Donostia: same same but different

I have mentioned my deep love of José before, probably on more than one occasion, probably anytime anyone mentions the word ‘tapas’ and probably too many times. But that’s how much I heart the place. So any other tapas restaurant already starts from a disadvantage (unfairly or fairly) when having to prove their worth.

I am pleased then to report that Donostia has survived the José comparison!

photo (10)

So what’s different? For a start, Donostia is located in a relatively more genteel part of town, on Seymour Place, which is currently my London find for restaurants. Vinoteca, Grazing Goat, Red Sun and Sandy’s come to mind for other good spots around the area.

The setting is also quite different. Donostia is all light, white and Scandinavian furniture, whereas José feels much more like a traditional Spanish tapas bar.  With the location and setting as well, also comes fancy toiletries from Penghalion’s.

So how about the food?  Donostia is named after the Basque capital of gastronomy and pays homage to its classic cuisine of pintxos, pil pil cod and fizzy aperitifs. And we made sure to cover the menu comprehensively for you dear reader, at the expense of our waistlines.

Foie gras, ox tongue fritters, braised cod cheeks + croquettas

(clockwise, from top left): Seared foie gras, ox tongue fritters, pil-pil (braised cod cheeks), jamon croquetas

The real winners though were in descending order, the house red, the tortilla and the pluma and I will take each of these in turn.

The house red, a biodynamic rioja – Gran Cerdo 2010 –  was simply outstanding especially at £18 for a bottle.  As a wine dedicated to the bank executives that denied loans to the winemaker, Gonzalo Gonzalo (awesome name!), on the basis that wine is not a seizable asset, this clearly shows how dumb bankers are!   The nose and flavours are an intoxicating combination of red and dark berries, faint lavender (or violets) and a slightly earthy edge.  The best part was this wine went well with everything, including the pil-pil.

Pluma with romenesco sauce, tortilla with salt cod and spinach

(from top): Pluma with romenesco sauce, tortilla with salt cod and spinach

The tortilla was a beautifully oozy masterpiece (as you can see from the picture), probably the best tortilla I’ve had in London.  We had the version with salt cod and spinach, but I suspect the regular version will be just as amazing.

Now the pluma, this piece of pork holds a special place in my heart.  Pork loin from some of the best acorn fed pig.  At José, this is served simply seared and beautifully pink on the inside with a drizzle of the best-quality olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, making for some very tender and flavourful morsels.  One previous visit to José saw five of us fight over four plates of it.  But I digress, this post is meant to be about Donostia.  The version served here is more medium/medium-rare and I am biased towards meat served rare.  The romanesco sauce is pretty good.  Okie, it’s clear which version I prefer…

Overall, I can see myself going back to Donostia a lot, for the wine, food and just because the location is so convenient for me. But as they say, it’s hard to forget first loves…

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (José would get 5 in case you were wondering)
Good for:  Date night, dinner with smaller group of friends

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