Strictly speaking it’s no longer a pintxo bar, but Néstor in San Sebastián’s Old Town is simply too good to miss. The staff are so welcoming and friendly, and the bar has a great atmosphere. The rules of play here are a little more complicated, but that’s part of the experience. Here’s how it works…
There is high competition for Néstor’s legendary tortilla, not only because it tastes awesome, but also because only two are made each day (one for lunch and one for dinner). Perfectly cooked, with a slight crust that gives way to reveal caramelised onions and tender potatoes, encapsulated by soft, glistening eggs. Arguably the best tortilla in the city.
- Reserve your slice of the action: You need to arrive at the bar at least an hour before it opens to get your name on the list. This could involve ducking under the half-open metal shutters to speak to one of the guys and tell them how many slices you want (limited to one each). Only 16, or maybe 17, portions are available and they sell out fast, so get there at 12 to reserve the lunchtime tortilla, or 7pm for the evening one.
- Return promptly or lose your slice: If you leave after making your reservation you must return promptly for serving time (1pm or 8pm) or your hard-earned slice will be given to someone else. Don’t be late!
- Give yourself a pat on the back: Anticipation builds as the bar fills shortly before the official opening time. You can feel proud of yourself as new customers arrive and ask for tortilla. Today is not their lucky day – the server grabs the list and explains that if your name’s not down you’re missing out. Order a drink to celebrate your success.
- Enjoy: Excitement spreads through the bar as Néstor himself ceremonially appears from the kitchen and sets his golden tortilla on the bar. The whole room seems entranced as, one by one, slices are cut and names are called out.
Ensalada de tomate, pimientos de padrón, txuleta
The holy trinity of Bar Néstor – tomatoes, padrón peppers and steak. Each steak is enough for two people, so you need to loosen your belt or find a friend.
- Find your spot: You must have table or bar space to eat. There is only one table, Table 19, and it can be reserved in advance. There’s also standing room at the bar, with a couple of stools if you’re lucky enough to grab one, and a couple of high tables outside on the street. Get there early and create elbow room, or put your name on the waiting list when you arrive – they’ll give you an estimated waiting time. Do not jump into someone else’s space if it’s not your turn!
- Choose your steak: You’re presented with a plate of raw meat and asked to make your choice of the two steaks – a bone-in ribeye or sirloin. It is weighed, and then whisked away to the kitchen to be cooked.
- Tomato salad: While your steak is cooking, tuck in to the tomato salad. Tomatoes, olive oil, salt – simple, yet sublime.
- Fried padrón peppers: Next up, play Russian Roulette with these delicious, little green peppers – every now and again you get a hot one!
- The steak returns: And now the main event, perfectly cooked, sliced, and seasoned with salt. The steaks are from older cows, meaning they won’t melt in your mouth but they are packed with flavour. Delicious!
- Celebrate: What an experience! As you leave, the next hungry customers eagerly replace you. Repeat until all of the steaks are sold.