Azurmendi is a special place in many ways. There is the chef: one of the greatest and friendliest in the world. There is the property: impressive, elegant, and refined. There is the staff: experienced, professional, and very friendly. And there is the experience itself: one which you will never forget.
But let us start at the beginning. Azurmendi is the brainchild of Chef Patron Eneko Atxa. It is his dream coming true: a sustainable restaurant that connects with its environment and where visitors feel at home. It is an experience where visitors relate to Eneko’s passions: nature, gastronomy, architecture, and art.
Upon entering the property, the sight of the vineyard, the bar and banquet facilities, and the gourmet restaurant gives a first and very imposing impression. The domain is located on a hill and is perfectly integrated into its natural surroundings. The gastronomic restaurant itself was built in 2012 and got the perfect spot on top of the hill, overlooking the beautiful landscape of the Basque country. The building is mainly constructed out of glass and incorporates the latest sustainable building techniques. It is the perfect blend of modernity, the local area and nature.
When entering the restaurant this feeling is extended. An impressive indoor garden welcomes the guests and lots of green, massive wood and a small fountain make you doubt whether you are in- or outdoor. The gigantic kitchen offers the perfect environment for the 20 cooks to experiment and prepare amazing dishes. The dining room itself is equally spacious – luxury equals space at Azurmendi – and no more than 40 diners are allowed. The views from the tables on the Basque hills are simply breathtaking. A state of the art system with cloths that come out of the ceiling also permits to divide the dining rooms into several intimate dining compartments. Several artworks from local artists adorn the walls of the restaurant. There is a separate space for groups and on the roof of the restaurant there is also a greenhouse which connects to the edible garden.
Chef Patron Eneko Atxa is one of the most attentive chefs in the world. The Chef was born in 1977 and grew up in a home where everything was centred on the “Exkatza” (kitchen). He gained experience in several pintxos bars, bistros and gourmet restaurants and learned a lot from his travels all over the world. The chef welcomes all his guests himself and is down-to-earth, ultra-friendly, respectful, humble and very amicable. Eneko manages an impressive team of more than 30 people. His head chefs Ander Las Heras and Matteo Manzini assist Eneko in the kitchen, while Jon Eguskiza (Restaurant Manager) and Jon William Herrera (Head Sommelier) lead the dining rooms. The two Jons are incredibly professional, very knowledgeable and serve the guests in a charming English style.
The Azurmendi experience begins with a tour to the greenhouse and the edible garden (located on top of the restaurant). One of the staff members guides the guests through the gardens to the conservatory where the first appetisers are hidden between the plants, fruits and vegetables. After consuming this first round of snacks, the tour is continued to the indoor garden at the entrance of the restaurant. A picnic basket is served in which customers will discover the next round of appetisers. Subsequently guests are led through the kitchen, where they are greeted by the kitchen staff and where another two snacks are served. Finally, you will be brought to your table where the meal continues with some other snacks and 10-15 tapas-like dishes. There are few places in the world where dining becomes an integrated experience like this and where the environment & ingredients are so consciously being intertwined in the meals.
Eneko Atxa’s kitchen is based on the Basque cuisine and is very technical and conceptual. Many local and traditional ingredients are used (like anchovies, black pudding and tomatoes) and his kitchen is a perfect combination of modernity and tradition. The menu offers a journey throughout the Basque environment. Most dishes are tapas-like creations and shine in their simplicity, pronounced flavour and creative presentation.
The ’Egg from our hens’is a fresh egg, cooked inside out andinfused with truffle. Delicate and bursting with flavour. The ‘Bloody mar’ is a reinterpretation of the Bloody Mary cocktail and consists of a small shot of home-made bloody mary with vegetable broth & urchin juice, and a cracker with mayonnaise of sea urchins, fresh sea urchins, pickled celery and different vegetables and herbs. The main courses ‘Charcoal-grilled squid on its juice and pickled onion’ and ‘Salted stew: vegetables, anchovies and iberics’ are good examples of Eneko’s interpretation of the local Basque cuisine.
Sustainability is very important for Eneko Atxa and Azurmendi is one of the only restaurants in the world where this concept is fully incorporated. There is an electronic car charger; electricity is gained out of solar panels; the rain water is recovered and used for sanitary purposes; the team planted 700 trees to stimulate the afforestation and the surplus energy is recovered and re-used.
Eneko wants his guests to become aware of the importance of the subject and succeeds in creating a mental shift. He also offers his ingredient producers a small place in the garden to display their fruit or vegetables. This way, guests can truly discover the origin of the ingredients they will be having in their plates.
The property also has a vineyard with a wine cellar that is equipped with the latest technologies in oenology. The Gorka Izagirre wine cellar started with the idea to recuperate and expand the Txakoli wine. The Gorka Izagirre Txakoli is cultivated in more than 40 hectares of vineyards which include the Hodarrabi Zuri Zerratia and Hondarrabi Zuri varieties. Every plot was planted and cultivated in a unique way, creating delicious and very particular wines – which are also served in Azurmendi.
Azurmendi restaurant equals one of the world’s most impressive dining experiences and should be on everyone’s list. At Azurmendi, dining becomes more than eating and the experience will captivate all your senses. The restaurant offers incredible value, great food with Basque influences, an astonishing restaurant and one of the best restaurant teams. Go there, experience, enjoy, and never forget.
Written by Sven & Frank