Archive for the Casco Viejo Category

Bilbao – Casco Viejo – pintxos in Plaza Nueva

Posted in Basque Country, Bilbao, Casco Viejo, Plaza Nueva, Spain with tags , , , on October 27, 2017 by gannet39

A pintxo is the Basque word for a piece of bread and its topping being pierced and held together (pinchado) with a cocktail stick. They would be called tapas outside the Basque country but they are usually bread based and are never free as tapas sometimes are in the south. Another difference is that often, but not always, you can help yourself from the display on the bar and tell the waiter what you had later.

Plaza Nueva, so named because it replaced Plaza Vieja in 1821, is in my humble opinion, the buzziest and best place for pintxos in Bilbao. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on this map.

Under the neo-classical arcades are a throng of famous bars and cafes that will meet all your canape needs, and help you develop some new ones.

Gure Toki (Intermediate A+), 12 Plaza Nueva (north west corner), guretoki.com

This is my favourite. It’s not as venerable as the others I mention below, but they take a different, more modern approach to pintxos which I find more interesting. International influences, particularly Japanese, are very apparent.

From 2014:

Carpachio de Avestruz (A++). Ostrich carpaccio! The best thing I ate all year! Thinly sliced raw ostrich marinated with parmesan and if I remember correctly soya sauce, although it doesn’t seem so from the picture. I must go back to make sure!

Foie a la Plancha con Manzana y PX (A) goose liver pate from the hotplate, with apple and a Pedro Ximenez reduction.

The Hamburguesa Wagyu was fine (B) but is more hype than substance. It sounds good though.

Costilla de Vaca con Algas was a revelation (A); a small rib steak with local seaweed, showing the Japanese influence once again.

With the meat I drank two glasses Juan Gil Monastrell 12 meses (A+) at €2 a glass. This stuff blew my socks off, it’s so different from any other Spanish red. It’s now the house red for my pop-up restaurant. I get it posted to me for about £11 a bottle with postage.

Ironically, the guy next to me noticed I was drinking it and he happened to be a friend of Juan Gil in Murcia! He’s a very nice chap apparently, which makes his wine taste even better!

I also had a glass of Ribeira del Duero, ‘Nacimiento’ by Avan which was good (B+)…

…before moving on to the local Txakoli ‘Senorio de Otxaran’ which was a good example of the genre (B).

Sold to me by another friendly customer, Sopa de Idiazabal seemed to consist of a quail’s egg with cream, mushrooms and giant kernels of Choclo (maize). The bar won a prize for this pintxo in a local competition. It was interesting (B+) but I preferred other things on the menu.

The only let down was the lack of decent desserts. They gave me a bowl of dry, flaky mini chocolate croissants which didn’t really do it for me. A chupito of excellent ‘La Gallega’ Orujo des Hierbas (A) cheered me up though.

As you can see, I met a lot of people while I was here, including a big group of Mexicanas on their jollies. With all the good food, wine and company, I rolled out of here a very happy man!

I returned in 2016 and was gutted to discover that the Ostrich Carpaccio was no longer on the menu! The nice lady who served me was impressed that I remembered the pintxo and did her best to suggest other tidbits.

I especially liked the Espárragos.

Gure Toki is still very good I’m happy to report.

Café Bilbao (Intermediate A), 6 Plaza Berria, north east corner of Plaza Nueva (there are two doors, one on Plaza Nueva, the other round the corner on Plaza Berria), bilbao-cafebar.com

Old school and very busy, the traditional pintxos here are a feast for the eyes.

I had Makailua Pilpilean, or in Castillian, ‘Bacalao al Pilpil’, which was good (B+). Pil pil is a basque cooking technique where a sauce is made from the oil that the fish was cooked in, along with garlic and small hot peppers called ‘guindillas’.

Also a canapé with a mushroom and cured ham (A).

And another with black pudding, green pepper and camembert (B+).

In 2016 I tried this chorizo and quail egg creation (B+).

A classic pintxo bar that needs to be visited.

Victor Montes, (Intermediate A), 8 Plaza Nueva, Tel. 944 155 603, www.victormontes.com

For me, this local institution (since 1931) is the most beautiful cafe in town.

The pintxos on the bar top always look very enticing.

Generally they cost €1.90 each.

In 2016 four of us came and had the mixed selection of a dozen pintxos for €22.90. They were all fantastic (A).

They also have a deli, La Alacena del Victor Monte at 14 Plaza Nueva which is a good place to stock up on treats for home.

I got some Jerez vinegar, truffles, foie gras and some good Jamon Iberico Bellota from the Jabugo 5 Jotas or ‘Five J’s’ brand from here.

Please see my other Casco Viejo post for more pintxo bars nearby.

Photos uploaded September 2012, February 2014 and October 2017.

Bilbao – pintxos in the Casco Viejo

Posted in Basque Country, Bilbao, Casco Viejo, Spain with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2017 by gannet39

The Casco Viejo is Bilbao’s old town on the east bank of the river. Today it’s Bilbao’s main entertainment district, the place to come for a txikiteo (bar crawl). At the heart of the Casco are Bilbao’s original seven streets, Las Siete Calles, which date from the 1400s. Also here is Plaza Nueva which I have given its own post. You’ll find some of the best pintxo bars in the city here, all marked on this Google map.

Irrintzi (Intermediate A), 8 Santa Maria Kalea, www.irrintzi.es
My favourite place for innovative, modern pintxos. The display on the bar is stunning.

International influences abound. I can recommend the ‘Brocetas de Verdura en Tempura a la Menta’ aka brochettes of vegetable tempura with mint.

‘Crujiente de Manzana con Pato en Salsa de Cacahuete’ or crispy apple with duck in peanut sauce.

‘Nido de Pollo Lacado con Rúcula’ or nests of chicken with rocket.

Gatz (Intermediate A), 10 Calle Santa Maria, www.bargatz.com

Another good pintxo place, right next door to Irrintxi above.

The windows are covered in Michelin Guide stickers dating back to when it opened in 1994.

It’s fairly traditional but everything is top quality.

Xukela (Intermediate A), 2 Calle El Perro, www.xukela.com

One of the most renowned pintxo bars in town.

Quite trad, but all top quality tackle.

Cresta de Gallo, cockscomb, is one of their more unusual pintxos. It was a first for me (B).

After seeing it being made for another customer I ordered a ‘Marianito’, the shop’s own version of a Negroni. As an aficionado I would say it was the best Negroni I’ve ever had made with Martini Rosso (not my favourite vermouth), though they have Martini Gold as well. Aerating the mix before shaking might have made the difference.

Cafe Boulevard (Intermediate C) 3 Calle Arenal, cafemercante.es

A much feted Art Nouveau cafe that has undergone renovation in 2012. I only came in for a coffee in the day time but was left cold by the uninteresting decor and lack of atmosphere. Maybe it’s better at the weekends.

This next place wasn’t too great in 2012 but it might be okay now…

Saibigain (Elementary B-), 16 Calle Barrencale Barrena, www.saibigain.com, closed Sunday

Times have changed since Cadogan guides put this place on their ‘inexpensive’ list. The €8 menu-del-dia has been superseded by a choice of four set menus. I went for the cheapest at €32 which involved a multitude of starters including; foie gras with blueberry jam and tostados (B), a plate of three hams (B-), prawns with a dish of plain mayo (C), codfish croquettes (B), mushrooms with scrambled egg (D).

There were several choices for the main course, the most typical (according to the waitress) being Pequillo red peppers stuffed with salt cod in yellow and red sauces (C). I added a bottle of Txacoli (Aretxaga 2011) to drown my culinary sorrows (B).

With the addition of a slice of apple pie (B) and a glass of Rioja (B+), it was hard to argue about the value, but the food was too mediocre for me to want to return.

The place doesn’t seem to have been redecorated since it opened in the 50s, except for the addition of photos and posters of Athletic de Bilbao from the 70s. The interior is faded and unspecial but the service was fine.

You’ll also find the Mercado de la Ribera www.mercadodelaribera.net in the old town, down by the river.

Here are a few things you might see there.

Photos uploaded September 2012 and October 2017.

%d bloggers like this: