After a monumental trip in San Sebastian, filled with pintxo that were delicious to eat and a marvel to gawp at, we had high expectations for Bilbao. The pintxo crawl in San Seb was the result of well researched, tried and tested places with some gems stumbled on. It was the antidote to everything we’d ever imagined pintxo to be. Bilbao on the other hand, we left to chance in good faith which I wouldn’t recommend! Our tour went a bit like this…
La Compańia del Ron was a recommendation for a digestif after our marathon meal via our Maître’d at Azurmendi. It was heaven for rum lovers. Inside was a stark contrast to the mellow September sun. Dark wood panelling and endless wooden cabinets brimmed of exotic rums was a compelling sight.
We went for some free poured Zacapa 23 which went down a treat.
Grubstance rating 3/5
In the evening of the first night here, we night-capped in Corta Maltes as recommended by our Maitre’d in Azurmendi. It’s a brilliant little bar with enough whisky and rum in there to keep any thirsty punter going for a while. We loved it and would go back without hesitation.
The next day day, hampered by hangovers we ventured into Bilbao town to see what we could find. Restaurante Zurekin was our first stop, a decision influenced by none other than the local Tripadvisor. It’s a contemporary looking restaurant, with a smart feel. None of this exposed brick work or industrial piping was apparent, which is so en vogue these days. But a huge water-flowing feature wall at the back of the restaurant, gold wall paper, hanging plants and leather banquettes. And of course, a pintxo bar to feast your eyes on as you walk in.
This pintxo was something I couldn’t resist the whole holiday – I loved the simplicity of the meaty white tuna variants, almost sword fish like in texture. Here is no exception, it’s gloriously seasoned with tomato, peppers and a slither of salty anchovy.
This intriguing looking thing is actually pastry filled with slow cooked beef, with some sort of macerated fruit. Before serving, it was nuked in the microwave, and the result was just a bit meh. Somehow, beef and fruit aren’t supposed to be together, neither is soggy pastry.
Grubstance rating 2.5/5
Our next stumble was Taberna Ziripot which was a funky little place, adorned with strange looking dolls, a circular pintxo bar for lingering which had a halo full of liquor. They had the ubiquitous croquettes, tortilla’s and less so common stuffed pancakes, breaded aubergines and fish coated in neon coloured aioli. We were the only diners here. Maybe our pintxo snobbery post San Sebastian caused involuntary sneers at the less remarkable offering here.
Grubstance rating 2/5
Later that day… we dined at Irrintzi, the graffiti clad, minimalistic pintxo bar with the bearded man serving up local brews. We were the only diners here, not necessarily a bad thing as we were early. We dug in, but most pintxo were wilted, sad and insipid. Well at least the local juice “La Salve” was thirst quenching and delicious.
Grubstance rating 2/5
Next up we wondered into the historical Nueva Plaza, the most central part of Bilbao. By the looks of things the majority of the pintxo bars decided to congregate here too. Victor Montes was the chosen one, through a tip-off from a local. We were very optimistic after the let-down of our prior proceedings as you can imagine! It looked like we saved the best for last, as they had a wall-to-wall wine and whisky selection, big to shrug off any competition in the plaza. The surroundings were good, with an el classico feel. In the same vein, the pintxos were a sight for sore eyes, and yes, they tasted equally as good as they looked!
Grubstance rating 4/5
Moral of the story, go to Victor Montes, we were glad to be in his company!