The Basque Country is known for its very own style of tapas, pintxos – small pieces of bread topped with a multitude of various ingredients, and the city of Bilbao serves some of the best. Here’s a round up of our top pintxos bar in the city.
Bar, Tapas, Contemporary
A contemporary bar, and a good alternative to the more traditional pintxo bars that resemble old taverns, Irrintzi’s policy is good pintxos with good friends. Their pintxos are creative and innovative, and include bites such as crispy apple filled with duck and peanut sauce; marinated anchovy with potatoes, mushrooms and glazed onions; and octopus in vinegar and mushroom cream. The inspiration for Irrintzi’s culinary combinations comes from all over the world.
One of the most well-known pintxos bars in the city, Cafe Bar Bilbao has been popular ever since opening its doors in 1911. Located on the busy Plaza Nueva in the city’s Casco Viejo (Old Town), it serves an array of different types of pintxos, both hot and cold. The bar’s signature pintxo is the traditional bacalao pil-pil, a piece of cod fried in olive oil and garlic.
The popular El Huevo Frito, meaning ‘the Fried Egg’, was one of the first pintxo bars on its street, and offers both quality and quantity. One of its signature ingredients is the quail egg, which features on top of many of its pintxos. Another one of its specialities are pig trotters ‘a la vizcaína‘, in a sauce made from red peppers, finely chopped onions and olive oil.
Located in the Casco Viejo, Bar Gatz opened in 1994 and has been a favourite on the pintxos circuit ever since, even winning many awards over the years. Bar Gatz offers many types, but it’s famous for its three house specialities. The first is bacalao pil-pil with a slice of garlic and ring of red chillies; the second is a mini-steak tartare on a cracker, made with onion, pickles, capers, egg yolk and olive oil; and the third is a pintxo of three tortillas (omelettes) – potato, garlic and ham.
The quaint Café Estoril sits on the Plaza de Emilio Campuzano, and offers al fresco dining right on the square. Simple, yet quality pintxos sit under a glass case along the bar. Think cod with roasted red peppers, tuna and mayonnaise, and ham with fried green peppers. The bar is popular with football fans and is also known for its excellent martinis.
A modern bar, Zuga is located on Plaza Nueva and offers an array of contemporary avant-garde pintxos. Chef David Asteinza creates a myriad of different pintxo combinations, such as grilled foie gras with red fruits and balsamic vinegar, or grilled goat’s cheese with apple.
An old-fashioned wood-panelled bar with a tiled floor, La Viña del Ensanche dates back to 1927 and is one of the oldest bars in the city. Legs of ham hang from the ceiling and pintxos are piled up on the wooden bar, which is said to be have been carved from a single tree. It specialises in hams and chorizos, but offers a myriad of other delights, such as hake with peppers and grilled octopus.