Bar Nestor in San Sebastián has almost a “cult” following these days, so naturally it was at the top of my list for places to visit!
This tiny little restaurant is famous for selling just 4 things; Tortilla, Tomato Salad, Pimientos de Padron & “Txuleta” (pronounced “choo-lett-ah) which is steak from grass fed cows that are aged between 8-18 years old, as opposed to 3 years old as is the norm, but it is the tortilla that everyone talks about, and the reason for their notoriety.
So why the notoriety you may ask? Well, they make just 2 of their famed tortillas each day, one for lunch and one for dinner, meaning that no more than 24-30 people get to try one of the towns most famous dishes each day!
The “reservation” process is simple, you need to go to Bar Nestor in the morning, no later than 11am (I went much earlier which earned me a somewhat quizzical but good-natured smile from Señor Nestor who explained I should come back at 11:30am – its worth pointing out that had I have done so I would have missed out!) and queue until they open for pre-orders at 12 noon.
Once at the front of the queue you make your order for how many pieces of tortilla you want (I was allowed to order 3 without my friends being there) and then return to queue again at about 12:45 ahead of their 1pm opening, in order to be sure of a spot at the bar where you can enjoy the spoils of your victory!
Once I had ordered (with Nestor greeting me like a long lost friend) I decided to wait in the small Pintxo bar across the road (where I had spotted Nestor himself earlier) and enjoyed a couple of breakfast pintxos while I waited which was ideal as I was able to pop back across the road when I saw the opening queue starting to form.
Once inside Bar Nestor, you are best to position yourself at the bar counter nearest the entrance as this is where much of the action happens. The kitchen hatch is at the far end of the bar, meaning that guests who position themselves there are often gently moved out of the way in order to accommodate the frenetic service.
The tortilla is then bought out from the kitchen behind the bar and ceremoniously sliced up, with the staff calling out the names of the lucky few, who managed to snag a coveted slice of tortilla, in order of reservation.
So is it worth it you ask? Absolutely! Melt in your mouth potatoes & sweet caramelised onions, enveloped in soft crust, with just a hint of char, giving way to an oozy golden yolky centre, truly by far the best tortilla I have ever eaten, and an absolute highlight of the trip.
We shared an order of the tomato salad and the pimientos de padron, the tomato salad was so fragrant you could smell the tomatoes before it was even placed in front of us! The salad was dressed simply in olive oil (SO MUCH OIL) and a hefty pinch of salt (San Sebastián is not somewhere to go if you are concerned about the amount of salt or olive oil you consume!) and the pimientos de padron had been blistered and sprinkled with yet more salt.
I believe they are offered in different portion sizes but the staff seem to decide what size portion is needed, based on how many people you are (roll with it – they are excellent and I watched them expertly handle a hectic service with skill and ease)
The Txuleta is presented to you raw to choose from, you can have either bone in ribeye or sirloin, both of which are available in several different weights. It is then taken back into the kitchen where it is cooked on the plancha and bought back to you when ready. The preferred method of preparation is almost “black and blue” that is to say that they score the beef with a sharp blade, allowing salt to draw out the moisture and form a charred, crispy exterior when cooked on the plancha, whilst the inside is left so rare, it is almost blue. It is worth mentioning that Txuleta although extremely flavourful, is quite tough meat, owing to the age of the cattle it is sourced from. Poor G missed out on this as D and I are both non beef eaters, but with so many other things to try in San Sebastián, I don’t think he was too sad.
So, Bar Nestor. Absolutely unmissable and a highlight of our trip – you’d be crazy to miss it!