If you ever travel to Bilbao this year, I beg you to take a copy of their GastroMap 2005. This is the only map you will ever needed for traveling in Bilbao (from a foodie's perspective). There is no better time to visit Bilbao than this year -- for it is the Year of Basque Gastronomy (okay, I admit, it's rather inconsiderate for me to say this at this time of year). I was so grateful that I have taken a copy from the tourism counters right after I landed Bilbao. From thence, Bilbao sizzles every single moment!
What they do -- this is something our all-mouthy Hong Kong tourism board should learn and follow suit -- are putting pretty much all the best eating and drinking joints of the city into different categories and indexing them all on the map. With information about eateries of Bilbao covered in English in such a short supply, this unerring little map really comes in handy!
The first shrine I went after with the map was a bar called Bar Iruna, heralded as a "Pintxos Clasicos" by the Bilbao people. Just two blocks off the Gran Via (around Plaza Circular), Iruna is in halves with one decorated with bright tiles in Moorish fashion whereas another reeked of decadence with a ceiling of stucco panels and wooden fans. Then I moved on for my laziest classic pintxos pilgrimage on earth, I went for my second shrine at Bar Ledesma, which is just a corner turn away from Bar Iruna. Being such a big fan of traditional tapas, this pintxos double-header was as much as I could ever ask for.
Just a tad further along, I crossed Ponte del Arenal en route to Casco Viejo, the old neighborhood. There, I reached Cafe Boulevard, a delicatessen right across Teatro Arriaga. Totally tranced by the outlook of this quaint cafe, I suddenly found myself in a musical groove and started crooning my version of Sunset Boulevard. " Sunset Boulevard, headline boulevard. Getting here is only the beginning. Sunset Boulevard, jackpot boulevard. Once you've won you have to go on eating..." I sneaked in my boulevard before any of my fellow pedestrians started to turn head by the twisting noise I made... Okay, I know, I'd better focus on what I do best: eating.
But the show must go on. I must not let it stop. So I cruised on my way to Plaza Nueva. What do I got here? Cafe Bilbao! Yet another place for my classic pintxos hunt. It is dubbed as a "cafe typico" by the locals. All the pintxos were lovely and I swore to god I wanted to try them all. But I was already too full after all these rounds of killing. It was 5 in the afternoon and I really needed to take a rest before I raise the curtain of Bermo, one of the only 2 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bilbao, in less than 3 hours...
...Parte I, TBC
On the right you'll find my Eat Bilbao! Flickr set, gigormously built with 126 pictures. Bon Appetit!