Part of the Donosti experience is going on a tour through the bars. A Pintxo Crawl. Todopintxos.com has a few themed routes that you can follow which are pretty good. I find the best tactic is to have at least two pintxos in each bar, otherwise you spend a lot of time waiting and walking between bars and far less time actually eating. And that would be the point of that!?
Many bars are really set up for this, Paco Bueno being a prime example. It’s an ideal place to start as pintxo crawl, right at the entrance of the old part, you can be in and out in 2 minutes having got underway. And there’s little doubt as to what to have – deep fried prawn or “prawn in its raincoat” as its commonly called. Iombi would be another, little doubt that the essential pintxo is the foie “iombi”. Have that, move on.
There are bars, however, that really demand more time. A Fuego Negro is an obvious one, where they have so many inventive, different “little things” that it would be hard to put your finger on exactly which one you would most recommend. What is their star pintxo? Who knows. La Cuchara de San Telmo is another. Well ok, if you have to choose one then maybe the foie. But you´d be missing out on so much. So, so much.
And I have to say that to the latter list, I would add Zeruko. I think it has one of the best pintxo menus in San Sebastian. Not just that it has two or three “star” pintxos, but it has such an extensive menu of truly inventive, memorable and unique pintxos that it demands some time. I´m always surprised at quite how much there is to have there. The pintxos along the top of the bar are the most striking of any in San Sebastian. And there´s real variety and depth to what they offer. And when you try something off their menu, just pick one at random, then another, then another…
And it may be a controversial opinion among pintxo crawlers of San Sebastian, but for me their deep fried prawn, their prawn tempura, outdoes even Paco Bueno. I get the impression my enthusiasm for Zeruko doesn’t seem reciprocated by locals. I´m not sure why, but it´s not a bar that seems to be talked off often, not in the same way as La Cuchara or A Fuego Negro. Maybe it doesn’t have the same hooks of those bars to make an interesting story. A Fuego Negro has the design and marketing, La Cuchara has well known chefs who have worked in Arzak. Maybe where Zeruko does let itself down is in the décor, the lighting isn’t quite right, the tables and chairs at the back look cheap, the location isn’t quite as inviting as others, they don’t seem to have the cool designs or cache of other bars. But none of this bothers me, in fact I quite like it. It seems somehow more natural, less studied. Don’t let it put you off anyway. In Zeruko they really take care of you, make you feel welcome and go out of their way to accommodate you. I should know, I once turned up with a group of 16 hungry mates and they bent over backwards for us.
They also have David Moreno Crianza as their house red. A lovely, easy to drink Rioja that goes with most things. Try it! The cellar is worth a visit if you´re in La Rioja, but stick to the crianza, the reservas are average.
Here´s a selection of some of the things I had last time I was in…
Bar Zeruko. Pescadería 10, Old Part, Donostia-San Sebastian.
David Moreno. http://www.davidmoreno.es.