Famous for his Rioja, but born in San Sebastián — Juan Muga, of Bodegas Muga, gives us the inside track to the best restaurants in this gastronomic hotspot…
Juan Muga’s best restaurants in San Sebastián
My family started as wine-growers in 1590, and my grandparents, Isaac Muga and Aurora Caño, founded Bodegas Muga in Haro in 1932. Haro is not too far from San Sebastián, only about 140km inland to the southwest.
With its sandy beaches facing out into the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián is synonymous with good living. A city of just 170,000 people, not only does it boast more Michelin stars per resident than any other in the world, but it also has three restaurants with three stars each.
The Old Town area alone is famed for its pintxo bars, where you’ll find both a huge selection of the local speciality – pintxos are tapas-like snacks served in typical Basque style, usually on a skewer or toothpick (a pintxo) – and also a wide choice of wines that offers much greater variety than is usually found in Spain.
San Sebastián is a showcase for the image of the nation’s products: it’s the cradle of gastronomy in Spain.
I have wonderful childhood memories of the great friendship between my father Manolo Muga and Txomin Rekondo – a reference in Basque cooking who has one of the greatest wine cellars in the world. Try the rice with clams here. Find out more
A gem from the neighbouring fishing village, Getaria. This one-star Michelin restaurant – now run by Aitor, son of the late founder Pedro Arregui – has the best fish in the area (with its neighbour Kaia-Kaipe). The turbot reigns supreme. Find out more
Arrive early to secure your place here, as it’s always overbooked. Justly famed for its tomato salad and the txuleta – T-bone steak. Find out more
Father and daughter Juan Mari and Elena set a worldwide standard. The inventive cooking and three Michelin stars speak for themselves. They have a spectacular cellar of wines too, managed by the great Mariano. Find out more
A reliable choice on the western outskirts of the city. Known as one of the best steakhouses in the Basque Country, but also serves fine seafood. Don’t miss the txuleta de vaca – aged T-bone steak. Find out more
The best option in San Sebastián to enjoy a good lamb chop at any time of day, as the kitchen here stays open until midnight. Find out more
Bodega Donostiarra Has a deservedly high reputation based on the sheer quality of its raw ingredients. The pintxo completo (baguette of tuna, anchovy and pickled green peppers) is a must, and the tortilla is also an excellent choice. Find out more
The txangurro (crab) pie and the selection of mushrooms make this an essential call. Find out more
One of the best bars in San Sebastián – don’t miss the pintxo La Delicia (pictured above), which is made with anchovy, egg, onion and parsley.Call +34 943 421 423
Located in the nearby fishing village, Getaria. Kaia-Kaipe is next to the harbour and serves the best grilled turbot I have tasted anywhere (along with nearby Elkano). The dishes are complemented by an outstanding wine list. Find out more
Nearest airport San Sebastián / Bilbao
KEY: 1) Rekondo 2) Arzak 3) Portuetxe 4) Kaia-Kaipe 5) Elkano
6) Ganbara 7) Gandarias 8) Bar Nestór 9) La Espiga 10) Bodega Donostiarra
Born in San Sebastián, Juan Muga is co-manager at Rioja producer Bodegas Muga, family owned and run since 1932.
This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Decanter magazine.