Jun Tanaka: where and what to eat in San Sebastián

American-British chef Jun Tanaka learned his trade working for many of the world’s culinary greats, among them Marco Pierre White and Éric Chavot. He now runs his own restaurant, The Ninth, on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street. When he’s not in the kitchen, he likes to head over to San Sebastián where he hops from bar to bar, eating and drinking. ‘San Sebastián is a gastronomic paradise. You can go to a top-end three-Michelin star restaurant or a pintxos bar and the quality of the food is incredible. Sometimes when I visit, I go to a fine dining restaurant, but I really love going to the pintxos bars. And you can do three or four in one evening, and that's the beauty of San Sebastián. But it's not just about knowing where to eat, it's about knowing what to order.’ 

Photographer: Paul Winch-Furness

Ganbara for mushrooms and egg, tuna carpaccio and spider crab tart  

My favourite place is Ganbara. For me, it’s the best pintxos bar in San Sebastián and everything I’ve eaten here has been super delicious. It has one of the longest queues in San Sebastián, so you have to be willing to wait. But people move through quite quickly and it’s worth it just for their world-famous mushrooms and egg. It’s a simple dish of sautéed seasonal mushroom and egg yolk and it’s so good. Other must-choose dishes are the tuna belly carpaccio, and the spider crab tarts made from crabs found in the waters around San Sebastián. This dish was so delicious that I’ve done my own take on it at The Ninth. 

C. de San Jerónimo, 21; ganbarajatetxea.com


Bar Néstor for tortilla 

Bar Néstor is famous for its tortilla. The chef only makes two a day; one for lunch and one for dinner. He gets roughly twenty portions from each, and you have to get there at least one hour before service to book your portion. By the time service opens, it has completely sold out. It’s cheap, €3 a portion, and it’s perfectly cooked – firm on the outside and gooey in the middle. I have it every time I’m in San Sebastián.  

Arrandegi Kalea 11, San Sebastián; bar-nestor.negocio.site

Bar Txepetxa for anchovies  

Bar Txepetxa just do anchovy pintxos, and they do every different combination imaginable. The family who owns the bar has been in the anchovy business for 100 years – the grandmother was an anchovy seller in Zarautz.  My favourites are the anchovies with sea urchin cream, or the ones with spider crab.  They even have an anchovy pintxos with blueberries. If you love anchovies, this place is a must-visit.

Calle Pescadería, 5; bartxepetxa.es

La Cuchara de San Telmo for suckling pig 

At La Cuchara de San Telmo they specialise in suckling pig. When I go there, I order the pig’s ears and the suckling pig. That’s it. The pig’s ears come with apple sauce drizzle over the top, and the suckling pig is roasted and served with pesto. It’s cooked perfectly: crispy skin, tender and juicy underneath. 

Santa Korda Kalea, 4; instagram.com/lacucharadesantelmo

La Viña for Basque cheesecake 

La Viña is the place to go for Basque cheesecake. It’s the best I’ve ever had. They make a lot so, luckily, they don’t sell out. It’s a baked cheesecake using the local cheese and they have perfected the cooking of it. It’s soft and slightly runny on the inside. 

31 de Agosto Kalea, 3lavinarestaurante.com/en

Try Jun’s food at The Ninth, 22 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2NB; theninthlondon.com

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