Everyone who walks into San Sebastian Food is amazed by the decorative feature greeting them in the studio. It was owner Jon Warren’s vision to have something authentic, adventurous and whimsical on the floor. How about an antique, wooden, fishing boat? And no boat better represents San Sebastián more than a brightly painted txipironera!
Txipiron (“chip-ee-rhone”) is the Basque name for the local squid that grace the menus of every pintxo bar and restaurant in town. Gifts from the sea, these calamari are small, tender and absolutely succulent. They are line-caught by fishermen in small skiffs frequently seen bobbing in the Cantabrian Sea.
Traditionally the boats were made of wood and painted in the colors of the Basque flag: green, white and red, but they’re mostly a thing of the past as fiberglass models have taken over. Today there’s about sixty of the small boats, most of them owned by hobbyist abuelos, docked in the quaint port of San Sebastián.
“I had the idea for about six months actually, but I’m not sure where it came from,” explained Jon. “We needed a bar and we needed a desk, but in place of those I just thought it would look amazing to have an old wooden boat to welcome guests.”
Jon put the word out that he was looking for an old Txipironera, or squid boat, but there were no bites. “One day, as we were preparing to move into the studio, an adorable old fisherman named Clemente showed up saying he’d heard an English guy was looking for a boat,” Jon reminisced. “He took me down to the port and there she was!”
The “AZKARRA”, Basque for rapido, was about 40 years old and badly in need of repairs. Both Clemente and his vessel had simultaneously decided to retire. Jon bought the boat immediately.
“It wasn’t until we got her out of the water that we realized how big she was,” Jon explained. “There was no way we’d be able to fit the entire ship into the studio unless we cut it in half.”
Jon’s friend Iñaki, a local carpenter, and his son used handsaws to go straight down the middle. The job took nearly two days and was further complicated by the hundreds of nails and bolts buried inside the wooden hull. Iñaki doubted the success of the operation, but with Jon’s support, pushed on.
After having the boat trucked across town and removing the front doors to the studio to make way, the mighty AZKARRA was finally in place. Iñaki fit the boat with custom legs for stability and, with Jon, designed and ordered tempered glass tabletops. In the end, the famous TXIPI BAR was born!
One half of the boat is the communal desk used by the staff at San Sebastian Food. The other half of the AZKARRA greets visitors as they enter and serves as a comfortable bar to enjoy wine tastings and special events.
“It was a big project, a lot of work and perhaps a little crazy,” Jon reflected, “but it was worth it. I love it, our staff loves it and our guests love it!”
Drop in to meet the AZKARRA for yourself, pull up a chair and enjoy a glass of wine. The boat makes for one of the most unique bars in town and is a living piece of port heritage that’s been given a new voyage at San Sebastián Food.