We devoured the tasty (if expensive) foams of Martín Berasategui, we relished the challenge of 24 unrewarding courses at Mugaritz and made it to the final stop on our restaurant tour of the Basque country, Azurmendi.
I was nervous, my expectations were high, too high. In the most bizarre fashion, we queued to sign in and then were kept waiting whilst a tour in front of us sipped Txakoli wine, that we were denied. After a few minutes left standing in the impressive entrance, an amicable chef introduced himself as our ‘tour guide’.
We were shown around the gardens, where the fauna is rotated every season, keeping the soil fertile and the vegetation fresh. Then we were led into a stunning greenhouse at the back of the restaurant with panoramic views. They’ve implemented technology to capture data such as moisture and growth, to help farm their plants. We were offered a delightfully fresh fruity aperitif and shown the a lemon tree that cloaked our first snack…This theme continued as we went around exploring the plants and uncovering related snacks. This one was my favourite: under the avocado tree was a spherical shell encasing a burst of fresh guacamole. After the tour, we were led back into the atrium-style hallway and given a picnic basket of further snacks. They’ve really nailed the bursting flavourful spheres. We were then allowed our Txakoli wine, which I can’t say I’m keen to have again.
We were guided to the kitchen and offered another small aperitif and snack as the organisation of the kitchen is explained. Each area specialises in one category such as desserts, meat, fish etc. The chefs are masters of their division. The kitchen is visible through the floor to ceiling glass windows from the dining room, on the other side is the view of the luscious countryside.
Yet another small fruity cocktail (embarrassingly I was quick to spill this one). Instead of a bowl of olives, the first appetiser was a delicious frozen olive and vermouth sphere in tangy olive soil. We had to choose between two menus, we settled on the ‘classic’ one. I was so looking forward to the next course. It was my biggest attraction to Azurmendi. The inside out truffled egg yolk. How disappointing 😦 Instead of being oozy, warm and runny in my mouth like I had expected, it was slightly more solidified and at room temperature. Not the sensation I had hoped for, though it looks great.
There were no less that three different types of bread paired with our meal, with the truffle egg we had a moist soft dough bun, and the olive oil was spectacular, I think I asked for three refills. We had this beautiful prawn and avocado salad next. I like that the restaurant has not been afraid to use avocado just like in the sphere, it was fresh and vibrant and oh-so-tasty.
The meal continued to tantalise with wonderful flavours, such as this perfectly cooked lobster on a herb-infused oil with sweet chive emulsion. Perched on top of the lobster was a crisp herb shell encasing, yes more lobster. MMMmmhh. This restaurant has perfected extracting light, fresh, bold tastes. Oh wow. This next dish made up for any disappointment felt at the truffled egg. This is an elegant ribbon of tender delicate squid, soon to be lathered in a sweet syrupy umami- abundant reduction. Outstanding, my favourite dish of the meal.
Alongside this was served a spoonful of roe and a pastry sphere filled with warm squid ink. As you can see, I was a very happy girl.
We love mushrooms. I got to Borough Market every Saturday morning to purchase a selection of fresh mushrooms for the weekend. And the mushrooms in the next course were very good, but there were an awful lot of them. The perfectly executed flavour bomb spheres featured again. Served alongside lamb sweetbreads, it was a delicious earthy course, but perhaps a bit excessive.
Building up in meatiness to the main, Navarra pigeon on some finely chopped mushrooms, served with an intense slick reduction, a roll of pigeon paté and just enough smooth cauliflower cream to bring it all together.
And to finish, ice cream infused with rosemary sandwiched between two chocolate biscuits with golden hazelnuts (almonds for me) and chocolate soil. MD and I rounded the meal off with some impressive tea (my fragrant jasmine was one of the best I’ve had) to go with our box of tasty treats and final sweets. Loved this place, the food was delicious, and beautiful and the restaurant and view was stunning. I would go back tomorrow.