavours and techniques. It really was mesmerising stuff. Oh this dish wasn’t on the tasting menu – we actually ordered it separately and I whole heartedly recommend it. 

2015 Suckling lamb chop parmesan whey, fritter and asparagus with citrus dressing. So after that little diversion were back onto course 12 and this little lamb isn’t alone – it has a fritter of lamb brain, a smear of dates, the juice of the lamb along with a cherry & Pedro Ximenez reduction. Wowza. 

Lamb brain fritter – a first for us all. It was soft and creamy. 

Onto the desserts – 

2015 Saffron veil with melt-in-your-mouth macaroons and tea flower ice cream. This was the palate cleanser and my god was it good. It came with a saffron infused broth, a granita of caramel & vanilla, a twill of baby carrot & mango along with a hazelnut orange macaron. This was dessert nirvana on a plate.  

2014 Smoked sponge with cocoa crunch, frozen whisky cream, crushed ice, green beans and mint. The sponge itself was frozen and if you can imagine the most magnificent Aero bar, then this is it. 

A delectable array of petit fours from armagnac truffles, traditional Basque raisin cake, almond financiers and more. 

Our front of house was outstanding. Not only did he have intimate knowledge of every single dish and its cooking techniques he was a genuinely nice bloke also. 

And he took us for a tour into the heart of the restaurant – the kitchen. 

Check their liquor stash!


The verdict:

When did I go? September 2015
The damage: Expect to pay circa €300 per head for the tasting menu and wine (£225ish at the time)
The good: I rarely utter the word greatness and food together but after this meal I am willing to break that mould and say that this place blew my mind, all of our minds in fact.  Martin combines modern gastronomic techqiues with traditional Basque ingredients with heaps of avant-garde finesse. The true benchmark for any experience like this is the strong will to want to go back and do it all over again – that I have in abundance and it’s the place that we still talk about all the time.
The bad: It’s not in London!
Rating: 4.5/5
Would I go again? A resounding YES!
Address: Loidi Kalea, 4, 20160 Lasarte-Oria, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Phone: +34 943 36 64 71

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