It's taken me a while to finish this post. My first answer is to say that it's just taken time - there were over 20 courses, after all. But to be completely honest, I think it's because it was such a personal and intimate experience and subconsciously I want to keep it all to myself. But in reality, if this post inspires someone to visit the amazing Mugaritz then it's all worth it.
Let me start by saying my plans for San Sebastian were a bit ambitious. Some would even say stupid. I booked us in for two nights and planned to get to three of the best restaurants in the world in on the visit. So, in addition to Akelarre one night for dinner, this also required the herculean feat of visiting Mugartiz for lunch and then Arzak for dinner (more on that one in another post). Yep, that's 12 Michelin stars and over 50 courses in roughly 28 hours.
In any case, let me begin (and apologise for the longest post in the history of man).
First up, "Fishbones" with nuances of lemon, garlic, and cayenne pepper. It was a very interesting and tasty way to start the meal. Very crunchy on the outside but the lemon and garlic was super smooth.
I hate to say this, and I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, but the Summer truffle and "solera" was our least favourite dish by far. It was hard to put my finger on it but it was actually fairly bland. But you should have seen the waitress' face when the truffles collapsed before she placed it on the table! We had to reassure her a dozen times that it wasn't like she dropped it on the floor...
Dish #3 was Small crustaceans bind with seeds and saffron cream. Just have a look at those little prawns! We were absolutely back on track with this dish.
Now, Chef Aduriz is world famous for his Edible stones. Simple in concept - potatoes cooked in edible clay - but absolutely magnificent in execution. I mean, just look at these...
The simple but flawless theme continued with Preboggion, which is a Stew of weeds, and crisp potatoes. And by this time we realised that the pace of the dishes was perfect as well. Just fast enough to keep hunger at bay but slow enough to interact with the staff and have a good laugh.
Can you believe that our next dish was Green chickpeas with salt from the Anana valleys? I mean, seriously... simple ingredients at their finest.
This would probably be my second favourite dish of the meal - cold peach and razor clams. Who would have thought that those two went together so well? As soon as I can find some razor clams at the fish markets I'm giving this one a go.
Things started to get a little weird with Tanned lobster flesh and fermented rice. The fermented rice would be straightout weird and probably not very nice, were it not for the mind-blowing lobster. This dish rocks! And it turns out they use a machine from Korea and its sole purpose is to make this rice.
Sweet corn, milk cream, and seeds. I know this may not look that appealing, but trust me, it is. Oh yes.
An interpretation of a shark fin with roasted cauliflower broth was next. One guess what this is?? If you guessed calves tendons then you've been here or you need some sort of prize. Never would have thought it. Never would have eaten it before but this was well worth the risk.
Ok, this had to be one of the most fun parts of the meal and so indicative of the atmosphere they have created here. It was a dish of Poultry Royale, and a game of Astragals Royale. The dish was a poultry flavoured custard. But wait, we had to play a game with each other where you put a secret number of playing pieces behind your back and each person guesses what the other has. Turns out the Gourmet Female isn't very good at hiding her unused pieces so I won in a landslide. The prize? A massive tub of caviar that matched with the poultry custard in an absolutely amazing way.
Now, I think they do this for most people but I don't care - I got to visit the kitchen of the fourth best restaurant in the world. It was awe-inspiring. And I even stole an idea about a wall sized chalkboard in our new kitchen.
When we walked in we were greeted with a little macaron. I jumped in a bit too quickly - as it was racing down my esophagus one of the chefs jumped in and asked, "Do you eat everything?". He looked pretty concerned so I started to wonder what I just ate. Turns out these geniuses have discovered that the protein in pig's blood matches that of egg white. So that tasty little morsel was a pig's blood macaron with a foie gras filling. I don't care, it was freakin' amazing!
Back to the table and some Grilled squid with onion. I love the play on flavours and textures through all the dishes. Doesn't that look like burnt onion? Beautiful.
Following next was Cantabrian sea Bonito and dark Marmitako juice. That dark juice was so rich and thick but it matched the Bonito perfectly.
Next up, Red mullet in a butter of its own liver. With almonds and bread. Again, such an amazing combination of flavours and textures. Perfect.
Sweetbread of suckling lamb with seasonal mushrooms. Not a sweetbread fan? You would be after this one. I would absolutely love to grow those little mushrooms. Not to mention the amazing and spicy flowers.
Sheets of "entrecula", grilled steak emulsion and salt crystals. Pardon my French, but best-fucking-steak ever. See what's on it? That's a reduced fat emulsion of the steak itself. Come on. I can die now, thank you.
So, once the savoury dishes were finished we were ushered out to the beautiful garden to enjoy desserts. I'm not sure if it's the wine or the anticipation but someone's ready for dessert!
The mashed and dressed fruits with concentrated melon juice was so gorgeous I had to take a video of me pouring in the juice. Just beautiful and a perfect palate cleanser to start desserts.
Following on was frozen almond turron. Very reminiscent of an ice cream cone in flavour and texture. Beautiful!
Yeah, ok, the wine was kicking in by this point. Almost forgot to whip out my phone for the next photo. So, post-bite this is called "Glass. Sugar and cocoa as a cookie". And yes, it is as good as it looks. Better, actually.
The next dessert was "Mocha in its lightest version". They weren't kidding - this thing almost disappeared before it passed my lips. So incredibly light.
The last official dish was candy caviar. See the rocks the cone is set in? Cookie dough. Yep, we've reached "best meal of my life" status.
We finished with the seven deadly sins. Want to know what wrath was? Empty. Genius.
It's hard to say just what made this meal so amazing. Part of it was the glorious food, obviously. But part was the lovely and oh-so-friendly maitre d ("Where do you go next?" he asked. Zaragoza. "Ooooooh, th-era-go-th-aaaa". We still mimic it to this day), the interesting diners who were happy to have a chat, the kitchen tour, and the garden. But I think it also was because I finally said "screw it, I'm going to ask what's on my mind". And the end result? Number one was an authentic chef's apron from the kitchen! You can't buy these folks.
Now I need the courage (and respect) to wear it.
But part of it was also scoring my copy of Mugaritz BSO, spotting Chef Aduriz at the end of the meal and getting him to personally sign it.
Yep, definitely the meal of my life. I don't think I can ever go back as any other visit couldn't possibly live up to this experience. It was emotional. Thank you, Mugaritz, Chef and team. You made my holiday.
Unbelievably, a quick snooze and off to Arzak for dinner! More on that soon.