Asador Etxebarri – the not so sordid details

In the few months that I’ve had this blog, I’ve monitored the search terms that drive traffic to my site and noticed that the most popular searches center around Asador Etxebarri and some of the various details that are hard to find online. In the interest of helping people gain more information and encouraging their visits to Etxebarri, I’ve decided to cover the principle topics.

1. How do you get there?

I don’t have a great answer to this one.  Even though we got there, we still took a small detour and some of the signs were confusing. If I had to go back again, I would probably still have a tough time.  Etxebarri’s website has pretty good directions but here are some details that might be missing.

If you’re coming from San Sebastian on the A-8 toll road, you exit at the ramp marked “Durango” before you hit the toll booths. The website directions call the exit number “J-17” but the exit is not marked as such. If you miss it like we did and cruise on down a while to the next town over, you can exit and turn around using the N-634 and get back to Durango.

When we got to Durango,  we looked for the N-636 direction “Elorrio” which we turned onto. Then, we passed through signs that said “Abadino” as the website indicated. But then, we kept going and it looked like we left Abadino but yet, there were still no signs for Atxondo and Axpe so it got a little unnerving. However, we just kept going using the intermittent signs for “Elorrio” and then we finally saw the signs for Axpe and turned onto it.

The best thing is probably to go take print some maps off Google map so you have an idea of the main routes along the area.  Also make sure your navigator keeps his/her eyes glued to the road for signs. If you have GPS in your car, count yourself lucky but keep tabs on the road signs because you might end up nowhere.  You shouldn’t be driving around for a long while hoping to find the Axpe sign because the place is not far from the center of Durango. If you’re still lost, ask the locals or call the restaurant. We made it without significant difficulty and without the aid of any GPS or cell phone technology, just good old fashioned driving sense.

2. How much does a meal at Etxebarri cost?

Sticky question, and it almost seems distasteful in the dining world to talk about cost but I understand where it comes from.  I’ve held my breath many times before hoping that I would be able to recover from a great meal without having to sell a kidney to pay for it. However, if you’re willing to make the trek to Asador Etxebarri, chances are you’re probably fairly price inelastic when it comes to great dining experiences. My bank account is limited but places like this are something I’m willing to budget and save for.

It seems like I’m dodging the question but I’ll answer it in a round about way. Etxebarri has a regular menu where you can order a la carte items such as whole fish, meats or other seafood. Rumor has it that they have menu del día for about 50 euros but I didn’t see it or perhaps didn’t bother to notice. Since we opted for a tasting menu, I’m not qualified to discuss prices or portion size from the regular menu. Basically we spoke with Lennox about what we really wanted to try and what our individual budgets were and he created a tasting menu to fit it.  The bill was roughly in the low 100 euro range per person without wine, keeping in mind we had angulas, which are the most expensive items on the menu plus an obnoxious amount of food (see pics from my post on Asador Etxebarri).  You can spend more or less depending on the meal you want. Regardless, you’ll get great service and great food. If the locals don’t blink at the thought of dining at Etxebarri (we were one of maybe two tourist tables that I saw that day), then you shouldn’t either.

3. Who is Lennox?

Surprising to see this as part of the search terms but I guess there are some dedicated chef followers out there. It’s inevitable that all English language blog posts about Asador Etxebarri involve Lennox because he’s the only one there who can help guide non-Spanish speakers through the menu and respond to email reservations made in English.  Alas, there’s nothing much I can offer you stalkers regarding the guy besides what’s already been widely circulated as truth or mistruths so I’ll just perpetuate them here.

When I was researching the restaurant prior to the trip, various blogs said he was from South Africa, Australia, Britain, or (insert any country with the Queen’s English here), so for all I know, he could have been raised in India. Besides the obvious fact that he is Victor’s right hand, I know he used to work at a Michelin starred restaurant in San Sebastian prior to Etxebarri and is credited by some as helping to refine the presentation at the restaurant.  I’m curious to see how his influence will continue to affect the cooking at Etxebarri and if he’ll branch out on his own later.

*Update* Lennox Hastie is an Aussie. Thanks cuoco and Chuck for the comments!

Overall, there is nothing daunting or scary about getting to Asador Etxebarri and dining there. If you’re ever in Basque country, you should make your way to Axpe or you’ll have missed a great meal.

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8 responses to “Asador Etxebarri – the not so sordid details

  1. Anthony Bourdain said that Lennox was from Brisbane (Australia).

    Cheers

  2. ‘Lennox Hastie’ from Brisbane Australia

  3. I’ll be visiting this mythic place next month, and was wondering if a taxi from San Sebastian is a viable option? Are there places to rent cars in San Sebastian if not?

    Thanks!

    • @c.k. I’m jealous! You should be able to get a taxi from San Sebastian to Axpe, it’s about 45 minutes from SB. I don’t know about the rates and whether or not they will wait for you. Check with Asador Etxebarri or your hotel on that latter part. If you rent a car, it’s infinitely cheaper if you know how to drive a stick and don’t rent from the airport rental locations. I reserved my car on National’s website and it was an easy process. Just be aware they are not open every day, 24/7.

  4. Hi! Thanks for all the great tips! I am planning to spend a couple of days in San Sebastian – would you recommend renting a car? I definitely want to try and make it to Etxebarri, Mugaritz and Zuberoa – all of which seems a way from the center of SB. How difficult it is for an American to rent a car there? Are there any special licenses that we need or special driving instructions needed?

    Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!

  5. Hi there! SB is small and easily walkable and taxis are available, but you usually have to call ahead for one as opposed to hailing them on the street. If you want to venture out of SB, then you should consider renting a car although I believe you can probably call for taxis if you are just going to eat at a particular place and not peruse the country side. I rented my car through National before I left the States so not sure what the process is once you are there. Rick Steves has some good country by country tips and suggestions on his website regarding licenses and driving etiquette and I did the bulk of my research there. Hope you have a great trip!

  6. Just returned from my second trip to Asador Extebarri –
    Lennox isn’t there anymore, but there’s an alum from elBulli that will help with the translations for those that don’t do homework prior to going…

  7. @urbanvintner – thanks for the update. If envy had a flavor, it would be the smoked oyster dish I ate there! Hope the second time was just a delicious as the first!

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