San Sebastian flows around a crescent bay lined with sandy beaches, with Branka set at one end next to the cliffs. The restaurant has spectacular views, the waves crashing over the rocks in front of the building. Branka has a casual bar serving tapas with outside seating at ground level, the formal dining room upstairs with picture windows looking over the sea and, further out, to the centre of San Sebastian on the horizon. The dining room itself has a wooden floor, large windows on two sides and a single painting on the opposite wall. The menu had mainly seafood options, though there were some meat choices as well. The wine list started at just €11.60 and went up to €115.50, the list printed over two pages but without listing the vintages of the wines. Example wines were Enate Unoaked Chardonnay 234 Somontano at €14.11 for wine that retails at about €11, Alion at €54 for a wine that costs around €57 in the high street, up to Flor de Pingus at €88 for a wine that varies sharply in price by vintage but even whose recent vintages would sell in a shop for about the same price.
Bread was ordinary, just plain white rolls of modest quality. A starter of padron peppers and green peppers was very simple, just warmed through, the peppers pleasant but having no better taste than you would encounter in London, and less good than those at the simple pintxos bar at which we ate the previous night (11/20). My starter arrived much later, a single red prawn and assorted vegetables with rice that had been cooked in a seafood stock. This was pleasant, the prawn tender, the rice properly cooked, though the vegetables did not have much flavour, with for example tasteless tomatoes (13/20).
A main course sole was simply grilled on the bone and had nice flavour, being accurately cooked. This was served with a few boiled potatoes on the side, so was an unambitious dish, but featured a good ingredient treated well (14/20). This was more than could be said for tuna, which was seriously overcooked, reduced to a sad grey, dried out lump of protein (8/20). This was served with more tasteless tomatoes and a couple of padron peppers; when a dish this simple goes wrong there is nowhere to hide, and this was just bad.
A local dessert is caramelised pain perdu (French toast) with coffee ice cream, and this was decent enough although the bread was soggy and insufficiently caramelized, though the ice cream was fine. This was adequate but again was inferior to the version we had tried at a pintxos bar the preceding evening (12/20). Coffee was fine (13/20) though the bill, with only water to drink, came to a hardly cheap €96 for two i.e. £39 a head. This was a lot of money at lunch for what was a series of dishes of decidedly mixed quality. Service was rather haphazard, with the two waitresses hardly overworked (with five tables to attend to between them) yet far from attentive. I had the distinct impression that this was a place that people went to because of the glorious view rather than for the food.
@RobinCouling @ChefVGDG Not easily.