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Pintxo

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

@orlathomas

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT

The city beach of Playa de la Concha in San Sebastián. Right:Pintxos piled high at Bar Gandarias
PHOTOGRAPHS: JUSTIN FOULKES, MARK READ

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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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Summer's here and this month we'll be showing you how to make the most of the season. In the June issue, we're trying colour therapy, reflecting on our friendships, building up our resilience, channelling our imagination with creative writing, making our own soap, cooking with edible flowers, stargazing in La Palma and much more.