Pamplona, the capital of Spain’s northern Navarre region, is best known for the Running of the Bulls that takes place during the city’s annual San Fermin festival. But for those who aren’t inclined to risk life and limb, Pamplona’s restaurants offer a rich blend of tradition and innovation, a mix of regional delicacies and haute cuisine. For a different kind of Spanish culinary experience, pay a visit to one of these restaurants.
Pamplona plays a major role in Ernest Hemingway’s work The Sun Also Rises, and Café Iruña, which dates back to the 19th century, was a favourite haunt of the writer’s during his time in Spain. The restaurant’s history, vintage art deco decor, and plum location on the city’s main square, the Plaza del Castillo, make it a prime destination. Enjoy a café cortado and croissant à la plancha for breakfast while sitting out on the terrace, or take advantage of the set dinner menus that offer fantastic value for money for three courses and a bottle of wine.
Venezuelan chef Julio Flames wants “nothing to mask the essence of the product” here, believing in the natural flavors of his ingredients and valuing simplicity. Drawing on his cooking experience accrued around the world, Flames conjures up high-quality international cuisine like sashimi of sea bass with a truffle and yuzu dressing, entrecote with pimientos del piquillo and pont neuf potatoes, and crema catalana with natural vanilla. La Nuez is located on the outskirts of Pamplona’s Old Town, away from the city’s main tourist area, and is supplied by local producers. Address & telephone number: 4 Calle Taconera, Pamplona, Spain, +34 948 22 81 30
Bar, Restaurant, Spanish, Tapas, Wine, Beer, Fast Food, Cocktails, $$$
La Olla deals in traditional Navarrese cuisine like stews and pintxos, which are bar snacks similar to tapas that are eaten in Navarre and the Basque country. Examples of pintxosthat are served here are txangurro, a type of crab gratin, and Navarrese tomatoes topped with preserved tuna. Also available are a selection of more traditional Spanish tapas, like jamón ibérico and revuelto con setas, which can be eaten either hot or cold. To accompany these dishes, choose from La Olla’s impressive range of Navarre wines.
Casa Otano has been part of Pamplona’s culinary scene since 1912 and has remained in the hands of the Otano family for the duration of its history, each generation maintaining the regional recipes that have been passed down to them. In its three rooms, which combine traditional and modern design, you can sample delicious dishes like salmorejo with ham shavings or Mediterranean salad with tuna, asparagus, a lettuce bouquet, candied tomatoes and basil, and then top it all off with a quality Navarre Rioja.
Opposite Pamplona’s cathedral lies the aptly named Bistrot Catedral, the extraordinary interior of which was created in collaboration with architects and designers to reflect the art and history of the city. The restaurant also has facilities for film screenings and video art projections, and hosts regular jazz sessions. The food isn’t bad either; the kitchen serves up pintxos, tapas, brochettes, and toasts, like breaded king prawns with mint chutney, smoked salmon and cod toast with egg and lime vinaigrette, and quail egg and foie gras on toast. They also have a special San Fermin menu available during the festival.
Since being awarded a Michelin star in 1993, the stylish Europa restaurant has gone from strength to strength under the guidance of its owners, the Idoate family. Gastronomy of the highest order can be had across its nine contemporary dining rooms (two public and seven private). The Idoates’ culinary achievement is demonstrated in dishes like roast pigeon with grilled zucchini and glazed onions, and tocinillo de cielo infused with passion fruit and raspberries with red fruits and frozen yogurt.
Over 30 types of tapas, pintxos, and other assorted snacks can be ordered here at Basseri, which has received numerous awards over the years for its innovative approach to food. An example of the experimentation that has led to reward is a tapas dish composed of cubes of gelatinized vegetable puree, a concoction which includes asparagus, carrot, cabbage, peas, and piquillo peppers. The team behind Baserri have managed to retain a traditional ambiance while continuing to innovate, they have even introduced ostrich meat to their menu. Address & telephone number: 32 Calle San Nicolás, Pamplona, Spain, +34 948 22 20 21
This landmark of Pamplona cuisine has catered to those participating in the San Fermin celebrations for decades, and the street where it is located is actually part of the bull-running route. The meat hanging from the rafters contributes to its rustic charm. Try the capricho escombro – shavings of the finest quality Iberian ham from Sánchez Romero Carvajal, chorizo, and pork loin, or the brochette of courgette, elvers, and piquillo sauce with baby vegetables. Address & telephone number: 50 Calle de la Estafeta, Pamplona, Spain, +34 948 22 77 13
A family-run business for over 40 years, Rodero boasts a Michelin star and a high degree of conceptual and technical achievement in their dishes. This is evident in the exquisitely presented jelly of goose barnacles, cockles, and white beans, and the savory cheese and peanut nougat with foie gras, grape vinaigrette, and herring roe. The attention to detail shown by head chef Koldo Rodero is mirrored in the restaurant’s elegant surroundings and sommelier Verónica Rodero’s well-crafted wine list.
Bar Gaucho are rightly proud of their cocina en miniatura(cuisine in miniature) as their pintxoshave received numerous accolades. One look at the creativity exercised in their food, from a lentil cappuccino with pumpkin and salt ham to pea cream presented with a foie gras lollipop, is enough to show why this is one of the most popular tapas bars in Pamplona. It is regarded as a “Top Choice” restaurant by Lianorg, but perhaps a greater distinction is its popularity with the city’s residents, a sign of the restaurant’s quality and authenticity.