Interview

A bar where the potato omelette runs out even before door opening

If you walk across Pescadería Street any morning, and see a bunch of people standing in line outside a closed blind, you may know that they are not buying tickets for a Rolling Stones show; they are waiting to be one of the few lucky ones that will taste the omelette potato from Nestor bar this day.

The potato omelette is a classic of our bars, but not all are the same. And our jury of Michelin-starred chefs know this well. Among the 99 best pintxos of Donostia / San Sebastián, they have included the potato omelette of the Néstor bar. This is a small place with a reduced offer, but it shines with its own light because of the quality of the product used there. Néstor Morais has been raising the blind of this bar for almost 40 years, and who knows how much longer will he continue doing it, because he is already retired. But yes, he remains active. Anyway, you should not delay your visit to this this landmark too much.

Néstor, your venue will be 40 next year: What assessment do you have?
A very good balance. Mind you, there have been very hard times, but people don’t remember anymore. Now they complain about the huge growth of tourist, and that you cannot walk. When you couldn’t walk it was when they hit you. Sometimes hit with a stone, or knocked by a truncheon, so no kidding. We have lived many days like that. Months, and years. In those days, I survived because people knew me well, and once fighting was over, they came to have a coffee or a night sip. But there were days on which we could not do anything. Anyway, all this happened many years ago, and now all the thing is up. The city is lovely, and it has everything. Prices? Accommodation can be expensive, but if you are used to travel, you know that nothing comes for free anywhere. You must pay for quality, but here you have a lot of very good options for dinner.
The offer in Nestor, in comparison with other venues, is limited.
You are right. Omelette: one in the morning, and another in the afternoon. You get 16 pintxos of each one. There are times when I come to open the place, around 10:30, that there are already people waiting, although we do not register them in the waiting list until noon. We serve the omelette at 1 pm. Until last year, that was my wife, Pilar Senra Lizarazu, who was in charge of cooking the omelettes, but she had a seizure and left cooking. Once I have made the omelette, I begin preparing tomatoes, peppers and steaks. We also make very tasty Gildas, with Nardin branded anchovies, but really not many. And Iberian pork cold meats; that’s all we have.

The expectation to eat your potato omelette is very striking: few venues will have people standing in line in the outside, even two hours before they can consume the pintxo! And it may happen that there some of those people doesn’t even taste the pintxo!
At the beginning, my wife made an omelette, then another, and another … but when the turmoil exploded, we decided that we were only going to do one at noon, and another in the afternoon. That’s when we started adding people to a list, to ensure that the first ones who asked for it were those who ate it. So we served up pintxoa to those who were in the list. On some occasions, we have call someone: John!, someone has answered “I´m here”, and then it has turn out that the listed was another John.
Someone could say that the whole thing about one omelette, the roster…is nothing but a marketing strategy!
We have done it forced by circumstances.
What is the secret of your potato omelette?
Fry the potato with the onion and the peppers, use 14 eggs per tortilla, and get your groove and all your skill on it. We have found our ground, and we get it juicy inside.

How did you get the news that all the Michelin-starred chefs in Gipuzkoa included your omelette among the 99 best pintxos in San Sebastián?
The fact that these people with the highest gastronomic level do recognize our pintxo, it is an honor. There is a lot of venues that are making more of the same, but there are also places that really do a good job, and being in this list recognizes their work.
As we said, Nestor has a limited offer, but its supported by a very good product: Is that the secret of your success?
Trabajamos con el carnicero de esta misma calle, Jon, de la carnicería Asensio, a 20 metros del bar. Con las txuletasWe work with a butcher shop located in this same street. Jon, of Asensio butcher shop, at 20 meters from the venue. We started preparing Txuletas steaks) 20 years ago. In fact I started cooking only one! Every Friday night, table 19 was booked for the Orfeon Donostiarra, a famous local choir. They came after rehearsing and asked me what was the menu. I offered them tomatoes, cold meats…and I said, well, I also have a Txuleta…They ordered two more for the next Friday, so I took two for them and two for ourselves. But other customers saw them dining, and ordered for them. Foru more next week, and things kept growing up…So we started offering txuleta in the menu. Later, the Orfeon stopped coming, since some of them went living outside the city.. and they couldn’t afford drink and drive.

The txuleta, broiled.
Yes, grilled. Our grill, a Repagas, is 39, but take care of it greatly.
And how do you get that fine tomato salad throughout the year?
When we started putting tomato salad, 35 years ago it was not a popular dish here in the Basque Country. They said that it was not “food for Basques”, it had a bad reputation. It was novelty, and some even used to make fun of it. Look now: its a delicacy for all the people in the Basque Country. I buy the tomatoes from the greengrocer in this street. Aitor, from Ekotolosa, a great guy. Now we are getting it in Getaria, from Patxi. He is still growing them at the greenhouse, but soon he will nuurert them outdoors. But I always buy them from Aitor, because he goes everyday to the wholesale market to find the best providers. I know I’m paying a little more, but this way I secure my supply anytime in the year.
Having suppliers 20 meters away, it’s a luxury!
I have even the key to the butcher shop, because our venue is very small, and in our fridge I only can stock some tomatoes and peppers for the weekend. So the butcher leaves more or less that ones we are going to use, and we keep bringing them on request. What if we run out of txuletas? well, I go and cut it myself. He is a great guy.

You only have two tables, numbered 19 and 15: Do they have any reason to be those numbers?
19th is for the Orfeón. There was a man from Madrid, Manolo González Calvet, nice guy, who sang in the Orfeón, but only came to San Sebastián for the last rehearsals. One day he came with some boys from a choir from Madrid, and asked: “Nestor, could we dinner tonight?” And I told him: “sit down in the 19th”. The kids went right to the backside, reaching the bathrooms, not knowing that there was only one table in all the bar, and this was a mess. The next time Manolo came to the venue, he brought me a gift from those boys, a sign that said”Table No. 19″, and so the name remained. And we have a folding table that we named the 15th, just to maintain the joke.

Also, you won’t find many more places where people eats Txuleta standing up!
It´s somehow exciting! Sometimes we have up to 14 reservations. We divide the venue by areas, and put the tables on the street, straining the venue! Sometimes we have to close the bookings justa at 10:30 am. There’s only one guy working at the kitchen, myself in the morning and Igor in the afternoon. We have a great team, with Sebas, Horacio, Gonzalo, Tomás and my brother Tito, who has been with us for 34 years. Anyway, I have to say that I am retired since july. I’m 65 and been working for 49 years, with a staff in charge. Those are who allow me to maintain the venue opened, and make it my own way. I would be sorry to close it, because this is a really nice venue, and would be annoyed if any jerk would be in charge of it. Time will tell.

Bar Néstor
Arrandegi kalea, 11
20.003 – Donostia / San Sebastián
Tel: (+34) 943 42 48 73
Web: bar-nestor.negocio.site

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