My sister-in-law and I went on a mini-break to Bilbao, and after eating tapas on the first night, decided that we wanted something more substancial on the second. We chose La Gabarra because it promised "Just across the Deusto bridge from the Guggenheim, this typical Basque asador y sidrería (roast-and-cider house) specializes in wood-grilled steaks and fish" and I fancied some fish, whereas my friend wanted a good steak.
So, first of all, the location. This place is not at all "just across" from the Guggenheim, it's quite a bit further on a darkened street with nothing else there, so no atmosphere to speak of. This continued inside as we walked in to a room that although beautiful could have doubled as a mausoleum: no music and one waiter who would have made a better undertaker than host.
To be fair to him though he did come round a little in the end and bagged up our wine for us, which was kind.
We were directed to a very pleasant table with a little bench seat and brought a basket of complimentary bread, which was delicious..."Great!", we thought, "this is going to be amazing!"
The waiter brought us a menu and it becamee immediately apparent that the website description of "specialising" in steak and fish was somewhat an overstatement: there were 2 types of steak available (one being the amazing "chuleta" that did look pretty incredible) and about 4 types of fish. And that was it. Not a single vegetarian dish, no tapas or big salads. Then came the bombshell: of the 4 types of fish on the menu, none were available, thus narrowing down the options to the following: steak, chuleta or squid. Seriously, that's it.
Well I don't eat meat, only fish, so that was my meal pretty much down the pan.
By this stage we'd already ordered a bottle of cider (delicious) and we didn't want to be rude and just walk out, so we ordered as best we could and got on with it.
My starter (12 Euros, what a joke) consisted of 6 esparragus. Nothing else: a plate with these 6 esparragus on it. The big thick white ones you get in tins in Mercadona or Dia for about 1 or 2 Euros.
My friend ordered anchovies and that's what she got: a dish with about an inch of olive oil tipped into it, with 4 anchovies sunk into the bottom of the oil, wallowing away lonesomely. How much for that extravagance? 8 Euros of course! For 4 anchovies!!!!
We were pretty depressed by this, and luckily the wine was delicious (a Crianza, well worth the cost at 14 Euros a bottle). Then the main courses came.
Because of utter lack of choice, I'd just ordered the squid. It wouldn't have ever been my first choice as I prefer squid as part of a paella or served in a fish stew or chowder, but hey, what can you do when that is the only thing available?!
So here it came: a plate, with 5 little whole squids on it. Their tentacles had been tucked back into the bodies, which was quite nice and pretty fun, and they had been just grilled on the fire. Nothing else on the plate: just 5 little squid bodies. Not even some olive oil or anything, and certainly no garnish, let alone maybe a few fries, or a sauce or some salad: nothing.
My friend fared better, she had ordered the steak and it was perfect, really juicy and delicious, although again it came on it's own on the plate with not even some garnish, just a blob of peppers on the side. We wouldn't have minded if you'd been able to actually order things separately, but they just didn't have them!
Maybe this is totally normal for an "asador", but a) I lived in barcelona for 7 years and never came across a place that didn't even have the options of soemthing to have WITH your hunk of meat or fish, and b) we actually have a restaurant ourselves and there's only one word to describe what we would be if we served food like that, and that's 'shut'.
We had ordered one of the started salads to have with our mains as the waiter had said that they came with nothing else, but the salad never turned up, so we just told him to forget about it-- which he had already anyway so we might as well have saved our breath.
Anyway, the whole thing was so depressing that we only drank a glass of wine each from our bottle and decided to get out of there to somewhere less morgue-esque.
The waiter kindly brought over the cork for our wine and gave us a bag. That was pretty much the best part of the experience.
The bill came to over 80 Euros-- a totally utter joke.
This is the first bad review I have ever left, I usually wouldn't but I just wanted people to be warned, as the website for the restaurant is very misleading and it's an expensive mistake to make.
Incidentally all the other tables in there were foreigners who'd obviously been lured in by the website too. Not a local in sight-- did they know something we didn't?
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