Spain’s best restaurants – in the middle of nowhere


Man on fire: Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Basque country
“In the flames of the fire lives something that can help ingredients reach their fullest potential.” These are the words of Bittor Arguinzoniz, high priest of the low flame who abandoned his job as a forester years ago to create one of the world’s most astounding grill shrines. Everything – from the homemade goat butter to the caviar-size spring peas to the grass-fed Galician beef to the apple tart – gets hit with smoke from wood the chef chops right outside the back door. But this isn’t the hard smoke of a pit master; this is the delicate finesse of an artist in full control of every bite that passes into the dining room. Ask 10 of the best chefs from around the world where they’d eat their last meal on earth, and probably half would tell you here, at the high-mountain altar of Etxebarri.
• Plaza de San Juan, 1, 48291 Atxondo, Bizkaia, +34 946 58 30 42,
Raising the steaks: Bodega El Capricho, Jiménez de Jamuz, León
Eating at Bodega El Capricho will be the most intense meat experience of your life. José Gordón is like a man possessed in the pursuit of the perfect steak, a journey that starts by raising his own bueyes (oxen) on a special diet of grain and grass, then drying ageing primal cuts of meat based on the age and breed of the animal. A meal at El Capricho starts with ruby veils of raw, aged ox loin, then moves on to cecina (dried beef cured and aged like jamón), ox blood morcilla (blood sausage), and an outrageously good tartare. But all of that is a prelude to the main event: chuletón de buey, rib steaks with nothing on them but coarse salt, cooked over oak until charred on the outside and barely warm throughout. The meat packs deep concentrations of umami and mineral intensity and a rim of dense, yellow fat that tastes like brown sugar. Warning: It will be hard to go back to regular beef after El Capricho.
• Paraje de la Vega, s/n, 24767 Jiménez de Jamuz, León, +34 987 66 42 24,