Asador Bedua, Zumaia

Barrio Bedua, 20750 Zumaia, Spain

It’s important to get a bit of balance in your life and no-one in their right mind should want to eat in michelin starred restaurants all the time. We’d been to Arzak (a slight disappointment), the pinxtos bars (great fun) and wanted to experience another variety of Basque cooking. It was time to check out an Asador – a traditional grill restaurant.

I’d heard about Asador Bedua a 20 minute drive from San Sebastian and booked it for lunch on new years eve – something to kick off the frivolities.

It was a pain to find. The GPS had no idea where it was and the French instructions didn’t offer much help aside from turn when you see a derelict building. We were on the verge of major disagreement in the car when we spied an almost hidden track to the left of said clue and found ourselves in front of a huge building – a converted boat shed.

It’s the sort of simple place for locals, that you know you’re going to have a good time.

Arriving for 2pm, there was only one other table occupied and we settled in. There was a clear language barrier to overcome, but they were patient with us as we negotiated the menu – a mixture of shared local plates & grilled seafood & steak, sold by the kilo.

First up of course a decent bottle of Rioja and then the ‘appetisers’ arrived – iberico ham, foie gras (with orange ‘marmalade’), tuna salad….

… and huge stalks of white asparagus

This is a way to start a meal – no fussing around, just big welcoming plates of food to share and enrich our conversation. The bread, deep and crusty and it was a case of deciding whether to drape it with the silky acorn rich ham or liberally smear it with the liver (there was a lot to get through). These are good decisions to have, fuelled by abundance and greed. Both were prime examples of their kind.

The tuna salad provided a much need touch of green with well dressed leaves and green asparagus. The tuna was tinned Ortiz, which I hadn’t come across for a while – none of this oily or overpowering brine. Just good clean tuna.

The highlight was the tree-trunk like white asparagus served with a large bowl of home-made mayonnaise. Dainty asparagus normally brings out the inner toff as you savour one of the more sophisticated vegetables, but these where mighty and need to be wrestled with and unceremoniously dunked in the sauce. Gorgeous.

An interim dish before the main event – sauteed artichokes with bacon and clams

Bringing the sea to the land, this was a good combination of the sweet, succulent and the salty. Not sure artichoke hearts are to everyone’s liking, but they were perfectly fine, if only lacking a bit in said clams.

It stirred us the for main course & another bottle of wine – the house speciality – steak on the bone.

The picture doesn’t really do this justice….a kilo and half of steak cooked to perfection. Really heavy char (but not burnt), the fat, the crispiest of yellows with the meat rare with the richest of purples, served with a sprinkling of salt and chips on the side. It’s one of the most memorable steaks I’ve eaten and in taste I’ve not had better. So rich with a real depth that is often missing in steaks. Great provenance, well hung and treated with a firm and fair hand.

We were clearly carried away (the second bottle of wine perhaps) and talked ourselves into ordering another kilo of this fine dish. Not sure why we ended up putting ourselves through this beautiful torture. In the end just two of us ended up trying to consume 2 kilos of steak. We didn’t make it.

However after a lengthy rest we were able to turn our attention to dessert (our wives needed their fix).

There were vanilla biscuits, a lemon milk shake (!) and a fine berry cheesecake. All were good classic country food. We were beginning to get a little hazy on the details by now..

It was at this point where Nathan & I decided on an Armagnac, much to the delight of a table of locals who were having as good a time as we were.

In the UK and Australia we’re used to consistent bar measures – 30ml measures. The free pour here literally took our breath away… giving us about half a pint each, which assaulted the senses in the most evil of ways. After the steak we clearly had another challenge on our hands. With much encouragement from the locals we did persevere. Our sense of machismo was restored.

By the time we had drowned ourselves in brandy the the restaurant was empty….. We had been left to our own devices. No staff clock-watching or hovering near by. “Just call for the bill when ready”… The spanish/basque understand….

It was the most memorable of meals.  Four and a half hours of terrific, big, ballsy plates of food with the company of fine friends. The cuisine could hardly be faulted. Yup, we racked up a fair bill, but it was money well spent and I’d come back time and time again, if only my body could cope.


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