Pintxos Hunting in Bilbao

After traveling for longer than I would care to admit we’re finally here. In Basque Country. Beginning a pilgrimage that will hopefully come to fruition in September.

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The city is beautiful. Open and welcoming with rolling green hills in the background and an incredibly dynamic architectural landscape. The streets are clean, the evening breeze refreshing and the pintxos bars seemed to stretch before us like the promised land. And when so offered how could one refuse?

 

LA OLLA

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La Olla seems to be a quite popular venue located in the old town of Bilbao. It’s big, bustling and some of the menues are in English. We were ravenous after traveling all day and ordered a little bit of everything. And then more of everything. And then a bit of everything on the side.

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Jambon Iberico on pan con tomate. Classic but so delicious. If anything defines Spanish food for me it’s this simple pairing.

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An unexpected croque monsieur helped sate the worst of our hunger. There are limits to how advanced one can make this dish, but it seemed as if they had baked it with some kind of blue cheese, which definitely gave the finished product more umpf.

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Poached eggs with toast. Delicious.

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The mushroom with jambon and cream cheese was decent but incredibly difficult to eat. Dumpling with pork filling was a welcome variation, but taste-wise it was a bland experience.

P1020235Octopus with paprika and potatoes.

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Octopus with crab meat was a bit tasteless. Not outright bad, just tasteless.

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Anchovies with tomatoes and herbs.

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BAR ZUGA

Bar Zuga is located by Plaza Nueva, right next to La Olla. The staff are friendly, the txakoli wine ok but not great, and the tapas are definitely more enticing to look at than they are rewarding to eat. Pass by.

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Garishly green sushi that would have tasted better if the chef had known how to cook rice.

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Quite decent morcilla sausage with foi gras topping.

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XUKELA

This classic haunt has been open since 1982, but if one looks past the wear and tear of the years it does offer a decent selection of pintxos and quite charming staff.

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Morcilla blood sausage and oyster mushrooms. Nothing fancy, but the mushrooms were perfectly prepared and had a great concentration of taste, while the crostini complemented and lifted the morcilla. My favourite pintxos of the evening.

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After eating more than any sane person can manage we switched from pintxos to barsnacks and from beer and cider to stonger spirits. All in all I was a bit dissapointed in the quality of pintxos that we had ordered,but whatever weaknesses Bilbao has as a pintxos mekka it more than makes up for with charm.

 

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…and late nights at the Winston Churchill Pub, but more on that later.

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