Pintxos and Clubbing in Donosti
30 November, 2015
Having been invited on a pintxo crawl of San Sebastián by the club, Dabadaba, and to steer the DJ booth for revellers to dance to their heart’s content, I set out some hours ahead of my session to find the best pintxos in town. I was lucky to have my friend, Borja, as my guide. Apart from being a local, as well as producing and DJ’ing good music, he knows the temples of those delicious dinky bites like the back of his hand. Here we go…
Evenings In the Thick Of It
Our tour began at Txepetxa, home of the anchovy, offering all kinds of pintxos featuring that small yet noble fish, accompanied by cream of spider crab, sea urchin, olive paté, foie gras, stewed apple or trout and salmon roe. Everything looked awesome, but I opted for a fresh anchovy classic. Great! We went for a stroll to La Concha and headed into Narru, in the basement of the historic Hotel Niza, with views over the bay which clearly ratchets up the experience of tasting their dishes, notably their luma gorri (chicken wing) with potato, smashed fried egg and alioli or the secreto ibérico ham. Stunning! We retraced our steps to the old town and went into Zazpi, where the young chef, Paul Arrillaga, doles out happiness from his fiery helm in the form of a spectacular “potato volcano”, a pintxo based on truffle, egg and potato or an exquisite ox-tail ravioli. A veritable banquet. We made our way to Dabadaba.
After opening in April 2014, the locale has been graced by the likes of Allah-Las, Sean Nicholas Savage, The Godfathers and Omar Souleyman, among others. On stage were The Space Lady, a pioneer of electronic music, with a staging as minimalist as it is breathtaking. They bewitched us completely and, when we came down to earth again, we were faced by Fernando Lagreca churning out his particular electronic brand as a matchless prelude to my own set. My turn came. I started with some new releases I have been DJ’ing recently, interspersing themes from Italo disco, acid and disco bizarro. Things perked up and Dabadaba ended up dancing in full swing. A great night – we had a smashing time. Then we hit the hay.
Saturday In Donosti Is No Ordinary Saturday
Rising early is a virtue, but doing so when you’ve been to bed late is untenable. So we headed straight off in search of pintxos. Again in the old town, I was taken to Paco Bueno, a spot I wouldn’t miss for anything. Offering a meagre four or five pintxos, notably shrimp dumpling, hake in batter, croquettes and pie, this is one of the city’s most crowded bars, opened in 1950 by a retired boxer. The business was later taken over by his son, a rugby player, as is his brother, Chufo, and his son, Gorka. A family concern with warm, family service, the bar walls crammed with pictures of boxing and the sport with a melon-shaped ball – what else would you expect? Still in the inner city, we made for Borda Berri, whose staff are shared by La Cuchara de San Telmo, another illustrious pintxo temple. The star dish is their “kebap”, a delicious pork ribs with an incongruous name which prompts veritable pilgrimages to taste it. Other dishes with the same fate include their cheek of beef, octopus and risotto de Idiazábal. Just opposite lies Txuleta, specialising in meat dishes, if you fancy that. The best thing then was to work off the meal by striking out and we ended up at the Club Náutico de Donosti, with the whole La Concha bay before us. The sun was blazing that day and this spot was divine. The upstairs floor houses GU, another club where you can dance house or techno, depending on the night. I made a point of visiting Tabakalera before I left.
On the verge of making its debut as the European Capital of Culture, with the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the San Sebastián Jazz Festival among its leading cultural draws, the city boasts a peerless interdisciplinary space known as La Tabakalera. This public International Contemporary Culture Centre focuses on promoting upcoming local creatives and hosts activities revolving primarily around research, production and exhibition. Their feature-film and documentary seasons, exhibitions and Hirkilabs spaces, their Digital and Technology Culture Lab and Ubik – Tabakalera Creation Library – make this one of Donosti’s liveliest and most avant-garde hubs. The premises have character, set in a building that was once the city’s tobacco factory. A city with character, too.
There you have it – there’s a lot more to San Sebastián than La Concha. Fancy discovering it? Check out our flights here.
Text and images by Luis Costa for ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
30 November, 2015