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The Best Potato Omelettes in Bilbao

The world’s pintxo capital (referring to what trendies would call “finger food”, which has been around in the Basque Country since time immemorial) also boasts some outstanding tortillas de patata or potato omelettes. And, speaking of omelettes, we ought to clarify certain points before moving on to locations. Firstly, a great potato omelette should reach the table with the egg slightly moist. Any other option is an aberration which no omelette connoisseur would approve of. But, take note – I said “slightly moist”; not liquid, but set. There is nothing worse than an omelette with runny egg drizzling all over the plate. You do get them, and we have even been served the occasional one in establishments allegedly renowned for their omelettes.

Let’s proceed – with onion included, please. The secret of the perfect omelette is the balance of flavours between the egg, onion and potato. And, if we remove one of the vertices of the triangle, the creature will be bereft of that sweetish touch provided by ripe onion. That does not mean further ingredients are not welcome, but they should be added judiciously, without them stealing the show. Or that there shouldn’t be any exceptions either - we all know that the omelette world is impregnable.

Lastly, the perfect omelette should always be golden brown on the outside, without being burnt – there is nothing more awful than the taste of singed egg. The texture should be pliant, mellow, well-set, and the potato soft and smooth; well cooked but without being dry or pasty, or hard and crisp either.

Another factor to be considered when talking about the potato omelette phenomenon is what time of day to eat it. The answer is unquestionable, and only narrow-minded folk would say otherwise – at any time of day. And, when I say at any time, I mean for elevenses, afternoon tea, for lunch or dinner, as a snack, when you get back from a party in the wee hours, but also – and here is the clincher – for breakfast. At 8 in the morning. With the marks left by the bedsheets still fresh on your face. Accompanied by a nice milk coffee. The Basques are well aware of this. Indeed there are also so many other things those of us from other Spanish autonomous communities need to learn from them. We unfortunately aren’t that adroit at bold, early-morning pairings.

So, after this long, hard reflection on the perfect omelette and having eaten some and consulted with Eneko Sukaldari, one of the leading experts on potato omelettes on the planet, we went in search of the finest in Bilbao. Let the discussion commence…

Brass 27. That an establishment with a hipster calling, acclaimed for its superb brunches, should make what is likely the best omelette in town is a sign that times are changing. Even for Bilbao. While the long-standing classics are shutting shop, others are opening. (This is a subject apart – the havoc wrought by the crisis on something as hallowed as the potato omelette.) And, they show the world that serving up a fine omelette is not necessarily at odds with a chic-industrial-vintage aesthetic. The Brass 27 variety is mellow and balanced, with a perfect creaminess. Interestingly, it rubs shoulders on a fusion cuisine menu with dishes of South American and Asian inspiration, like Pad Thai with prawns. Gee… it’s the 21st century!

Swansea. Located near the San Mamés stadium and thus frequented largely by a football crowd, this commonplace establishment in the best sense of the word boasts one of the best omelettes in Bilbao. What makes it so special? Let’s dispense with superfluous detail – if we took a mugshot of the perfect potato omelette, the resulting picture would be that of the Swansea omelette. It oozes prowess – the egg is done to a tee (not apt for lovers of well-cooked food or compact omelettes), the outside is an exquisite golden brown and the sole accompaniment is a piece of bread. Wicked! Rodríguez Arias Kalea, 70

La Ribera Bilbao. Delightful venue with a sophisticated industrial look, housed in La Ribera market, with lovely views of the estuary. Here you can taste some grand omelettes while listening to live jazz; pair them with cocktails, include them in a brunch and savour that fantastic goldie touch, their perfect balance, powerful flavour and smooth, mellow, ideal consistency, the stuff of our dreams for some time to come.

Salón de Juego Concha 1. There are many reasons to love Bilbao, and one of them is that among the best omelette venues in town – a centre of pilgrimage for gourmets and epicures from the world over – is located in a gaming saloon. The hangout on Calle General Concha has long featured a fabulous omelette – tender, delicious and with perfect flavour and consistency. A round of roulette after the tuck-in… the ideal finishing touch to a perfect evening!

Brace yourself before venturing into the wonderful world of Bilbao’s potato omelettes – book your Vueling to the city here.

By Laura Conde of Gastronomistas.com

All photos courtesy of Eneko Sukaldari

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Street Art Route Through Bilbao

The anonymous graffiti artists of Bilbao provide both locals and visitors with a creative, refreshing look at street art. But, scattered across the city you can also find a number of veritable street-art masterpieces. One such example is the stunning Puente La Salve Mural, painted in 2013, showcasing the theme of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, freedom and human rights.

Similarly, a mural entitled Futurismo primitivo (Primitive Futurism)– at Bilbao La Vieja, 29 – the work of the artist, Sixe, stands out on the facade of a building in Old Bilbao. Enthusiasts of street art are urged to see it for themselves, in addition to another piece, El fin justificado (The End Justified) – Urazurrutia, 58 – painted by Aryz, which features red skeletons on a concrete canvas. It is one of the best known examples of street art in Bilbao.

But, there is another unusual form of artistic expression in the city, known as the marcianitos pixelados (Pixelated Martians), by the French artist Space Invader. Dotted across various points in the city (the Arenal Bridge, Iturribide, Ronda Street…), these uncanny inhabitants formed part of the 2008 exhibition, Percepción [S]tencible –[S]tencible Perception – to which end some 40 mosaics were placed across the city. Although some have now been lost, most of them remain intact in the most unsuspecting spots.

Bilbao is also graced with several works by the Brazilian artist, Erb Mon. His pictorial expression leans heavily on geometry and a primitive-futuristic style with intense colouring and the liberal use of universal symbols and encrypted languages. If you fancy seeing one of his works, head for Aretxaga Street (on the corner of San Francisco Street), where you will come across his Eskerrik Asko. Erb Mon has also developed a manifestation of poetic Euskera in the form of murals typified by the use of the most austere colouring. In García Salaza street, for instance, you can admire a mural of his written in Basque entitled Bi(i)tsa, produced in collaboration with the literary creator, Amânturi.

Bilbao is a multi-faceted city which holds many surprises. Why wait to discover it? Check out our flights here.


Text by Tensi Sánchez of I Love Bilbao

Photos by Espacio Actitudes

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Steel Glass & Art 21st Century Bilbao

Its industrial past well behind it, but true to its roots, Bilbao is today a modern, cosmopolitan city offering the finest cuisine, music and, in particular, art and architecture. Indeed, ever since the Guggenheim Museum opened to the public in the mid-1990s, the Basque capital has become a magnet for devotees of contemporary art and architecture. In tandem with the museum’s inception, the city saw an upsurge in urban renewal – historical constructions were restored, stunning modern buildings erected and the estuary precincts were integrated with green areas and the layout of a metro network, designed by the likes of Sir Norman Foster. Hence, Bilbao is currently one of Europe’s best cities to live in. Here, then, is our tour of its most groundbreaking museums and buildings.

Around the Guggenheim Museum

This monumental building designed by Frank O. Gehry is an icon of the transformed Bilbao and an international art and architectural yardstick. It is rewarding to saunter around the building and become enveloped in the curves on its facades, and in awe of the famous Spider by Louise Bourgeois, or the acclaimed Puppy by Jeff Koons. Venturing into its interior, however, is a unique experience. Wandering through the steel labyrinth of The Matter of Time, by Richard Serra, or visiting the noteworthy temporary exhibitions that pass through the Guggenheim, is something all art lovers should make a point of doing.

Near the museum stands La Salve Bridge. While is has been spanning the estuary since 1972, it was not until 2007 that the French artist Daniel Buren added its famous Red Arch. Also worth seeing and adjoining the Guggenheim is the New University of Deusto Library, by Rafael Moneo, with its monolithic volume and rounded corners.

Just behind it stands the Iberdrola Tower. Designed by César Pelli, this 41-storey, 165-metre-high tower with its dramatic appearance is the tallest building in the Basque Country. It is flanked by the Viviendas Ferrater housing project, two luxury buildings designed by Carlos and Lucía Ferrater, Xavier Martí and Luis Domínguez. Opposite them lies the Plaza de Euskadi, by the landscape architect, Diana Balmori.

The Museo de Bellas Artes – A Contemporary Classic

Located near the Plaza de Euskadi, opposite Doña Casilda Park, the Museo de Bellas Artes provides an enhancement to the great collections of classical European art with its selection of top-notch works, including a Lucretia by Lucas Cranach the Elder and paintings by Francisco de Goya, El Greco and Zurbarán, while the contemporary section features paintings by Miquel Barceló and Francis Bacon. Here, you can actually travel from ancient times to the 21st century. To cater for such a variety, the building, originally dating from 1945, was upgraded incrementally, leading to its current appearance. The latest renovation has endowed both the exterior and interior with a leading-edge look. It dates from from 1996, when Luis María Uriarte opened new spaces and added the structure and glass foyer which now provide access to the museum.

Strolling Along the Estuary

The ría, once a dark, polluted estuary, was converted into one of the recreational areas of choice for Bilbao’s residents. Part of this upgrade is due to the Isozaki Atea (Isozaki Gateway) project, an ensemble of seven buildings designed by the Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki, in collaboration with the Bilbao architect, Iñaki Aurrekoetxea. Opposite this precinct stands the Zubizuri Bridge, Santiago Calatrava’s contribution to Bilbao, although also the most controversial landmark in the city.

The Alhóndiga and Osakidetza

Venturing into Bilbao’s Ensanche district will inevitably lead visitors to the Azkuna Zentroa or Azkuna Centre, better known as the Alhóndiga, a former wine exchange which has now been converted into a vibrant hub of leisure and culture. Originally completed in 1909 to a design by Ricardo Bastida, it was innovative for its time on account of the architect’s use of such materials as reinforced concrete. Following an overhaul assigned to architect Philippe Starck, it re-opened to the public in 2010 as a multi-purpose centre.

A short distance away, you get the impression of suddenly having stepped into the heart of Europe  when confronted by the Osakidetza (Public Health building), unmistakeable for the polyhedral design of its facade, by Juan Coll-Barreu.

Before leaving Bilbao, be sure to visit the city’s metro which, designed by Sir Norman Foster, is said to be one of the best in the world.

Book your Vueling to Bilbao and delight in its museums and magnificent buildings.

Text and images by Aleix Palau for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

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If you like pintxos… don't think twice and come to Bilbao!

Here are some of the best places to enjoy small bites of Basque cuisine. Enjoy creamy roast txangurro, mini pil-pil cod or a more international dish like a pastrami, sardine and chipotle sandwich. You won't be able to resist!

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