The 67th San Sebastian Film Festival starts this Friday. 9 days when the city residents go to the cinema, and the movie stars go to eat pintxos. On the ground of the “Zinemaldia”, we have visited the Astoria 7 Hotel, closely linked to cinema: it is owned by SADE company, (also owner of three cinemas in the city: Trueba, Príncipe and Antiguo Berri), and because its decor is based on the film world.Iñigo Palma is the chef of the Astoria 7 Bistroteka. He studied in the San Sebastian School of Hospitality and Cuisine, but mostly he learned at La Muralla, side by side with Iñigo Bozal. One the their pintxos in Bistroteka Astoria 7, Carrillera sobre puré de patatas (cheek over mashed potato), was chosen for our list by the Michelin-starred Chefs in Gipuzkoa.

Iñigo, how long have you been running the Astoria 7 kitchen?
I’m going for nine years now.
Is there something different about managing a restaurant inside an hotel?
Yes. In fact, at first I was very reluctant to get into an hotel, because of rumours. It’s also true that this is not what I thought was an hotel kitchen, where everything would be prepared and just ready to heat up. They allowed us to cook the way we wished to do, so we make things restaurant-style, not hotel-style.At the same time, you really have things like breakfast, events, groups… somethings you don’t have in a restaurant.
What is the basis for your gastronomic offer?
Foremost, traditional cooking. Very recognizable tastes and dishes, however we try to give them a soft sparkle.

Does the fact of being in an hotel matter?
Being inside an hotel matters. It forces you to maintain a mainstream side: you have to offer a caesar salad, hamburguers, a club sandwich… things you should find in every hotel, you cannot miss them. We also must take account of our location, outside downtown or the historical quarter. We work a lot with people from the neighborhood. There are the hotel guests, but our daily patrons are locals and workers in the area.
The 11 Michelin-Starred chefs in Gipuzkoa have chosen your Cheek over mashed potato to be in our list Pintxos- The 99 best. What does this distinction mean to you.
Any recognition is important, but the main one comes from our customer base, everytime they are pleased. Anyway, such recognition is also very welcome.
What other pintxos would you highlight from your menu?
One way or another we always have a cod fillet. Depending on the season, it will have different garnish. Risottos are also a classic we keep changing: with squid, mushrooms, prawns… According to the season we are accompanying it with different ingredients. The risotto is also a classic that we are alternating: Squid, mushrooms, prawns… Low temperature eggs are also a common staple: we garnish them with different sauces and other ingredients.

How often do you usually renew your offer?
We try to renew it twice or three times a year. Many times customers are who call for it, although sometimes the same ones who demand new things, then ask you for the pintxo you’ve taken away!
Which are most successful, cold pintxos or the hot ones?
There is something for everyone. As I have said, location means a lot, and people working around here are critical. They have just enough time to make lunch, 10-15 minutes, so they do well with the cold sandwiches on the counter or the potato omelette, which they thank a lot.
Is it hard to find good product?
It costs money. We always try to work with a good raw material, but can’t fight for some breams or soles. We are in a neighborhood, but we try to have the best long finned tuna in season, best anchovies, best scorpion fish…
Which pintxo would you stand out from our list?
When I started at cuisine school, I was really struck by the Txepetxa selection, which was always based in anchovies. And all of them tasted great. I was freaked out by all that different stuff they could do with the same base product, and how great they were. Our own Beef cheek pintxo has to do with the success La Cuchara de San Telmo got with theirs, Martin Berasategui also cooked cheeks, but only as a restaurant dish. The cheek is today a classic, but it wasn’t thirty years ago. Rather than staying for a concrete pintxo, I would highlight the shift from lifelong cold pintxo, the Gilda, the Tuna…to cooked dishes. That commitment to sophisticated pintxos.
How can you draw people to Amara and Astoria 7 when going out for pintxos?
Taverns in Amara are not around, but not only from classic pintxos areas, but also among themselves. There is no such vicinity as it is in Downtown, in the Historical Quarter, or Gros. When somebody opens a bar nearby, we don’t make them rivals, they are fellows. We all gain strengh.

When visiting the Astoria 7 hotel, we have also interviewed their head receptionist Miriam Rubio, who has been working there right from the open, 10 years ago. We let her to talk us about the mood during the the Festival season, to see if she shares some gossip with us.

Miriam, do you usually have people associated to movie world hosted here during the festival?
Usually, There are not stars around. As a result of protocol they host in María Cristina hotel, but some of then stay first here, to dress and make up for their arrival.
So could we be lucky and see them around here before there in María Cristina?
Not really. They come in their cars, and do not check in. We work it quietly, just because they want to go unnoticed. They come from a very long journey, tired, and we give them a chance to rest, dress and make up, so they can look awesome when they are onstage, on the red carpet at María Cristina. On the other hand, many, let’s say, secondary Spanish actors have usually been hosted at our hotel, and also production companies’ staff.
Do you usually have events or something like that linked to the festival? You are a theme hotel, so you have all the props!
That’s why that many press conferences are held in the library, and also some small parties, because we don’t have much space. They fell sorry for not bringing us bigger things, since the hotel is not only focused in cinema, but specially in the San Sebastian Festival!!!