A quick hop over the Spanish border from Bayonne and you are in Basque cider country,
home to the siderias where for a fixed price you can get an amazing rustic lunch or dinner including all the cider you can drink. We’re talking large quantities of simply prepared traditional Basque dishes.
On a whim, knowing nothing more than what was written in blurb in Rough Guide and after a quick search on the internet from our hotel in Bayonne, we set out last Saturday afternoon to find Sarasola. Unfortunately their site is written in Basque with options to change the language to Spanish or French (if you can figure out what “Spanish” or “French” look like when written in Basque) on the upper left side of their main page. They offer two maps with no real directions, but with the help of our GPS and a few key signs off the G1-131 we found the place just after 1PM.
The sign at the warehouse (in Spanish) says that the dining room is all the way to the back. No one is in sight as we enter and pass the large casks of cider on our way to the back dining room where we find the kitchen staff still eating lunch. I guess we are a tad early (we find out later that lunch service generally begins at 1:30). No problem she says and asks if we have reservations. “ No,” we reply. After some discussion with one of the other staff member she says she can squeeze us at in a table for two in the back. The large rustic dining room is empty and chilly (better for keeping the cider, I presume).
She explains the fixed menu (listed below), confirms the 30 Euro per person price (all in Spanish), places a-still-warm-from-the-oven baguette on the table and says “venga”, motioning us to bring our glasses and follow her. In the warehouse she stops in front of a cask and points to a square on the floor about four feet in front of her where we are to hold our glass. She then turns on the spigot and out streams the cider.
Although the glass is large, presumable to catch the cider, you are only to fill your glass about an inch or two, returning frequently for refill of fresh cider. The cider is good and tart with a dry fermented flavor that marries well with the salty food we are about to indulge in.
To start – chorizo – peppery but not too hot – and blood sausage – earthy with a texture that melts in your mouth.
Bacalao tortilla – the richest eggy omelet combined with salty morsels of bacalao (salt cod).
Bacalao served with fried green peppers – salty rings of fresh fried pepper served over a thick filet of yummy bacalao.
Rib steak – a thick grilled steak, still on the bone, blood red and just warm on the inside and perfectly charred on the outside.
Pur brebis (sheep) cheese served with quince jam and walnuts – I love this combination. Too bad I was so full from the rest of the meal.
As we ate more and more guests started to appear, all Spanish and mostly families or groups of friends. This is definitely a tourist destination, but a Spanish tourist destination. So dig in and chow down like a Spaniard.
To get to Sarasola from San Sebastian get on to the Autopista del Cantábrico (AP-1) and take the G1-131 towards Hernani. On G1-131 between Hernani (to the southwest) and Ergobia (to the northeast) you will see signs to Sarasola and some other neighboring siderias. It’s not far off the main road and the signs will lead you directly there. Click here for a Google map.
Generally open between January and the end of April but best to check opening hours before you head out. Good luck and enjoy.