A unique rural restaurant where everything on the menu is grilled to perfection
What makes it unique: A combination of skilful barbecuing techniques, the chef himself, the exquisite rural setting, the deeply unpretentious atmosphere of the restaurant and, of course, the food. Oh, the food…
The food first, then? Flavourful in the extreme. Dishes are relatively simple, relying on the quality of the super-fresh ingredients and the masterful grill cooking of chef-owner Victor Arguinzoniz. Some are merely licked by flames, others grilled over fierce heat, but all have a distinctive smokiness imbued by the carefully selected woods over which everything is cooked. The simplest plates – home-made chorizo, salted anchovy on toast, giant Palamos prawns, the legendary beef chop – are also the most outstanding.
And the chef? Victor Arguinzoniz was born and raised in the farming community of Axpe, a tiny village nestled beneath mountains an hour’s drive southeast of Bilbao. When he bought the restaurant building in the centre of the village, he and his family rebuilt it entirely themselves. He is self-taught and has only ever worked in one kitchen – his own – where he designed and built his famous adjustable-height grills. He rarely leaves the restaurant except to tend to his farm animals, which supply many of the raw ingredients for his tasting menu.
What is different about the restaurant itself: It may be a globally acclaimed destination, but there are no airs and graces here. Downstairs is a simple bar, which effectively doubles as the village pub; upstairs there are two spacious beamed dining areas, the décor reflecting the rustic nature of the surrounds but mixed with elements of contemporary art. The room is overseen by the eccentric but wonderful maître d’ and sommelier Agusti Peris, who brings a natural charm and super-relaxed service style to proceedings. Moreover, aside from Saturday evenings, it is only open for lunch.