Bilbao, northern Spain: a great restaurant and bar scene.

Read any guide about the Spanish Basque Country and it will invariably tell you that San Sebastián has more Michelin stars per capita than any other city in the world. Exciting culinary things have been happening there since the birth of the new Basque cuisine in the 1970s and San Sebastián still remains Spain’s ‘great culinary mecca’, reports the New York Times.

But Bilbao is beginning to catch up, with accomplished young chefs, such as Josean Martínez Alija, chef at the Guggenheim Museum Restaurant, turning out artistic and innovatory dishes which dazzle the taste buds. Mr. Martínez trained at the world famous El Bulli and his dishes are unusual, complex and delicious. Try the tasting menu (restauranteguggenheim.com) which costs 70 euros without wine.

A more reasonably priced option with excellent food is the recently opened Bascook (8 Barroeta Aldamar), a cosy, dimly-lit, sit-down restaurant, serving dishes that are meant for sharing with friends. The menu contains a vegetarian section, not always easy to find in pork-loving Spain. Try the calamari swirls served with Parmesan ‘noodles’ made from agar-agar and freeze-dried ‘crumbs’ of squid ink, or the tasty risotto, washed down with a superb bottle of fruity white Rueda.

And if you’re looking for something more informal, the Casco Antiguo (old town) is bursting with tapas venues where the bars are piled high with ‘pintxos’. In the smart shopping area around the Gran Via, the small street, Garcia Ribero, is given over almost entirely to bars and is THE place to go for a drink and snacks. Enjoy!

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