Martin Berasategui, when talent is directly proportional to simplicity

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I love surfers.

The way they live their passion. The philosophy behind this sport. Their will to go always and no matter what to the beach. Never giving up to seasons. The screams, the colors.

Surf seems a wonderful metaphor of life: swimming with your chest on the board. Almost slithering, existing only in low profile to get away from the earth. To leave the others to their sad, identical life. Then waiting. Sometimes so much it seems infinite. The search for balance, living for a few seconds in the crest of the wave, and falling unavoidably into water. Then going back to the shore and leave again. Because in the end the meaning of surfing and of life is here: knowing how to start over.

I have already said that in my previous story: I have fallen for Spain. And I have literally lost my mind for San Sebastian.

I would like to buy a house there

I imagine that the same thought was made by Martin Berasategui who has traveled the world and then decided to open his restaurant in the Basque territory.

His restaurant is in a suburb in the hinterland, on top of a hill. The entrance is austere, serious, elegant. The writing at the entrance in rusty iron, Martin Berasategui shows a great confidence with modern art that the chef appreciates a lot.

It is strangely sunny in San Sebastian: this is supposed to be the rainy period, but the limpid sky same color as the ocean allows me to appreciate even more the amazing green surrounding the restaurant. The table I have reserved, round, wide, spacey, is decorated with a beautiful orchid, it is in front of a glass wall on this garden, full of fruit trees and ornamental plants. The nature and the hills around here give me a sense of happiness and peace, inviting my brain to produce endorphins.

I leave the room that shows a romantic and scenic chimney in the center, clearly off, only to visit the restrooms. They are identical to those of Lasarte in Barcelona, one of the many restaurants of Berasategui. Imagine that the gel to clean your hands is by Hermes. That is serious.

Back at my table I start with the amuse bouche. I know the dishes: I have already eaten them in the restaurant in Barcelona, the one run by the Italian Paolo Casagrande. Crunchy with prawn, lacquered eel, foie gras with lemon mousse. The maître, to whom I had talked before telling him about my experience at Lasarte enters the room with a dish directly advised by the chef. It is a new antipasti, just put in the menu: a caviar gelé with white asparagus cut into pieces and white asparagus pickled mousse. They ask me how it is. I smile and say: “Exceptional”.

I choose the menu à la carte: differently from the “degustation” menu it is composed by “full dishes”, not small tastes studied to appreciate Berasategui’s cuisine.


I start with a salad composed by eighty elements! Leafs of different plants, reductions, small pearls, pieces of lobster. The dish has been in the menu since 2001 and presents a gelé of white tomato. I am almost moved.

The sommelier advises me to accompany it with a wine chosen directly by him: a Artadi Pagos Viejos. A full-bodied red wine, with the right minerality.

I pass to the main course: a filet divided into three parts with a mousse of Spanish jamon accompanied by mushrooms and asparaguses. It is a huge dish, very good. Meat is perfectly cooked and has a unique substance.

I close with the dessert: two vanilla mousses with almond ice-cream and chopped ice at whisky.

At the end of the meal as it always happens the maître invites me to visit the kitchen: Martin Berasategui is there creating new dishes. He says hi with enthusiasm, gets interested into our magazine and explains me how they work in his restaurant. He has 55 guys with him! A huge number but soon explained: they are apprentices. Berasategui, whose nickname is El General because of his serious way to boss the teams, held free courses in his kitchens. He trains his students, sending the best in the restaurants he has around the world: from Mexico, to Tenerife, from the Dominican Republic to Barcelona, where his former “student” Paolo Casagrande works, who Berasategui trusts a lot.

The tour is not over though: the visit continues at the inferior floor, where you can find a kitchen only for the team, next to a TV studio that Berasategui uses to register his programs for the Spanish TV, he is a very famous figure.

On the ground floor there is the wine cellar: it is divided into two parts, one for white wines and another for red wines, and it has more than 50.000 bottles. There are crazy level champagne bottles and Spanish labels, the chef explains me that even though they cost far less, they have nothing to envy to great Italian or French wines.

I go back at my table to taste the classic infusion at the end of the meal: the chef enters the room to say hi to all guests. He is welcomed by a real ovation: a very long applause accompanies him in his tour through the tables, where he talks, takes pictures and autographs menus. One is mine.

I leave the restaurant full and satisfied: in my stomach and in my soul. I have seen one of the best chefs in Spain working. A cook who does not have any space on his jacket left to show the stars he has earned, but he looks like a very simple man.

I would like also the Italian chefs to show the same simplicity, while sometimes we cannot even reach them with e-mails. Imagine talking to them or taking pictures. No problem.

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