Dining out in San Sebastián is a food crawl like no other: locals cruise the tapas bars, gobbling up a speciality at each before continuing. London hasn’t caught on to this model yet, but the team behind Donostia is slowly fashioning a tiny Basque enclave up in Marylebone – the group’s second venture is just steps from its first.
This smart, luxurious outfit centres around erretegias, the charcoal and wood grills used in Basque cooking. Smoky aromas waft from the open kitchen, and almost everything tastes like it’s had a beneficial brush with the flames. Typical Basque delicacies include gelatinous kokotxas (hake’s, er, double chin) and padrón-style peppers from Guernica.
Sharing plates are big on flavour but small in size. Warm sourdough, chewy and crusty, was even more mouthwatering spread with silky marrow scooped from the bone. A tiny tartare of cobia – its firm flesh chopped into bead-like morsels whose texture melded with the trout roe they were topped with – had a perky dill and citrus dressing. A stout courgette flower stuffed with creamy cod brandade was more generous. Supremely tender pork tenderloin came imbued with sense-aligning bonfire notes. The wine list features sprightly, refreshing txakoli alongside glasses from similarly independent-minded areas of Spain such as Catalunya and Mallorca.
Although the main dining area is a candlelit vision in Eau de Nil and white marble, its close-set tables and hard surfaces make for challenging acoustics. At times I almost had to shout to my companion, meaning the poor couple next to us endured every word. Try the front tables by the bar for a more intimate experience.
Still, Lurra was noisy because it was full – and full of the sort of fortunate locals who pitch up at Seymour Place’s eateries on a weeknight the way the rest of us treat ourselves to an M&S meal deal. Two Basque offerings on this gastronomically fertile patch prove you can never have too much of a good thing.