BASQUE IN THE SPRING



If you are looking for a quiet, current but unspoiled and unpretentious place to eat in Central London that will most importantly titillate your tastebuds, Donostia is the place. This small restaurant, only five minutes’ walk from Marble Arch (and conveniently from my flat) in Marylebone’s villagey Seymour Place,opened less than a year ago. Its design is fairly basic (intentionally I guess) yet inviting and warm: mostly white (Carrara marble on the kitchen top with white tiles underneath, white-washed walls and ceiling) with a splash of black (leather stool seats) and also a reasonable glug of brown (courtesy of Hans Wegner’s iconic ‘wishbone’ beech stairs complementing the planks of timber that ‘ornament’ the walls).

Donostia is the Basque name for the Northern Spain coastal city of San Sebastián, one of the world Michelin-starred food capitals. I went there on my way to Bilbao’s Guggenheim a few years ago and it was one of my best culinary experiences. Donostia serves Pintxos, authentic Basque-type tapas, which is quite unusual even for London. I know that ‘tapas’ outside Spain can leave some of us quite blasé and don’t always conjure up the most refined food (I’m thinking cold potatas bravas with congealed tomato sauce and overzealously oily anchovies).

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But here the menu is simply ambrosial. Their 3-years aged hand carved Jamon Iberico, Tempura prawns with Bayonne ham and mango, and cod cheeks poached in olive oil are ones of the many to-die-for dishes (their blistered Padron peppers are, if I am to believe my expert-on-the-matter friend, equally scrumptious). Perching on one of the stools that fringe the open-kichen to savour the tasty concoctions made by the equally tasty cooks is now for me synonymous with enjoying a perfect evening out with a girlfriend for a goode olde catch-up/moan/gossip/bitch fest (delete as appropriate) over one two bottles of wine from their distinguished wine list. The service is faultless too: attentive but not overzealous, timely and unfussy (and also enticing if you get a view of the manager).

And don’t worry about booking a table (highly recommended though it is). You can do that there! They thankfully haven’t fallen for the most irritating “we’re too cool for school” fad of some ‘trendy’, hyped-up Soho institutions that do not take reservations and  keep you waiting for hours in the pouring rain or ‘invite’ you to “have a drink at the bar for only 55 mins while waiting for your table”. Oh and they don’t need blaring music to create un ambiente. They rely on their customers for that. And we happily oblige without fail.

PS: and don’t forget to mention A-Gent of Style when you go!

 

 

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