Located in a small and discreet locale with views of the river and the revamped La Ribera market in Bilbao, Mina stands above an entrance gallery to the old San Luis iron mine.
This industrial past, which has forged the landscape and character of the Basque city, turns into an intimate, warm space indoors: half a dozen wood tables without a tablecloth or any other distraction on sight and a counter with eight bar stools to watch chef Álvaro Garrido and his team in action preparing their culinary creations.
His cuisine uses fresh, seasonal, quality ingredients like Guillardeau oyster or bonito fished in the local Biscay waters which are served with flavorful juices, infusions and sauces like aubergine marinated with red tea and prawns, or acid, slightly spiced flavours like the mussel with coconut, citronella and spicy tomato or the delicious rosemary-smoked red mullet with an emulsion of green beans and chili peppers.
These and other dishes, up to a total of 14 that change daily based on what’s available in the market, make up Garrido’s full tasting menu (€110), who is happy to adapt it to diners’ food intolerances. There are two shorter alternative at pretty reasonable prices for a restaurant that has held one Michelin star since 2013: the 10-dish menu (€85) and the light menu (€74). All of them are served by a very professional front of house team who strives to explain the dishes on the table in a friendly, natural way.
Spain —including Jerez— is well represented in the 100-strong wine list featuring terroir-focused producers which also includes wines from top world regions like Champagne and Burgundy. Sommelier Álex Hernández, with experience in top Spanish restaurants like El Portal del Echaurren, Ricard Camarena or Atrio, is behind the wine selection. Mild-mannered and humble, Hernández offers the possibility to match with the menus seven wines by the glass (€55) served in quality glassware and will happily recommend bottles that are likely to surprise and accompany the flavours and contrasts of Garrido’s cuisine.
It’s a good idea to sit outdoors at nearby Tximpun Bar on Muelle Marzana to enjoy a pre-meal aperitif or an evening drink. Under the same ownership as Mina, Tximpun serves wines from small producers, craft beers and cocktails in a pleasant hipster-like atmosphere. Fine bites are also available —gildas (a classic pintxo with cured anchovies, olives and green chilli peppers sprayed with olive oil) and its farmhouse pâté with figs preserve are two favourites— and can be enjoyed while you contemplate the views of the river and the San Antón bridge. Y.O.A.