31 de Agosto Kalea, 23, San Sebastian, 20003, Spain

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Gandarias is a restaurant and bar in the historical quarter of Sam Sebastian. As you enter there is a display of pintxos and crowds of people standing around nibbling these snacks. The dining room is a little further inside and is a more formal setting, with closely packed tables covered with white linen tablecloths.

Stemware was all Riedel, which was promising, and indeed there was quite a lengthy wine list. Wines included Pagos de Anguix Costalara 2020 at €32 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €26, Zarate El Palomar Albariño 2021 at €56.30 compared to its retail price of €42, and Artadi Pagos Viejos 2013 at €182 for a wine that will set you back €52 in a shop. At the posh end of the list Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 ano 2018 was €140.50 compared to its retail price of €149, and Vega Sicilia Unico 2012 was €326.59 for a wine whose current market value is €342. It was interesting to see several wines priced below €20 on the list here, something almost unthinkable in even the simplest restaurant list in London these days.

The best dish was a simple starter of grilled white prawns from Huelva in south western Spain, an area noted for this particular prawn. These were cooked a la plancha and had excellent natural sweetness (easily 14/20). Less successful was a starter of red peppers stuffed with crab forcemeat in a tomato sauce. The peppers had become a little soggy in texture and the crab had limited flavour; the tomato sauce was at least decent (11/20). Foie gras terrine was quite smooth in texture and a flavour that was quite strong, less subtle than the very best foie gras that you encounter in the Landes region but still pleasant enough (13/20).

Suckling pig was roasted and had reasonable flavour, with quite crisp skin, but the meat was a little overcooked to my taste and was a touch dry (11/20). On the side were some fairly sad chips that were a long way from being crisp and golden. Rather unusually, the dessert menu featured two different cheesecakes, one labelled with the name of local pastry chef Rafa Gorrotxatagi (who has a shop in town) and the other presumably made in the kitchen. We tried both and they were pleasant enough, the “premium” one from the pastry shop having slightly better texture than the other. As this was bought in, I won’t bother scoring it.

Service was a touch slow but pleasant enough, and the bill came to €349 (£298) each but that was purely because we drank some of the best wine available, including a 2012 Vega Sicilia Unico, which was lovely. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be €80 (£68). We actually popped back on the same trip to try the pintxos here, and I enjoyed the pintxos e.g. some crisp fried prawns, rather more than the food in the sit-down restaurant.

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