Restaurants & Bars 24

Need help planning a foodie trip to San Sebastian plus north of Barcelona

willyum | Dec 8, 2011 06:06 PM

Promised my wife a special foodie trip to Spain but am not familiar with the restaurants, so I need some help. From gazing at the Michelin awards we were thinking of flying into either Madrid (cheaper from the US on the airlines we have FF miles with) or Barcelona (closer to the stars) and hopefully dining at at least four of the top 6 restaurants.

Thinking El Celler de Can Roca and Sant Pau north of Barcelona, then taking a couple of days to wander over to the Atlantic near Bilbao and San Sebastian, either by driving or by train, and dining at two of these four a few days later (I can only dine on food this rich two days in a row before needing some time off from the trough): Mugaritz, Akelarre, Martin Berasategui, or Arzak. In a real pinch I think I can sacrifice and maybe make it five meals.

First question is how tough is it to actually get reservations for these restos? El Bulli tough? French Laundry tough? Or actually possible for an average Joe to secure reservations a couple of months in advance via the internet?

Second question is does this plan actually make sense? Assuming the 2 north of Barcelona are doable, which two of the four Atlantic restaurants would you choose, or is this clearly overkill and we should just stick to two or three places? I enjoy the molecular stuff when done well (Alinea is our favorite resto in the USA) but often it’s not done well. Still enjoy more classical food preps like Guy Savoy or Per Se or French Laundry, so a mix of styles would be nice. Not that familiar with these regional Spanish/Basque foods.

What is a good time to go, ‘good’ meaning not too crowded, good local produce and meats/seafood available, decent weather, easier to get reservations … I’m thinking May but can pretty much go any time.

Finally, are all of these fairly easy for an English speaker to handle? I see a couple have multi-lingual waiters, hopefully all of them? I speak a little French (traveled to France six times) and a little less Spanish (been to Mexico and South America many times but generally to places where English was widely spoken) and can make out the main menu items, but am lost when they start asking about sauces or preparations etc. That’s at ‘normal’ restos, I’m sure I’d be even more lost at a molecular place.

Thanks for any help you can provide. Any good foodie links to these places would also be appreciated.


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