It has taken me a long time to write this review, because it is difficult to put an experience at Azurmendi into words. This magical and innovative restaurant is located in the hills just outside Bilbao, and has received every accolade imaginable… three michelin stars, a place on the World’s 50 Best, and the building has even been recognised as the most sustainable restaurant in the world in 2014. My expectations were high but Chef Eneko Atxa Azurmendi still managed to wow me with his storytelling and delicious culinary creations.
After a brief tour of the vegetable garden, solar panels and vineyards, we were welcomed into a beautiful glass atrium with a live leaf covered wall. A taster of the restaurant’s own wine was placed in our hands as we walked through in amazement.
Before long a hatted chef arrived with the cutest picnic basket, opening it to reveal three bitesized Basque-inspired canapes including a frozen tomato lollipop, a smoked eel sandwich and a Etxano cheese sandwich. Despite the minute size, each was packed full of vibrant flavour.
Next we ventured into the kitchen for Marine turnip with herbs emulsion cooked on a BBQ and tropical tasting sea txakoli drink.
Once seated a smart but softly spoken waiter came over to explain the two tasting menu options… the classic or seasonal. After a long deliberation we decided on the classic menu in order to sample a range of Eneko’s most renowned dishes. A leafy box was presented to us first, a deliciously rich meaty mousse topped with lemongrass and vermouth light jelly.
Next dish was a magical ‘Farm’s Egg cooked inside out and truffled’. This spherical delight was best eaten in one mouthful, as the yolk burst almost instantly releasing a rich truffle liquid.
With ten courses still to go we paced ourselves and tried to truly relish each course which arrived smelling and looking divine. Natural sea urchin with emulsion and citric hints was a difficult description to fully understand. The dish was presented in two pretty pots filled with pale pink foam and vibrant red sauce. Sea urchin, but unlike I had ever seen it before.
I had tried a simplified version of the Beetroot Tartare in Eneko’s London restaurant but at Azurmendi it was elevated to a more spectacular plate (or board) of food, with delicate textures and tastes all combining to create a vibrant and tasty vegetarian dish.
Garlic mushrooms was an Asian influenced recipe with a tightly wrapped noodle parcel fragrantly flavoured with mushrooms and two deep fried quail’s eggs that burst to reveal a bright orange yolk and release an extra creaminess to the dish.
Tear Peas are a special seasonal vegetable in the Basque region that they treasure and treat with great respect. This dish was simple but sublime, celebrating the tiny bursting peas and dressing with ham gel and soaked sponge cubes.
Roasted lobster with mayonnaise, was the star dish of the meal for my guest. It was so stylishly presented that I couldn’t resist taking numerous photos to try to capture it’s beauty. The fleshy lobster was immaculately prepared and seasoned, with edible flowers garnishing the plate.
Crunchy Hake with roasted peppers infusion was perhaps the most classical dish we tried. A beautiful piece of fish carefully battered and served with a light and complementing sauce. The seafood from this region is of such a high quality sometimes it is best to try it simply cooked.
The final savoury course was Pigeon with duxelle and legume flowers. It was the best pigeon I have ever tasted. Cooked very precisely so that the texture was smooth and easy to bite through, but still tender with plenty of flavour. Paired with a rich sauce, fresh Springtime peas and a little foie gras bite, it was the perfect dish for me.
As the desserts began to arrive we lamented the inevitable end to this meal. First a palate cleansing Yoghurt ice-cream with five spice sponge cake and meringue.
We loved the Chocolate, peanuts and liquorice dessert which arrived on an alarming black plate. The aniseed flavour subtly cut through the rich chocolate mousse and there was a lovely crunch from the peanuts.
Coffees and a beautiful box of petits fours arrived to mark the end of the meal. Before leaving the restaurant we visited Eneko and his staff in the kitchen. It was an experience in itself to see the talented team work so flawlessly.
Azurmendi was one of the best and most memorable meals of my life. This restaurant team will take you on a culinary journey that is both delicious and wildly imaginative.
More information and book a table here.