San Sebastián, the beautiful coastal city in Spain’s Basque region, has a global reputation for being a gastronomic paradise. The city is home to a large number of Michelin Star restaurants (only second to Kyoto) and it’s known for its variety of bars serving pintxos (local Basque tapas). In April 2019, I visited Lili in Biarritz and she took me to San Sebastian for a foodie trip. During this visit, we were lucky enough to discover the wonders of Bar Nestor.
While Lili is a seasoned veteran of eating in San Sebastian (see her posts about Borda Berri and La Cuchara de San Telmo), this was my first time in the famed city. Lili had done some reading ahead of time and suggested that we try Bar Nestor for dinner one night. Disclaimer: this is a story of fate lining things up for us. Timing is everything!
There are 2 key details you need to know about Bar Nestor: firstly, it’s popular; secondly, you need to pre-plan your visit for the best experience. Thankfully for us, Lili read that Bar Nestor makes spectacular Spanish tortilla, but there’s a catch: you need to pre-reserve your slice. YES, you read that right. You need to call dibs on a slice or you miss out!
Nestor, the owner, only makes 2 tortillas per day: one for lunch and one for dinner. That’s it, no secret extras hiding in the kitchen. The bar opens at 12:45pm for lunch and 7:30pm for dinner, with tortilla service happening at 1pm and 8pm. If you want to claim a slice of this highly coveted omelette, you’ll need to arrive an hour before either the lunch or dinner opening time when the bar window opens and a man puts your name down on a notepad. But there’s a strict rule: be there when the tortilla is served or else!
Knowing that we wanted dinner at Bar Nestor, Lili and I popped into the bar during lunch time to see if we could reserve a table and two slices of tortilla. The barman said that no reservations were available, but that if we returned around 6:30pm, we could put our names down on the tortilla list. And this is exactly what we did!
We arrived at about 6:20pm to find that there was already a queue of three people ahead of us for the tortilla. When the window opened, we lined up, fourth in the queue:
“¡Hola! Dos porciones de tortilla por favor.”
“Y su nombre?”
And like that, we were in! Because the three people in front of us had also reserved two slices each, 8 slices were already claimed from a tortilla that’s typically cut into 16. You can see how it disappears with lightning speed. Timing is everything.
We returned around 7:45pm and although the place was busy, we were lucky enough to get a standing space at the bar. While we ordered food and drinks and waited for the tortilla, customer after customer came in asking if it was possible to get tortilla. Lolz at the rookies. Our counter spot turned out to be perfect because we had front row seats to the glorious arrival and cutting of the tortilla. The placing of the tortilla on the counter felt ceremonial, a beloved ritual that ignited a sense of anticipation in the room.
The tortilla was sliced and served promptly at 8pm. The barman called out the names on his list and when the patrons responded, their slices were handed to them. The staff at Bar Nestor mean business though; this sacred tortilla doesn’t wait for you, you wait for it! One unfortunate Spaniard arrived after 8:10pm and was humorously scolded for not claiming his tortilla on time. The threat to give his slices away was very real (there were even customers on standby!). Timing is everything.
The tortilla was, of course, delicious. It was far creamier and smoother than any other tortilla I’d had before. Nestor uses a special recipe that ensures the centre is runny, flavourful, and loaded with sliced potatoes. Nearby patrons who didn’t manage to secure a slice looked at us and our plates with envy. I very much enjoyed the slice and definitely wish we had reserved a third one for the two of us (greedy perhaps, but yolo). Eating our special tortilla definitely felt like we had just experienced a distinctive foodie moment.
Beyond the tortilla, Bar Nestor also serves a bangin’ selection of Spanish dishes. There isn’t a physical menu handed out to customers, but the dishes include: tomato salad, a jamón ibérico platter, grilled Guernica chile peppers, and the famous chuleta de vaca vieja (beef steak). They of course have white and red wine and rosé, but our drink recommendation is txakoli (pronounced chacoli), a slightly sparking dry white wine produced in Basque country. It’s usually poured from a high height and the staff at Bar Nestor are good at making a show of it.
To accompany our tortilla, Lili and I shared the tomato salad and the grilled peppers. Both were incredible. The tomato salad was brilliantly fresh and rich in flavour, extremely simple with a drizzle of olive oil and salt, and yet so memorable. I could eat this daily. The same goes for the grilled peppers, cooked with the perfect crunch and so full of flavour. There must be something in the soil in the Basque region!
Now for the chuleta… Bar Nestor absolutely know what they’re doing here. When you order the chuleta, a member of staff presents you with a few raw slabs of meat and invites you to choose one. They are MASSIVE! Lili and I picked the smallest one of the two (there’s only so much we can eat!), which was then cooked to Bar Nestor’s style. You don’t need to tell them how you like your meat cooked because it doesn’t matter. Bar Nestor chooses how much to cook it and we don’t dare mess with their system. When the chuleta came out, it was still sizzling and oh she was a beauty. We were stunned not only by the size of the portion, but also the immense flavour. We were in foodie heaven with this perfectly cooked beef. Words can’t do it justice, but trust us when we say it was fantastic! We were so defeated by all this food, that we offered some of the chuleta to two nearby customers who were too full to order one for themselves. They were mega grateful (obviously!). We simply couldn’t let that amazing meat go to waste!
We left Bar Nestor that night as very satisfied food lovers with full and happy bellies. We loved the atmosphere, the food, and the exclusiveness of the tortilla… the entire experience was a chase with a prize at the end. I’m thankful that Lili and I shared this memorable foodie adventure together and our hope is that this blog post helps you enjoy Bar Nestor as much as we did! And remember, timing is everything.
- Closed on Mondays.
- Lunch service from 12:45pm to 3pm.
- Dinner service from 7:30pm to 11pm.
- You MUST pre-reserve a slice of the famous tortilla by visiting the bar roughly an hour before the lunch/dinner opening time and adding your name to the tortilla list. Very worth the effort.