Kaia Kaipe was founded in 1962, specialising in seafood dishes as befits its coastal location. It is located in Getaria, a little fishing port 25km west of San Sebastian. Indeed the name itself reflects the two-storey location: “kaia” means “port” and “kaipe” means “below the port”, the restaurant looking out over the harbour. Kaia Kaipe is, by two years, the older sister of nearby Elkano, The entrance is in a narrow, pedestrianised alley just below the main street of the town. It is noted for its turbot in particular, as indeed is Elkano. The large upstairs dining room was well lit, with a tiled floor and generously spaced tables. The large charcoal grills for the fish were in the open air down by the beach. Both restaurants are owned by Igor Arregi, the grandson of the founders of the restaurant.
Kaia Kape has a very extensive wine list, with no less than 40,000 bottles in total, and over 1,000 different labels. A private list aimed at regular customers and friends only lists a further 4,000 bottles with Riojas dating back to the 1920s. The wines are carefully cellared, with the main cellar a steady 15C (59F), and a separate cellar keeps white wine at 5C (41F). The wine list was not only huge in scale but was remarkably generous in its pricing. Vega Sicilia Alion 2008 was just €47, not bad for a wine that costs €69 in a shop. Unico 1999 was €199, way below its current market price of €345. Even the French wines were absurdly cheap: Batard Montrachet Drouhin 2007 was €189 compared to a retail price of €287, and so the list went on. This is a dream of a wine list.
A simple plate of cooked tuna in olive oil arrived as we read the menu, the fish having good flavour but for me was a bit overcooked; it would have been interesting to try it raw or lightly seared (12/20). Bread in the form of a baguette was apparently made in house, and had nice texture (14/20). Padron peppers were fine, though of course the kitchen had limited intervention here. Sweet red pepper filled with crab was very enjoyable, the crab clearly very fresh (14/20). The best of the starters was langoustine fried in a light batter, the shellfish palpably fresh and sweet (16/20). For the main course we shared a large whole turbot, which came just with a simple green salad. The turbot was superb, perfectly cooked with its flavour enhanced by a gentle smoky hint from the charcoal grill. It is tricky to score something as simple as this, but you would not find better turbot in a multi-starred Michelin restaurant (18/20). Desserts were back down to earth, with a pleasant but unexceptional apple pie (13/20). Coffee was quite good.
The bill came to just €86 (£68) per head, for three courses and coffee with superb wine (Alion, Mauro VS) and some old Pedro Ximines to finish. This is ridiculously good value. The service was charming, and ended the evening on a remarkable note. We went on a Sunday night, and when we called for a taxi it transpired that none were available for over an hour. The owner Igor Arregi then insisted on driving us all the way back to San Sebastián (15 miles) and refused any payment. I can't see this sort of thing catching on at, say, Marcus Wareing. Kaia Kaipe may not have any Michelin stars, but the turbot here is a thing of beauty, and the wine list alone makes it worth the trip.
We dined here in May 2014 on the recommendation of a chef in Bilbao who knew we appreciate good wine. Like Andy says the wine list here is just incredible -- the depth (vintages of Rioja back to the 1920s), width (seemingly all the great houses of Burgundy and Bordeaux, some Napa cult wines, Italy, Rhone) and stunningly low prices on classic bottles (one 1996 Napa cab was about $350 here and the same vintage is listed at $1,600 at Napa's French Laundry, for example). Igor befriended us and took us on a tour of the wine cellar, which was about the size of my house. And he said there was a second smaller cellar nearby. On the wall was a photo of Wine Advocate's Robert Parker beaming as he selected a Burgundy from the year of his wife's birth. Igor also took us to a room with a dozen or so tanks where live shrimp, lobsters (several kinds), crabs etc were kept for maximum freshness. Really enjoyable meal (we took the bus from San Sebastian, which doesn't run at night, so plan on lunch for inexpensive transportation). I would go back just to splurge on wine (we had the Mauro VS like Andy, per Igor's suggestion, and liked it so much we drank it at Mugaritz and Azurmendi later in the week).