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San Sebastián, Spain


Innovation being passed from generation to generation

You may have heard of a certain Catalan chef and his restaurant on the Costa Brava who made waves a few years ago. But before El Bulli and Ferran Adrià there was the mighty Juan Mari Arzak, and after El Bulli we have the restaurant’s second generation, Elena Arzak Espina. Like her father before her, Elena describes herself as “hard-working, thorough and restless”, and it’s that combination of inquisitiveness and rigour that has kept Arzak on the cutting edge – celebrated consistently even in this most creatively fertile of regions.          

The contrast between the old-school façade of the restaurant and the uncompromising commitment to innovation inside sets the scene for a surprise-filled night. This being Basque country, the influence of the sea is ever close, but it’s cumin crisps that complement the lobster and spinach, and while local is prized here, the Arzaks’ outlook is broad, so it’s Korean chilli sauce ssämjang that makes a lentil ‘cookie’ pop and sing. Foie gras may have long been a specialty of the house, but it is eggs that have made the restaurant’s name (eggs poached in a bag, after all, are now known in kitchens throughout the world as ‘Arzak eggs’). The latest iteration, the red egg, doesn’t disappoint. Combining piquillo peppers and crisped-up trotter meat, it’s the best thing to happen to the humble yolk-and-pork combination since Heston Blumenthal first stuck bacon in his ice-cream churn.

Images: Coconut, Jose lopez

On the pass

  • Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak Espina

Pastry chef

Style of food

  • Modern Basque

Standout dish

  • The red egg