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Nowhere does bar snacks like San Sebastián, with its Basque take on that Spanish staple, tapas. Forgo the city’s Michelin stars for a tour of its more budget-friendly miniature cuisine



The city beach of Playa de la Concha in San Sebastián. Right:Pintxos piled high at Bar Gandarias

ASK SPANIARDS ABOUT THE origins of tapas and each will give you a different answer, but all agree on one thing - it began in the bars. Tapa means 'cover' in Spanish, and these snacks were once just that, an edible lid for a glass of wine or beer. Traditionally they were simple offerings that fuelled the evening's real focus: drinking and talking. But in San Sebastian, on Spain's northern coast, the bar snack is taken rather more seriously.

This is the home of the pintxo - in its simplest form a single portion of food speared (pintxo means 'spike') onto a piece of bread. San Sebastian's location, with the Bay of Biscay on one side and the fertile green lands of the Basque Country on the other, means it enjoys a plentiful supply of premium pintxo ingredients. Mercado de la Bretxa is a showroom for the region's produce, and it's here - among shoppers poring over fragrant olives and line-caught fish piled high on chipped ice - that I meet Gabriella Ranelli, a guide who's worked in the city for over 20 years.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - July 2018
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