Mugaritz

Before we head to a restaurant we always check out The World 50 Best Restaurants website for a bit of a review and to find out what the standout dish is, just to make sure we order it and to get ourselves excited. The style of food at Mugaritz is described as techno-emotional Spanish, interesting, this should be fun! Even if we’re not quite sure what that means.

We took the bus there and had a bit of a walk up the hill, it smells amazing as we enter the grounds of the restaurant. They’re not quite ready when we arrive however we are soon let in and taken to our table. We’re offered still or sparkling water to start. There are really interesting broken plates on the table speaking to the playfulness of the restaurant.

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An envelope is presented to us and we’re told there are two cards inside, we both have to choose one and agree on it. The menu and ingredients won’t change however our perception will. I’m so excited by this and it really makes the experience so much more engaging. When the waiter comes back for our decision he checks if we’re sure, we’re really not, however, decide to roll with it.

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Up first is the Albedo in cal, aperitif, the entire menu is a bit of a riddle as you try to work out what you’re having and as the afternoon goes on where you’re up to. It’s citron, white garlic sauce, everything sheep and what it eats. As you eat the flavour develops. It’s quite milky in flavour but has a rosemary undertone.

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Our menu has the flying fish on it (the card we chose) and the waiter tells us he may suggest changes or additions to the menu as we go along. It’s all very whimsical. Our ‘snacks’ or beginner courses are all brought out on a chess board like arrangement.

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The flower of life is represented by a carrot, kombucha and honeysuckle combination which goes crazy good together, it’s almost meaty. Black sprout is white asparagus but black! It’s all such a fun take on things!

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We’re asked if there is anything we don’t like and I think this is the first time we’ve been asked not about dietary requirements but about what we actually don’t like. I mention my disdain for coffee and thankfully it isn’t on today’s menu.

To finish our starters we are given a sour and sweet handful which is lettuce heart with its liquid sauce to refresh the palate. It’s just lettuce but embedded with flavour. Warmly scented handtowels complete this part of the game.

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We’re then offered a “safe” kitchen tour. There they explain that often there will be different menus for different tables based on availability, for example, they might only be able to get a small amount of asparagus so some tables will be given something else. They have 16-17 different nationalities in the kitchen and 44 chefs, there’s prep downstairs and a lab upstairs. They’re testing boundaries in a very organised and clean kitchen.

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There is lots of eating with your hands here and as our waiter kindly explains “you can’t eat sushi with a knife and fork”. We are given a frozen disc with garlic aioli, I’m guessing this is the textural communion. This is accompanied with a frozen tongue with spider crab on top in a course named “How long a kiss lasts”. This is so fun, I’m giggling at the table. It also has an epic kick back in flavour. I can still taste the garlic!

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Our first bit of cutlery comes out! A long time ago the king took all of the rice so they had to use noodles for paella, this is a representation of that in “Never say never”. It’s dehydrated crab, and noodles and a bit like burnt rice. Not quite my jam, however, enjoyed the history lesson.

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Our “trick” is kombucha yeast with lobster eggs. I’m not sure about this one. The flavours linger in your mouth. Lots of their food is grown here and from the local area.

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Barley and koji is the “Flavour” course, it’s like a sesame soy flavour and is to be eaten on a leaf plate. Again so magical.

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“Second-to-last hake” is next. This is served with Sake for the experience. An interesting dish with different elements, texturess and a crystal plate. Something to play with your palate.

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“On your own” is our next dish and we’re offered a challenge, what is in this course? We pick up on the almond milk, garlic sashimi and baby almonds. And are left wondering what is going on. Turns out it is razor clam! Fiancee is gutted he couldn’t pick it.

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Tartare is made in front of us and we’re told the story of Marco Polo in the 19th Century. They combine mustard, salt, olive oil, caper water, beef fat and Worcestershire sauce. It’s a modern elaboration through fermentation and accompanied with a white layer of fat like chorizo to bring it into this century. It’s pretty marvellous, you get the chorizo flavour with the beef and it’s just so intriguing.

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Experience dumplings with a beef meat reduction. Delicious and just perfect. Warm hand towels again.

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Jerky salmon truffle, flowers and leaves from the garden made traditionally. It’s like a jerky sandwich but missing the salty jerkiness.

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Sweet pepper filled with seeds – I’ve lost track of which course we’re up to on the menu. This dish is really clever and creative and really blew my mind and taste sensations.

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Pepper plus fish. Creamy yet delectable. The sweetness of the pepper works really well with the gelatinous properties of the fish and sauce. It’s served in big cast iron bowls and brilliantly matched following the previous pepper dish.

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“A moment for bechamel” comes out and we’re asked what we think it is. Obviously, it’s cauliflower cheese! Not at Mugaritz, it’s octopus roe, nutmeg and cheese. What a tease!!

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As I go to the bathroom I note that there is no hand lotion however they do have those weird toothbrush and toothpaste kits like Azurmendi and some sanitary items. Kudos on the sanitary items at such a destination restaurant!

Compressed onion injection with pectic enzymes. What a creative and experimental way to serve onion. The sauce is incredible.

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Pig everything is next and the dish is described on the menu as hunger. It’s pil-pil, pine nuts, pigs blood, pig fat, peanut butter, a pig face, basically anything pig. Flavourwise it’s great but the pigs face kinda put me off. Fiancee loves it and it made him very happy.

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Lamb foldings, it’s like a cracker but then you get the undertones of lamb. Rice paper and lamb fat.

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Wine in tempura with intense lamb broth. Now that’s a different kind of pairing.

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Icewine with frozen pear, very cool and tasty.

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We finish our afternoon with seven different types of chocolates from around the world out in the courtyard.

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Overall a joyous and entertaining afternoon. I love the playfulness that they’re providing at Mugaritz and the food wasn’t bad either. Would I go again? If I was in the area probably, just for the fun of it. I’m left wondering what I’m looking for though as this wasn’t quite it. I guess it’s the playfulness of Mugaritz, the power flavour from Tim Raue with the experience touch of Azurmendi. We’ll see what comes next!

Latest ranking:

  1. Tim Raue
  2. Piazza Duomo and Reale
  3. Quintonil
  4. Asador Etxebarri
  5. Le Calandre
  6. The Ledbury
  7. Mugaritz
  8. The Clove Club
  9. Saison
  10. Arzak
  11. Mirazur and Azurmendi
  12. Dinner by Heston
  13. Pujol
  14. Restaurant Steirereck

Next up, Central, Lima, Peru.

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