Basque elegance mixed with delicate avant-garde cooking
Shipped off to France in his teens to train as a pastry chef, Martín Berasategui returned to his native Spanish Basque Country to run his parents’ restaurant in the late 1980s – and quickly established himself as one of the hottest chefs in the region. An eponymous restaurant in Lasarte-Oria – a small, picturesque town just outside San Sebastián – followed, and another string of plaudits propelled him to the top table of Spanish gastronomy.
The spacious dining room is brazenly luxurious with views over a gently sloping valley. Tables are spread out to allow the legions of waiters who descend between courses ample room to de-crumb and tweak the position of the glasses, of which there will be many. Berasategui’s cooking is creative but less conceptual than a lot of the other Spanish chefs on the list, although he is big on technique: foams, jellies and spherified balls of various flavours and hues abound.
The tasting menu containing a mix of old and new dishes includes some plates dating back 1995, such as a delicate mille-feuille of smoked eel, foie gras, spring onions and green apple. More contemporary dishes include roast red mullet with crystals of edible scales, soybean sprouts, wheat semolina and cuttlefish. The chef’s status as one of the greats of Spanish cooking is confirmed by the number of now much-vaunted chefs who have passed through his kitchen – a list that includes Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz fame and Josean Martínez Alija, currently at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.