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Mugaritz

Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, Errenteria, San Sebastian, 20100, Spain

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Andoni Luis Aduriz set up Mugaritz in 1998 after working at El Bulli from 1993 to 1994 and from 1996 as chef at Martin Berasategui. Mugaritz gained a second Michelin star in 2005. Mr Aduriz is acknowledged as being at the forefront of the creative cuisine that Spain has become known for; not bad for someone who failed his first year at catering college. Mugaritz is in the hills a few miles from San Sebastian (about twenty minutes by car). After a major fire in 2010 it was completely rebuilt, with an attractive garden and spacious dining room. There is no menu here, but the restaurant ask you in advance of any dietary preferences before preparing a lengthy series of small courses from their famously wide repertoire of dishes, the meal priced at €170 (£137).

The dining room has widely spaced tables, seating up to 50 people at any one time, the room divided up into sections by little screens. No less than 35 chefs work in the kitchen to prepare the complex dishes. The wine list had a quite wide range, with plenty of fine Spanish wines but also, for example, some good German Rieslings. Belondrade Y Lurton Quinta Apolonia Blanco Joven Castilla Leon 2009 was priced at €42 for a wine that you can find in a shop for €19, Fritz Haag Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese Brauneberger Bereich Bernkasteler 2008 €70 for a wine that retails at around €24, and Vega Sicilia Tinto Valbuena 5 Ano was €320 for a wine that will set you back about €95 in a shop. We drank Jermann vintage Tunina at €90 for a wine that retails at around €48.

The meal began with an envelope placed on the table sealed with wax; inside was a thin card with the message "bread and olives"; the card turns out to be an edible cracker, olive paste is provided on the side. This was a foretaste of the very technical food in which Mugaritz specialises. A single strand of spinach was served warm and dusted with a powder made with chrysanthemum flowers, which had little inherent flavour. Harmless enough, but this was in the end just a little piece of spinach.

Sea anenome mousse was encased in a cigar-shaped savoury tuile and served in a box of sand. This was not unpleasant, and was doubtless a good example of sea anenome mousse. This was followed by bone marrow on toast, which I know some people love but does nothing for me. "Grapes" with dried tuna turned out to be warm melon, topped with hard pieces of dried tuna and spiced seeds; I didn't find this an enjoyable combination.

Noodles of milk skin were wrapped in lard and served with an emulsion of tomatoes and pumpkin. The "noodles" were hard in texture, the emulsion not having a lot of flavour. Baby squid with lemon had distinctly chewy squid, which was hard to forgive in a part of the world with very fine squid, and indeed where I had eaten superb squid at lunch on the very same day at Ibai. It may be hard to benchmark sea anemone mouse, but it is easy to tell good from mediocre squid. "Cheese" with mushrooms turned out to be a concoction of mail and flax seeds that resembles cheese, served with a few warm ceps; this was pleasant enough, but not as enjoyable as, say, an actual goat cheese.

Hake with cauliflower and marscapone cheese was the best dish of the meal to this point, the hake capably cooked, the powder of cauliflower pleasant, but this for me was still merely pleasant, perhaps 15/20 level cooking. Better was sargo, a fish a little like sea bream served with deep fried pasta; the fish was carefully cooked, well seasoned and the crunchy pasta with it provided an interesting texture contrast (17/20). The next stage involved some audience participation: a pestle and mortar was provided, with the diners asked to grind some pepper seeds. Then a few pieces of cod and a broth of vegetable stock and sunflower seeds was provided to be added in order to make a soup. The broth had an unfortunate grey appearance and little flavour, and the overall effect was distinctly unappetizing, the kind of thing that someone might serve at a school canteen (10/20). Better was veal with honey and meat powder, the veal nicely cooked, the meat powder giving an additional texture (15/20). Raviolo of aromatic vegetables and herbs, though, had a very bitter taste and the pasta had an odd, chewy texture. My lamb with brain ragout was better, with reasonable quality lamb and a creamy ragout of lamb brains (15/20).

Pear ice dream was served with caramelised milk and cheese, a combination of flavours that I did not enjoy. An almond "biscuit" was essentially almond ice cream,and was pleasant enough, though the simple almond ice cream I had at lunch on the same day was better. Milk with lemon and figs was odd; additional lemon juice was provided in a pipette, but the bowl already had far too much lemon in it to be remotely balanced. A leaf with chocolate and a grain of salt had a minty taste, which was fine if hardly exciting. Finally candles of frankincense and perfume of eucalyptus bark had a couple of sticks of chewing gum mint which resembled sherbet on the palate, and were pleasant. The meal concluded with good coffee and chocolate-coated nuts.

The service was very good throughout, the staff charming and efficient. The bill came to €489.50 for two, which works out at £193 a head. For all the technical culinary wizardry on display, I cannot say that I enjoyed my meal here very much. With this kind of food I was not expecting to like every course, but there seemed to me far too many misses compared to hits, and the dishes that were enjoyable were merely good rather than dazzling. I freely admit to preferring classical to modernist food, but this seemed to me far less successful than the food at restaurants such as Oud Sluis or Alinea, where inventiveness does not come at the expense of flavour. Moreover I do not think that poor ingredients, such as the chewy squid tonight, are ever acceptable in an expensive restaurant.

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  • Tom S.

    I am surprised that I see this restaurant has 14/20. I went there, and I can honestly say that it was one of the worst meals I have ever had. Of the 24 courses, I would say that 3 were great, 4 were good, 8 were OK, 7 were bad, and 4 were disgusting. I know you won't get 24 great dishes, but at places like Akelarre, Arzak, nad Etxebarri, the flavors and cooking were at a much higher level, and everything other than the plating was better in every way. I feel that this is getting a much better score from you than it deserves. Based on your scale, and your description, this should be no higher than a 10, and in all honestly, probably around a 6.

  • Mark Barefoot

    Totally agree. We are there recently and for us it was style over substance. A real let down. Five of the dishes I tried I couldn't finish. The staff were a bit odd at times. We had a cream that has chilli peppers in it, not visible though. It was so hot! They just giggled and I tried to say has they tasted it themselves. My partner had the alcohol free pairing which was a waste of time. They could learn some things from Atera in NYC. They just put glasses down with no explanation. We had to speak after a few to say "look, this is a pairing and you should asvise". Thankfully our meal the night before at Restaurant Martin Berasategui was faultless and yes we like modern good but only if it's good!!

  • Robert Kwok Khoon

    I was at mugaritz for lunch on 19th April 2017. Having been here many years ago..expected a similar enlightening experience. Unfortunately the lunch was a bad let down.i totally agree with your comments that molecular cuisine sometimes is taken too far.Mugaritz is one restaurant that's has done this to the extent that it was difficult to finish my meal. Every dish became a poor surprise...and that can be tiring. And you are correct that restaurants at this level charging these prices cannot have poor materials. I will not be returning to this restaurant any time in the near future

  • Joseph Sanki

    Andy, I was there in September 2012. Your review is highly accurate. The service is brilliant and the sommelier world class. Most diners were taken into the kitchen during the meal, which is something different. However, the bottom line is most of the dishes do not taste good.

  • Mario Preciado

    I do not understand how can you eat at IBAI for lunch and them Mugaritz for dinner. They are two very different kind of restaurants so in my opinion they are not comparable. At Ibai We once had a 2kg Dover sole simply cooked a la donostiarra, stunning.I have also seen life baby squid and the most stunning fresh seafood. I have been to Mugaritz once just before it burnt down. I am agree that some of the dishes were taste less but i wil also say that some of incredible dishes will stay in my mind for ever. Edible Stones. Edible Vegetable charcoal fossiliferous Salsify. Pomps of chocolate Mugaritz is not for everyone for sure as Ibai could be, But i have to say that what Andoni is doing is a conceptual cuisine and i am sure is one of the best in the world for that even if not everyone can understand it. In the other hand Spain is the best country in Europe to have amazing Seafood.Ibai is a good example of this as it is Restaurante Elkano and many more around Spain where only the best quality is served, Simply!!! I have not tried That rubber squid at mugaritz but i have to say that is a sign of freshness and i have no doubt Andoni uses the best and freshest ingredients. If you try octopus in Japan, Always has this rubbery texture, Maybe did not work at mugaritz but i just think on the concepts. In my opinion The food of a craftsman is bellow the one from the Artist. But is not for everyone!!! You should have gone to Casa Julian in Tolosa for dinner and have an amazing Txuleton (rib steak)

  • Anders

    I did laugh a few times while reading this review (especially the bit about the canteen). I had anticipated a review from you about Mugaritz, but I missed scores for many of the dishes. I had a booking at Mugaritz in August, but cancelled it after reading one negative review after another on Tripadvisor. If you press reviews with either one out of five or two out of five stars on that site, you'll see that all these reviews say the same things over and over again: "At its best, the food was merely okay and barely had any flavour. At its worst, it was vomit-inducing. The restaurant purely wants to do something completely different, and therefore they turn meat into powder, liquid into crackers and so on. Then they don't season anything and say that salt and pepper is cheating and will hide the ingredients' real flavour". Your review, Andy, seems to say the same thing. Although my taste runs to the more modern, I simply don't think I would like Mugaritz either. What people also pointed out was a problem that I've seen again and again after living a year in Spain: The less flavour the food has, the more people in Spain like it. This was also a problem at Arzak, and I see your recent review said the same thing. We shared a couple of dishes at Arzak. We seemed to agree, and the sauce problem for the pigeon was exactly the same in August 2012. "It's mostly decoration" the waiter said. Some things there didn't even as much as look good. Just look at this for instance: http://i.imgur.com/fDQ68.jpg Honestly, doesn't it look like something a five-year old made in art class rather than something from supposedly one of the best restaurants in the world? In general, Arzak's technique didn't impress me. Maybe the restaurant has simply become a "has-been". One thing: unless they have changed it, the menu price of €179 at Arzak is plus tax (8 %), meaning €193 in the end. If you ask me, stick to Sant Pau and Quique Dacosta. They are worth their stars.

  • Ray

    I apparently ate here within a few days of you since my menu was more or less exactly the same. The catch is that I had lunch here one day and then had dinner here the next day having every dish you described - some dishes twice despite being told there would be no repeat - and I think your review is a fair and honest one of Mugaritz. The cuisine, especially at that level, should not leave you anything other than satisfied. Unfortunately, I felt - on both occasions - that there was indeed something missing from the meal. I hate to compare but I found Arzak to be leaps and bounds ahead. My experience at Mugaritz made me rethink the validity of the Worlds Top 50 Restaurant's list given Mugaritz's spot at number 3.

  • Mayur

    HEllo Sir, AS u did not liked your meal ,you have given a resonable score of 4 , which if compared to all ur other reviews , are of great standard .Are you being little carried away by the reputation you have .I dont mean it in a wrong way , but i follow you every day and find you a honest and a genuinely adorable critic .