Pedro Subijana is such a guy, with his moustache and omnipresent smile he has run Akelare just above San Sebastian for 35 years. He doesn’t bombard you with philosophies and stories about each carrot that is served, but created a frivolous and relaxed restaurant which is all about having fun. From the friendly and warm service brigade to the relatively cheap wine list, up to the stunning views over the Bay of Biscay, a meal here is going to be fun, no matter if you like the food as much as at other restaurants or not.
Subijana’s idea of food is of food that is not only slightly ironical, but also easy to understand. You don’t need to have eaten in tons of 3* restaurants to “understand” the dishes here. His prawns with French beans cooked in “Orujo” fire are cooked tableside, and burst with flavour. Sucking the head’s juices out is a delight for the senses and arguably the best part of this dish.
Even more whimsical in a way are the mollusks caught in the fisherman’s net. These are various types of shellfish that are “caught” in a net, which also features dried shrimp. It’s a dish that is positively gimmicky and only works due to the quality of the produce used. A bit more elaborate, but still fun is the integral red mullet with fusili. Here the star of the dish is not the fish, but the “pasta”. This is one of those moments where Subijana plays a little trick with you and flavours each noodle with a distinct taste: garlic, soy, liver and onions are clearly identifiable. In combination with the fish, this works superbly well.
To sum things up, eating at Akelare is a great experience, it’s fun, its joyful and frivolous. However, if one can criticise one thing, it would be the fact that Subijana seems to play things a bit safely. If he were to venture out into slightly more daring ideas and combinations, you would feel even more excited about eating at Akelare.
However, don’t take this too seriously, because Akelare is a restaurant that just lets you have a good time and a few laughs, whilst having great food and a superb view. At times when chefs are called “god-like geniuses”, it’s a pleasure to see some people taking things with a little humour.