’s Basque Country has become known as one of the world’s top foodie destinations, home to a unique world-class cuisine, scores of talented chefs and innovative restaurants, pushing the boundaries of food as we know it. While San Sebastián
may have the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometre than any other city in Europe, Bilbao
has more than its fair share of haute cuisine and fine dining venues.
Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, $$$
With its contemporary and funky interior décor of chandeliers and bold animal pictures, Bermeo offers Basque cuisine with an exotic twist. Think red tuna with black sesame, slices of Brazilian beef with chimichurri sauce and bananas or classic kokotxas (hake cheeks), and squid cooked in its own ink. They also serve a range of breakfasts, from freshly baked pastries to homemade breads and brioches, and Basque-style eggs with chorizo.
Restaurant, Spanish, European, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Named after a traditional Basque dance, Zortziko has a prestigious Michelin star and is headed up by chef Daniel García, who opened his first restaurant back in 1975. The restaurant’s philosophy is that every meal should be a journey, taking guests through various culinary experiences. The menu offers classic Basque and Spanish cuisine, prepared in an innovative way. Dishes include cantaloupe gazpacho with smoked sardines and olive oil popcorn, foie gras with caramelized pear and grape jelly, and roasted monkfish with cauliflower couscous and dried fruit praline.
Nerua Guggenheim Bilbao
Restaurant, Spanish, Vegetarian, Gluten-free
The Guggenheim’s restaurant, Nerua is a stylish offering, and just like the museum itself is based around the contemporary, innovative and avant-garde. Chef
Restaurant, Spanish, European, Vegetarian, Vegan
Without a doubt the best restaurant in Bilbao and one of the best in the whole world, Azurmendi has earned the top award of three Michelin stars. Diners begin their foodie experience up on the restaurant’s rooftop garden where they can see the fresh produce being grown, before sitting down to eat. Run by Basque chef Eneko Atxa, the menu focuses on traditional homely cuisine with a creative twist. Try the truffled egg – where the yolk has been replaced with truffles. To top it all off, the restaurant is sustainable and environmentally friendly, too, recycling, collecting rainwater and using geothermal energy.
Restaurant, Spanish, Seafood, Mediterranean, European, Vegetarian, $$$
With its bright and colorful interior, Zarate also has one Michelin star and focuses specifically on seafood. Chef Sergio Ortiz de Zárate aims to present the seafood in the most original way possible, and everything is sourced directly from the nearby ports of Lekeito and Ondarroa each morning. Dishes include oysters and caviar filled with lime cream, cod and thistles in a liquid salad, and artichokes with purple onion. They also serve the popular Basque delicacy of goose barnacles known as percebes – crustaceans that live in the sea attached to rocks.
Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, European, Gluten-free
Set along the estuary of the River Nervión, this award-winning restaurant – also one Michelin star – is housed above a former mine, hence the name “Mina.” Inside, the restaurant has a rustic feel with exposed brick walls and a well-stocked wine cellar. Its tasting menus feature various creative tapas bites, using locally sourced ingredients. For dessert, the saffron crème brûlée with pear and frozen amaretto is a real treat.
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Located on the top floor of the Palacio Euskalduna de Bilbao, Etxanobe – with its one Michelin star – produces beautiful, yet simple food focusing on good, traditional Basque cooking. What sets it apart, however, is the creative way the food is served, like works of art – placed inside hollowed out stones or sea shells. Classic dishes on the menu include kokotxas (cod or hake cheeks), bacalao pil pil (fried cod with garlic and olive oil) and freshly cooked lobster.
Restaurant, Spanish, European, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
Located out in the countryside, close to Bilbao, dining at Andra Mari is a whole Basque experience. Housed in a traditional old Basque wood-and-brick house, surrounded by rolling hills, it specializes in classic Basque cuisine. Run by the Asua siblings – Patxi, Juan Cruz and their sister Dominga – the restaurant is actually housed in their former country home. The menu features things such as pilgrim scallops with celery cream, monkfish with black olives and tomato confit, and roast deer with sweet potato and cocoa.
Restaurant, Spanish, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Another restaurant set out in Bilbao’s countryside, Boroa Jatetxea is housed in a 15th century farmhouse and offers a lovely homey, yet classy atmosphere. In addition to the interiors, the restaurant has its own winery and even a kids’ playground. Its haute cuisine is warming, traditional and satisfying. Think dishes such as grilled sea bass with cockles and chard cooked in txakoli wine, wild boar with chestnut figs, and grilled Cantabrian lobster.