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Guggenheim, and has big, bright bedrooms and particu- larly comfortable beds. Then there’s the Mercure, with a lively cafe bar and spa; and the luxury NH Collection Villa de Bilbao (see Reviews, p140-141). The Basque country has the highest per capita con-


centration of Michelin stars in the world, with around 32 across 23 restaurants. Food is a cultural mainstay and is definitely not something to be rushed. “Basque people meet to go to the market, to cook; they


talk about food, eat and argue about what is right or wrong; there are private clubs where people meet to cook, which do a great job of preserving traditional Basque recipes and dishes; and competition ensures chefs are forced to innovate,” says Olabarrieta.


Pintxos are the Basque spin on tapas and bars litter


the city. No reservation is necessary and the idea is to have a glass of wine with two or three small dishes before moving on to the next bar. Calle Maestro Garcia is wall to wall pintxos bars; start at El Huevo Frito (the fried egg) with zucchini, squid and its ink or pulpo, and langostino con alioli (prawns with garlic mayonnaise), before slowly working your way down the street. Alternatively, treat yourself to dinner at Aizian res-


taurant in Melia Bilbao, where an amuse-bouche of cod mousse with chive is subtle and mouth-watering; roasted scallops are perfectly cooked and grilled partridge breast delicious. You know you are somewhere stylish when red wine, a Solabal Rioja 2015, is served from a magnum.


The Basque Country generally and Bilbao in particu-


lar have a close affinity with the British and the UK. Shakespeare referred to a sword as a bilbo, named after the city where the highest quality swords were made. In those days iron ore was crucial for sword production, and although those furnaces are long gone, Bilbao’s industrial heritage has a strong current incarnation. Industry accounts for almost 25 per cent of GDP in the form of energy and turbine supply, automotive compo- nents, aeronautical and industrial engine manufacture by ITP, acquired by Rolls-Royce in 2017; multi-discipli- nary engineering stock, and more; specialist research centres in life sciences also play a vital role. “World-leading companies in these sectors have not only made investments in the UK but also provide sig- nificant business opportunities for British companies,” says Nick Greenwood, director of trade and investment and honorary consul to Bilbao.


The UK is the second largest investor into the Basque


country, providing €1.9 billion since 2013. The main players are Rolls-Royce, GKN and BP. Conversely, since 2013, the UK has been the number one European destination for Basque investment, receiving €1.1 billion. And British Airways supports this activity with 12 flights a week from Gatwick airport; fares start from £57 return.


The Bilbainos are dynamic, energetic and focused – you’ll have to keep up.


buyingbusinesstravel.com


2019


SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER


145


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