Every time I’ve been to Azurmendi, it’s been a journey. The three Michelin-starred restaurant is situated half way up a very steep hill, about 15 minutes drive from Bilbao. In the evenings, almost every inch of the palatial structure is lit up like a glittering crystal; and as you drive up the winding road to reach the restaurant, it illuminates the darkness like a beacon.
Before you begin the meal, you always take a tour through the rooftop greenhouse. In the midst of its herbaceous tomato vines and faintly perfumed herbs, you take your first courses – the snacks. This time, my journey began with wisps of cotton candy made with white asparagus; jellied tomato water; spiralised, pickled courgette; and crisp, fragile mushroom leaves.
Inside the lobby, you have the picnic – baskets filled with bites of salted anchovy millefeuille, roe and dill topped cracker and a CaipiriTxa. The forest-green bonbons of CaipiriTxa are filled with citrusy juices that exploded onto the palate when you sucked away the shell. In Eneko Atxa’s twist on the Caiprinha, the secret weapon is the Txakoli wine produced on-site by Atxa’s cousins at Gorka Izagirre.