San Sebastian/Donostia – Part 1

The drive from Lekeitio to San Sebastian/Donostia was along the northern coastline of Spain, looking out to the Bay of Biscay. This was a lovely drive along a winding road. It would have been the perfect ride on a motorbike but was also enjoyable in the Beemer.

We avoided the highways on the way into San Sebastian and one road, in particular, was very much off the beaten track. It was incredibly skinny in places and while it was a 2-way road, most of the time there was only enough room for 1.

Travelling on this road, however, was fortuitous as we came across a small town in the hills which had a couple of restaurants and bars. We decided to stop here for lunch.

Leo and Kath had the Tuna in Tomato sauce, I had the Cod Omelette and Gary had the Roast Chicken. I joked at the time that a whole chicken would come out. Well, I was half right in that exactly half of a chicken came out!

The chicken looked pretty tasty though and I had a certain amount of food envy at that moment.

We finished lunch and continued onto our accommodation at La Galleria Hotel. We arrived at around 3pm, which allowed us to check in, however, we couldn’t drop the car off until 4pm as the drop off location was closed for siesta.

We took the bags to the room etc and waited around for a bit before heading off to top up the tank and to drop the car off, after which we walked back to the hotel.

For dinner tonight we’d pre-booked into a traditional Cider house called Lizeaga. It was a little way out of town so we took a Taxi to arrive at around 8pm, which was opening time.

This was an interesting experience, to say the least, and one that somewhat took me by surprise. I’m not sure what I was expecting as for some reason I had in my mind that this was more of a tourist destination, however, it most certainly is not aimed at your average tourist.

It is very much a place where locals come to eat and there is a very static approach to their service.

As you walk in you are handed a cider glass and taken to your table. There is a stick of bread dropped on the table along with a bottle of their own cider and shortly after and a menu is produced.

There were two options for the menu, Traditional or Alternative. We selected from both menus to suit our needs and before long some sausages appeared.

The one thing that was absent was an actual plate to eat from. This was a little strange, but hey, we went with it as the first of our courses appeared from the kitchen.

Kath ordered the tomato salad from the alternate menu and Leo, Gary and I had the Cod Omelette. At this point we still had not received any plates. So, again, going with it, we mostly ate from the one shared plate, portioning off pieces of omelette with each bite using our napkins to ensure there was no spillage on the table.

Next up came 3 serves of the grilled Cod with Peppers (capsicum). Surely we’ll get a plate this time as the peppers are precariously balanced on top of the piece of beautifully grilled cod.

Nope, no plate.

It was at this point that I had to do something. Three of us surely couldn’t eat this dish from the one place with getting it all over the bare table. Up until this point, we’d been using out napkins as plates, but with the fish, the napkin approach wasn’t going to cut it.

I attracted the attention of one of the wait staff and asked if I could get an extra plate. Her answer was basically, no. This is traditional she said. I was a little taken back to say the least.

Perhaps there is a tax on plates? Maybe they are adverse to washing up or the dishwasher is broken? Seriously, I can’t have a plate?! Luckily we had some of the entree plates remaining so we were able to make things work, but we were seriously perplexed by what seemed a very odd stance.

In thinking through it, perhaps there was a language issue? Perhaps they thought I was asking for another plate of the cod? I seriously hope this was the case as I just can’t fathom the alternative.

The main course was char-grilled steak, which was delightfully cooked slab of meat, kind of like an enormous t-bone. It was super tender and juicy but again, no plates to eat off so by now we’d foraged enough left over plates to get by.

The last course was dessert, which consisted of walnuts, cheese, quince paste and some sweet pastry curls. As you can see, by this time they’d taken away our hoarded plates so we were again huddled around our napkins.

The cider itself wasn’t exactly to my liking, nor Kath or Gary, however, Leo did enjoy it so while Leo continued with the cider, the rest of us enjoyed a Vino Tinto (red wine). The cider isn’t like cider as we know it. It has a certain ‘funk’ to it, like a fermented kind of funk.

All in all the food was very good, and it was a very enjoyable experience, however the plate situation still has us scratching our heads.

Getting a taxi back to our hotel became a challenge as they tied calling one for us but there was no answer after 4 separate calls. Eventually, they advised that a cab would be 10 minutes away, which saw us safely back to the hotel for our first night in San Sebastian/Donostia.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we go pintxo-ing in the old town.

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