I’ve had hot chocolates in a lot of different countries over the years. It always fascinates me how every country does it slightly differently. I like how the Spanish create their hot chocolate. It is usually thick and gooey here, like pudding, but still not as sweet as you would expect.
Bokado is a bar/café/restaurant above the Aquarium in San Sebastian. From here you have a stunning view of the town.
The café itself is very crisp and clean looking. Everything in the café is either grey or white and very modern. It is Sunday which means everyone is out walking with family and friends and many stop here and at other cafes to grab a drink. I am the only person drinking alone but that doesn’t fuss me because the hot chocolate was good. It was thick, the consistency of a rich chocolate pudding but not heavy or sweet.
Verdict: Fantastic view, good hot chocolate, what else do you need? There are few places as beautiful as San Sebastian. Bokado 3 euros
San Sebastian hosts a film festival every September. It is one of the main international film festivals rivalling Berlin’s and Toronto’s. This hotel has been completely inspired by these films. The lobby walls are covered in black and white pictures of film stars back in the day doing glamorous things. Each of the rooms are dedicated to a famous actor, director or producer. My room is the Cohen Brothers room, the last thing I see before I go to bed at night is a giant picture of the two of them staring right at me. If staring at their picture in my room inspires me to see their movies I can. All I need to do is call reception and they will send me up any of the 500 different movies that they have downstairs in their projection room for me to watch.
It’s a fantastic hotel and the breakfast room has the same sort of movie star feel to it. I looked forward every morning to having their omelette with Spanish ham and cheese (my mouth is watering just thinking about it) and of course my hot chocolate.
The hot chocolate they have is a pouch of powder called Cola Cao which they bring to me with a jug of hot milk. I quite liked this, it is the kind of hot chocolate I could have (and was having) every morning. It has a very faint taste of chocolate with a bit of a malty finish to it. It isn’t too sweet, just nice and simple.
Verdict: Despite the main ingredient being sugar I quite enjoyed this hot chocolate and was happy to drink it every morning that I stayed at the hotel. The hotel also has a café that probably serves a fancier version but I didn’t have the chance to try it out. Astoria 7 Hotel, Sagrada Familia 1, San Sebastian, Spain
I hadn’t planned to stop for a hot chocolate but when I passed this place I had no choice but to go in. Opila is a combination of two great things. It is a beautiful bakery full of different kinds of breads and a vast array of gorgeous looking desserts and sweets. On the other hand it is a fancy chocolate store with a wide range of homemade chocolate. These are two personalities that work well for me, it means that I can have my hot chocolate and eat it too!
I was relieved and excited when the man behind the counter told me they made their hot chocolates with their own chocolate. I ordered one and something sweet and made my way upstairs. The bakery area is on the ground floor with a few old fashion chairs. Upstairs is a much larger area which has a mix of different types of furniture including the headboard of an old bed which is now part of a sofa. The upstairs looks out over the river. From here I can see the locals running to the local bars wearing red and white. Tonight is a big game with the local football team.
A man downstairs makes my hot chocolate and puts it into a little elevator that brings it upstairs. Here a waitress picks it up and brings it to my table. Just from looking at this one I could tell it would be good and it was. It is exceptional, exactly what I needed after a long day. It is beautifully rich and dark, very creamy and smooth. I have completely fallen in love with this little white cup. It isn’t too sweet, a touch bitter, it is perfect. And at 2 euros it is an incredible price!
Verdict: Right at this moment this is my perfect hot chocolate, but to drink it everyday would ruin it. Save this for when you need it and don’t rush it. Opila, Calle Viuda de Epaiza, Bilbao, Spain.
I walked by this café a few times before I finally decided to venture in. The reason? A big florescent sign that said Chocolate y churros on the front window was all I needed. Inside the café is a little bit worn out but I found myself a little corner with a nice view out of the window and asked for chocolate y churros.
Five minutes later I was presented with a cup of hot chocolate and a generous serving of churros, 6 in total. The churros are hot, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. The hot chocolate is thick and gooey, like a hot chocolate pudding. It is presented with a spoon because it is pretty much impossible to drink. On its own the hot chocolate is pretty gooey and sweet but with the churros it is exactly as it should be and a fantastic combination.
Verdict: Before or after you finish discovering the charming little lanes of the old part of the city, venture over to Café del Arenal for Chocolate and Churros. It is a must when you are in Spain and these ones are good! (4.70 euros for both or 2.10 just for the chocolate, 2.60 for churros) Cafe del Arenal, Paseo Arenal 5, Bilbao, Spain.
After an afternoon of wandering in and out of rooms full of fascinating pieces of modern art, I made my way to the café on the first floor. Considering that the Guggenheim is all about innovation and art I expected a lot from the coffee shop. I expected a fantastic atmosphere with a delicious thick hot chocolate, the kind the Spanish do so well.
Perhaps I was expecting too much because the café completely failed to deliver. I am instantly disappointed when the woman behind the bar rips open a pouch of Nestle chocolate powder and mixes it with hot milk. To try to manage my disappointment I ordered two pinxos or small basque tapas that were spread out across the counter. Fortunately these were delicious.
There are some chairs inside the bar but it isn’t very interesting there. I went outside to the front of the museum where a handful of tables have been set up. Each has a green blanket placed over one chair to keep yourself warm if the weather turns cold. Above me is a roof with speakers that are playing a series of sounds which at one point sound like rain. In front of me is the large puppy covered in multicoloured flowers that makes the Guggenheim so famous. As I am leaving I notice a series of tables on a balcony at the back of the museum with a view across the river, a much better choice if you want to sit and enjoy the moment.
Verdict: The hot chocolate is disappointing for such an innovative spot but the pinxos were nice and the location is unique. The Guggenheim is impressive. Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain Euros 2.13