Monday, 25 August 2014

The best pastel Vasco in San Sebastian

I had some time on my own today. After the visit to El Peine del Viento, a place I would have liked to have gone to more than once - please do read about what I wrote and see the photo-video I made - we walked along the promenade until La Parte Vieja. We had lunch in an awful place, Egosari, Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 15. I had a list of 6 or 7 recommendations, but they weren't looked at.

Egosari had decent-looking pintxos, and after all my complaints, their pintxos actually had labels! Unfortunately, the place was full. I noticed that there was a basement, so we went downstairs, to have a look really, but this old waiter followed us down, and basically, we allowed ourselves to be pressured to stay, taking into account the time. The idea was to have a few pintxos, but, no, they're only served in the bar. Service was bad - this guy was more interested in €€ than pleasing us, tourists, you know, and food was crap. Their salad was just lettuce, not much else, not even dressing, apart from the oil & vinegar bottles. And it wasn't cheap either. Perhaps their pintxos might have passed my test, but if you see this restaurant, pass it by. We couldn't wait to leave. Advice: don't go down into any basement! Fact: mediocre and bad food can be had even in San Sebastián!

Amendment: I just had another look at my notes and saw that my friend, Claire, had actually recommended Egosari's prawn & mushroom skewer to me! So, perhaps I'd been somewhat harsh to them. But if you do go there, I reiterate, don't go down to the basement!

After lunch, I set out on my own, keen to explore...

The Old Quarters. La Parte Vieja. Not to be confused with Antiguo (also means 'old'), which is on the opposite end of San Sebastián. In the cities of Spain, the old quarters are more commonly known as Casco Antiguo or Casco Viejo, but for some reason, they call it La Parte Vieja. Perhaps it's a direct translation from the Basque language. For me, it has a negative ring about it.

However, it is anything but that.

Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
An alley off Boulevard Zumardia
It's the heart of San Sebastián, and it pounds strongly. Cafés, restaurants, shops, there's one to suit your taste... and pockets. Every corner you turn, there are people. And more people. If there's a step, you'll find people sitting on it. Seems to be a popular activity. Sitting and watching the others. Or catching up on their digital news.

Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
Boulevard Zumardia
From these quarters, I crossed the bridge into Gros. I took a look at La Playa de la Zurriola, and was somewhat disappointed. I was thinking I would see the beach abound with surfers, but, no. Perhaps the tide was wrong, but we have bigger waves in our local city beach.

La Playa de la Zurriola, San Sebastián
La Playa de la Zurriola
After some walking, I turned around, heading back towards La Parte Vieja, looking for Okendo Kalea, the reason for which will appear in the next post, and more importantly, looking for a café where I could try the Pastel Vasco! The practically non-existent lunch and the walk have left me rather hungry! Perfect time for tea!

Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
Watching the world go by
I found Okendo, and the hunt for a café led me down the Boulevard... Wow. People. So many people! Seemed like they'd all deserted the beach and congregated here! And, what's this with all these people sitting by the roadside? I've seen a lot of this here. Perhaps in Bilbao, too, I can't remember. Rows and rows of them.

Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
Boulevard Zumardia, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián
Eventually, I saw it. In the corner, opposite the side of the Town Hall: Oiartzun. It was busy. The terrace was full. However, there was some seating inside and a stool was available. And they had Pastel Vasco! Big ones and small ones! Perfect!

Pastel Vasco is somewhat of a speciality in San Sebastián, its origin is the Basque region of France. There are apparently many variations of it, but here, they do it plain. The way I prefer it. No preserved fruit filling or heavy cream. Its basic ingredients are just eggs, flour, butter, the usual stuff. But, describing the ingredients doesn't give you the idea of the taste nor the texture. It was scrumptious. So delicious that I walked out with a box full. No kidding. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the pastries. By the time I got back with them, they were all sort of semi-crushed... You can catch a glimpse of them on their website. See link below.

What makes it so delicious? I don't know. I think Oiartzun's got almonds. If I had their recipe, I'd try baking it, but, no doubt, their recipe is a closely-guarded secret. You'll have to try it. Don't be like so many tourists who go to places far and wide and all they crave for is something they can get back home. I can never understand that.

Place: Oiartzun Gozotegia (or Pastelería Oyarzun)
Type: Café (cakes, pastries, chocolate, etc; ice cream parlour next door)
Location: to the side of the town hall. Igentea 2 (or Ijentea Kalea 2). It's a continuation of the Boulevard, towards the beach.
Verdict: Highly recommended!