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September 9, 2013

Private Dining in Northern Spain

By Andy Hayler

private dining_sept_

A hillside near Bilbao airport is an unlikely setting for one of the world’s best restaurants, but Azurmendi is set within a 40-hectare vineyard in a high-tech glass building that is designed to be at one with its environment.

It uses both solar and geothermal power, and most of the vegetables and herbs used in the restaurant are grown in its greenhouse and gardens. A banqueting suite is available in a separate building down the hillside, but the main building looks out over the Basque countryside.

Chef Eneko Atxa’s rise has been meteoric: He gained his first Michelin star in 2007, a second in 2011, and a third in 2012. His cooking reflects the excellent produce of the area, concentrating on fine seafood, such as a dish of tender roast lobster, with a tapenade of lobster, mushrooms, black olives, and spring onion emulsion. The vegetables grown on the premises are showcased in dishes like peas topped with pea flowers and served on a puree of broad beans, the depth of flavor remarkable.

Spain’s wonderful pork is used in dishes like Ibérico pork and wild garlic flowers served with cream of broad beans. Culinary wizardry is illustrated by a truffled egg presented on a spoon, the egg yolk having been injected with a truffle consommé, which cooks the egg from the inside out.

You might finish a meal with a white chocolate egg with caramelized nuts, or an intensely flavored coffee pudding with rum ice cream. Service is friendly, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. The wine list complements the food, with plenty of local wines as well as the usual range of international fine vintages.

There is a private dining room for 20 people, or the main dining room can be booked for a private function of up to 200 (tasting menus from about $176, exclusive of wine pairing).

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