As wine and food enthusiasts, San Sebastián has long been on our travel bucket list. We recently had the opportunity to visit this notorious foodie mecca thanks to Iberian Wine Tours. Located in Spain’s Basque region, the coastal city is recognized worldwide for its incredible dining scene, boasting the most Michelin-rated restaurants per capita of any city in the world. But with a bevy of exquisite choices well beyond what our time would allow, how could we possibly choose just one? We opted to make sure we were also satisfying our inner wine geeks which made the decision easy—we simply had to visit Rekondo Restaurant.
Owned and named after former Matador Txomin Rekondo, it is a family-run establishment where traditional Spanish food is the focus and the wine list is exceptional. Although Txomin is now in his ‘80’s, that hasn’t stopped him from still being involved in the restaurant. He manages it alongside his daughter Lourdes and we were delighted to meet him in person during our dinner. Charming and passionate, this is a man who personifies living life right. He’s surrounded by family, pursuing his passion of wine and food with as much enthusiasm as a man far younger than his years would suggest.
Named by Wine Spectator in 2014 as one of the top 5 restaurant cellars in the world, Rekondo currently houses 127,000 bottles of wine. While the quantity is staggering and requires more than 4500 square feet as storage, it’s the quality that is extraordinary.
More than a half century of collecting wine means that a tour through the cellar is more akin to walking through a museum of history. Bottles covered in dust, some wrapped in protective plastic, adorn the shelves. The very finest wines of Rioja, Burgundy and Bordeaux are on full display within the 3 rooms of the cellar. Amid the many treasures is an entire cabinet dedicated to Chateau d’Yquem, along with a vertical of Mouton Rothschild dating back to 1945.
More than 50 years after opening its doors, the restaurant has developed a reputation not only for its impressive wine collection, but also for its excellent food, namely its “Asado” (Spanish barbecue). The stone building that houses the restaurant has been in Txomin’s family for generations, originally built and used as a farmhouse. Smoke pours out of the chimney upon arrival, and as you walk from the entrance to the dining room, you can’t help but notice the enormous grills inside the kitchen. These grills are stoked by cut hardwoods that fill the restaurant with the faint hint of smoke together with the ingredients they are cooking. The stoves have large blackened grates that rest above the burning embers that create such deliciousness as they carmelize the outside of their food.
The dining room itself is elegant and comfortable. Its white table cloths and precise place settings denote formality, but the room and service are the furthest thing from stuffy. It is a place where the calibre of food and wine being served are respected, even revered, but you feel as relaxed as if you were in the Rekondo family home rather than the fine dining room of their restaurant.
Chef Iñaki Arrieta is committed to traditional and regional products that come direct from the source. He has been at the helm of the kitchen for the past 12 years and serves up farm-to-table and farm-to-fire at its very best. Sommelier Martin Flea, who hails from Argentina, is a worthy collaborator providing wine pairing suggestions that bring out the best in Arrieta’s dishes while at the same time highlighting some of the cellar gems regardless of budget.
Our set menu that evening kicked off with red prawn carpaccio, guacamole and pistachio vinaigrette paired with a Cava from Raventos i Blanc, 2012 vintage. Baked crab was next on the list paired with an Albariño from Do Ferreiro in Rias Baixas. Grilled Turbot was served with one of our all-time favourites: the 2004 Vina Tondonia Blanco from Lopez de Heredia in Rioja. We followed that with the Algueira from Ribera Sacra.
As one would anticipate, the Ox Rib-Eye steak was a standout, grilled to perfection and paired with the 1999 Prieure-Lichine from the Margaux appellation in Bordeaux.
And as if one dessert wine wasn’t enough, we had the fortunate opportunity to taste two incredible dessert wines side-by-side with the final dish: the 1986 Rieussec Premier Grand Cru Classe Sauternes and the 2002 Oremus Tokaji Aszu 6 puttonyos Hungarian dessert wine. Both were equally exquisite and the perfect pairing with the apple tart.
Despite our very high expectations, Rekondo served up a meal for the ages and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this restaurant to any foodie or wine lover headed to San Sebastián. We will most certainly be putting it on our repeat list the next time we’re visiting the area and are confident we won’t be disappointed.