If you come in to Saint-Jean to shop and would like lunch during the high season, I highly recommend taking refuge from the hordes, far away from Rue Gambetta, Place Saint Louis and the touristy “restaurant row” of rue de la République, with two notable exceptions, the first, Kaiku, on rue de la République and the second, Zoko Moko, a few steps off Place Saint Louis on rue Mazarin.
We discovered this gem in a beautifully renovated space, ancient stone walls decorated with striking modern art in a former gendarmerie from the 16th-century house, the oldest home in St-Jean, at 17, rue de la République a few years ago. There are two small dining rooms with spacious tables overseen by Michelin stared, Bayonne-raised chef Nicolas Borombo, who honed his skills at Paris’ Georges V, and who offers an outstanding 32€ menu during the week. Open for lunch Thursday-Sunday at 12:30 and for dinner at 7:30. Reservations only.
Tel: (+33) 559 261 320
If you come to Saint-Jean for an evening concert, have an early dinner at this contemporary gastronomic restaurant, whose name means “quiet corner” in Basque, tucked away from the fray in a lovely mansion at 6, rue Mazarin. The chef offers a market menu for 26€, a three-course menu for 20€, a la carte for around 45€, and wine by the glass or bottle. Receives a high rating from the French food guides. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch from 12:30 to 2:00 pm, and Tuesday-Saturday for dinner from 7:30 to 10:00 pm.
Tel: (+33) 559 080 123
If you’re a fish lover, particularly of cod and hake, and want an authentic, hearty Basque meal away from the madding crowd, we enjoy this cute little Bistrot near the market and next to a girls’ school at 3, rue Salagoïty. It serves some of the freshest fish in town. Opens for lunch from 12:15 to 2:00 pm and dinner from 7:30 to 9:30 pm, closed Sunday and Tuesday evenings and all day Wednesday.
Tel: (+33) 559 512 080
We like to lunch above the madness this small restaurant at 30, Boulevard Thiers, where they offer a very good value prix fixe lunch during the week for 25€, and child’s menu for only 10€. Highly recommended by us and the red Michelin Guide. Garden dining is available in the rear.
Tel: (+33) 559 510 522
For more casual fare such as tapas, salads or plats complets (lunch platters) try the atmospheric Bar Basque at 22, Bd Thiers. Look for the pink façade and green awning. They also serve miniature haute cuisine tapas at the bar and lunches on outdoor terrace. A local hangout that attracted Hemingway and Ravel in their days. They offer a prix fixe lunch menu for 16€ and a dinner menu for 28€. Open daily from 8:30 am to midnight.
Tel: (+33) 559 851 663
A little further up the Bd Thiers at No. 43, is another outstanding Michelin star restaurant where chef Christophe Grosjean has found his new home in a luxurious space facing the Bay of Saint jean de Luz, the Grand Hôtel. Dine on the terrace overlooking the beach.
Tel: (+33) 559 263 536
An institution of sorts, this Basque bistro and tapas bar sitting on the main square by the market at 18, rue du Maréchal Harispe, offers a fixed price lunch menu during the week (expect during July and August) for only 14€, but we went for the mussels and the Bob’s Beer. Dining indoors or out. Closed annually from January 7 until February 6.
Tel: (+33) 559 851 070
This popular and friendly little bistro specializing in seafood and shellfish, great mussels and palourde clams (12,50€), is located at 3, rue Jean Bague, in the heart of St-Jean-de-Luz, just off rue Léon Gambetta. The owners, Arnaud and Valenine (chef), are recent arrivals from Normandy and are an excellent addition to the local food scene. Opens at noon for lunch and 7:3o on for dinner. Closed Monday and Tuesday and Sunday evenings, but open on Tuesdays during the summer. Ask for a table on the covered terrace (rain or shine) during the summer months. Reservations highly recommended.
Tel: (+33) 559 225 476
Across the Nivelle River in Ciboure
Or if you want to escape the crowds of Saint-Jean entirely, drive or walk across the bridge to Ciboure, home of composer Maurice Ravel, where you’ll find the seafood “shack” on the Nivelle at 18 avenue Jean Poulou, “chemin de halage de la Nivelle”, on the path to Nivelle. Superb grilled fish, particularly the thon blanc, white albacore tuna-a Patricia Wells favorite. Chef Ramuntxo Courde offers menus starting at 38€. Recommended in Gault Millau. Open daily for lunch at 2:00 and dinner at 7:15. Closed Monday and Tuesday from October to April.
Tel: (+33) 559 471 075
63, rue Evariste Baignole, for three generations has served hearty regional cuisine: Basque specialties such as fishermen’s stew, toro, a Basque bouillabaisse (the house specialty), and squid stewed in its own ink, all dished up in a rustic atmosphere of beams, dark wood tables and copper pots. Rumor has it that famed chef Michel Guerard has dined here. It’s a Ciboure institution. Chalkboard menu. Michelin recommended. Closed Sunday and Monday (outside of high season).
Tel: (+33) 559 471 952
This is the village’s trendy gastronomic restaurant, a newish seafood emporium with a more sophisticated nautical décor and a noted chef, Sylvain Mauran, who for three years ran the kitchen of Kaiku across the Nivelle river. The chef serves a reasonably priced market driven menu with starters priced at 9€, mains beginning at 14€ and desserts for 6€, served both for lunch and dinner. Located at 15 quai Maurice-Ravel. Recommended in the Michelin Guide for 2018.
Tel: (+33) 559 472 916
For a view of the Bay of Saint jean de Luz and seat on a terrace, head for this small traditional family restaurant at 37 ave du Commandant Passicot, Port of Socoa, in Ciboure. Offers a weekday menu of 26€. Open daily except on Tuesdays during low season. Recommended in the Michelin Guide.
Tel: (+33) 559 471 373