So, I mentioned we had some fancy food while in Spain, didn’t I? On the night of our wedding anniversary Erik and Marga took us to Restaurante Solana. Erik blogged that one here, and my own photos are here.
The following day we were in Bilbao, prior to catching our flight back to Brussels. I didn’t have many expectations about Bilbao, apart from knowing that it was home to Frank Gehry’s famous Guggenheim museum, but I found it to be a fantastically pleasant and attractive place to wander around, full of parks and beautiful buildings, both old and new.
For dinner we mulled a few Michelin-starred options. Nerua inside the Guggenheim had decidedly mixed reviews, and three-starred Azurmendi was a little out of town and we wanted to stay more central. Eventually the beautiful photos in this blogpost tipped the balance in favour of Restaurante Mina. It’s situated in the old town, by the side of the river and opposite the recently renovated central market. We arrived at 9, which is early by Spanish dinnertime standards. The interior was modest but welcoming and full of enticing odours, and the staff were very friendly and spoke excellent English.
We chose the ten course tasting menu with matching wines which, at 75 Euro each, was great value for money. We started with monkfish sashimi and olive cream.
For the first course my wife had requested an alternative to the oyster, so she received mackerel sashimi.
Mine was the oyster topped with salted butter and spiced breadcrumbs
Spider crab covered in an emulsion of egg yolk, honey and passion fruit. Miraculously the creamy topping didn’t drown out the delicate flavour of the crab meat.
The next dish is pretty much all onion, from the cream to the jelly to the cube of raw onion to my favourite, the dried onion slice on top.
The next dish is cooked like a risotto but contains no rice. in its place are tiny cubes of “begi handi” squid with lemon confit, a slice of horseradish and a sprinkling of trout roe. Fascinating, and the squid cubes gave it a wonderfully chewy feel.
This, despite the slight fuzziness of the photo, was one of the more memorable dishes of the meal for me. Coffee-flavoured blood pudding. I know, it sounds awful, but it was amazing. Very rich too, but the portion size was just right.
Rabbit, mushroom, liver and a Camembert foam.
Cantabria hake in a Norwegian lobster sauce. Initially we were worried about the fish, which looked dangerously undercooked, but in the mouth it was perfect.
Veal sweetbread with mushroom, apple cream and a coffee swoosh. Very tender and soft and tasty.
Dessert number one: lemon cream, yoghurt cake (the honeycombed flakes) and milk ice cream.
Dessert two: thyme smoked cream and lime-infused chocolate. Both fantastic, but the smoky flavour of the otherwise innocuous-looking cream cubes was amazing.
And finally a little chocolate mousse to go with our coffee.
A very impressive meal, well paced and impeccably presented. Apparently they’re considered one of the most promising restaurants in the region, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them get their second star next year.