Pintxos can be found almost anywhere you go in Bilbao.
Flickr user Katina Rogers
I’ve been to France many times over the years,
and while I love tucking into a delicious parfait or fresh baguette with
jambon, recently my taste buds have been tempted by something a little
different. Not too long ago, I visited the Basque Country (an autonomous
region in northern Spain) and I was wowed by the exceptional cuisine. Although
similar in many ways to the rest of Spain, the food in the Basque Country is
truly magnificent, and while I was there, I ate like a King! One of my
favourite places, for the food and the culture, was Bilbao. Home to one of
the world’s Guggenheims and overflowing with fantastic eateries, Bilbao is a
foodie’s paradise. Eat your way around this delicious city with my guide to
local eats in Bilbao.
Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry
and built in 1997, Bilbao’s Guggenheim will take your breath away before
you’ve even stepped foot inside. Incredible sculptures surround the industrial-looking
building, while some of the finest contemporary art can be found inside. As
well as art, the Guggenheim houses two restaurants: Michelin Star-winning Nerua
and the more casual Bistró. The magnificent Guggenheim, where you’ll find Bistró Guggenheim Bilbao.
© Flickr user Vicente Villamón
When we visited Bilbao, we opted to eat
dinner at Bistró. The
food was, without a doubt, exceptional, and as the menu is seasonal,
everything tasted really fresh. Diners can choose from a three-course menu,
which currently includes such delights as spider crab terrine and lacquered
pork cheeks, a five-course tasting menu or the lunchtime express meal.
Although the menu sounds simple, the dishes are incredibly complex and full
of interesting flavours. My favourite dish was the hake, which is typical in
Basque cuisine, in a green sauce with chard.
Pintxos, or pinchos, are the Basque Country’s
version of Spain’s tapas. Delicious toppings are placed on small rounds of
white bread creating the perfect snack, light lunch or drinking accompaniment.
As you’d expect, pintxos can be found at almost every bar and restaurant in
Bilbao, often placed on display at the bar or countertop, so you’re spoilt
We ate pintxos at plenty of different places
throughout our stay, but one of my favourites was Irrintzi. This casual
bar is located in Bilbao’s beautiful old town and although it’s small,
there’s a large range of pintxos to choose from – if you get there early
enough – and they’re well priced, too! Try classics like tortilla de patatas
(potato omelette) and cod croquettes, or try Irrintzi’s more unusual pintxos,
such as frog’s legs and foie gras stuffed mushrooms. Wash it all down with a
glass of txakoli, a sparkling dry white wine that’s produced in the Basque
No matter where you eat in Bilbao, you’re
guaranteed to get a good meal. Whether I was grabbing a few pintxos,
indulging in a six-course tasting menu or having a casual dinner at a low-key
restaurant, every morsel of food I ate was delicious. During our stay, we
fell in love with Restaurante
Markina, which is just a short walk from the Guggenheim, and ate there several
From the outside, and the inside for that
matter, Restaruante Markina looks like your average, unassuming dinner spot.
But the food is far from average. Enjoy a glass of rioja or txakoli as your
peruse the large menu, which boasts typical Basque delights such as cured
ham, hake and Basque black pudding. We began our meal with the Basque green
peppers (small peppers which are charred and sprinkled with salt) and the
black pudding – both were delicious. Then we sampled the oxtail stew and the fresh
squid in black sauce. The oxtail was incredibly tender and in a delightfully
rich sauce, while the squid, cooked in a sauce of its own ink, butter and
garlic, was divine. Charred green peppers are a popular menu item.
© Flickr user Alexander Baxevanis
Drive to Bilbao from
the UK with Eurotunnel Le
Shuttle; the journey from Folkestone to Calais takes 35 minutes. From
there, the Basque Country is just a drive away.