Don Pincho’s, St. Johanns-Vorstadt 58, 4056, Basel
Stars: 4.5/5 ⊗⊗⊗⊗⊕
Don Pincho’s is my favorite restaurant in Basel, so naturally I approached them to do my first restaurant review! They serve fantastic Spanish cuisine in a great setting, for a reasonable price.
Venue: Don Pincho’s is located at the Johanniterbrücke tram stop (tram 11, bus 30). The restaurant overlooks the Rhine, with large, panoramic windows giving a great view of the river. They have party room you can book, as well as a spacious downstairs for private parties. There is an outdoor patio if the weather is good, and lots of space inside.
Service: This is my second favorite thing about Don Pincho (the first is the food). The team there are amazingly polite and friendly, all the time. Switzerland is not renowned for its food service industry but Don Pincho is a sparkling exception to this. In addition to being helpful and friendly, the service is fast and efficient. They come quickly when you arrive, can discuss the menu and specials in a variety of languages (everyone I’ve been served by there speaks excellent English). They make good recommendations, depending on what season it is, and what is fresh, but won’t try to push you into trying anything. When you order, they bring you what you ordered and they do it quickly and as you request. Its easy to get all your food at once, or have your cold tapas before your hot tapas or vice versa. They are generally attentive during the meal so its quick to get drink refills or add to the order, and when you’re done they bring your check but don’t make you feel like you’re being rushed out. It’s the best service experience I’ve had at a restaurant in Basel.
Entertainment: Sometimes they have live music on, mostly jazz and funk which gives the place and authentic Spanish feeling. The bands are good (but not really exceptional). If you really want to have live music while you’re dining (or are planning a quiet romantic dinner), you’d best call ahead to see if there is a band on.
Wine/Drinks: Don Pincho has an extensive wine menu and the staff are very knowledgeable on what is good and what isn’t. They have good wines across a range of prices, and don’t make you feel any pressure to order something outside of your price range. They serve San Miguel beer on tap, and they have a decent selection of liquor/liqueurs, whiskies, port, etc. They also mix quite nice long drinks and have a good cider (Sidra).
Food: The food at Don Pincho is excellent. They have options for both vegetarians and carnivores, selections for lovers of sweet and savory, as well as hot and cold. Some of my favorite hot tapas include the shrimp in garlic oil, the chorizo sausage, the potatoes in garlic sauce and their incredible spinach balls. They also do great cold tapas with a selection of cheeses (cow and sheep), fantastic fresh bread and excellent cured meats. They do an excellent paella, but it takes some time, and they need to know ahead of time to make sure to source the ingredients and prepare it. If you plan to order paella, it’s best to call ahead a day before to let the restaurant know!
Prices: The prices are not exceptionally low for Basel, nor are they too high. I would say you pay standard Basel prices for an exceptional food and service experience. One of the nice thing about tapas is that if you have someone who does not eat very much, they don’t have to order/eat too much. Similarly, its easy for those of us with a larger than average appetite to order some extra treats to make sure we’re satisfied with the meal.
Groups: Don Pincho does a great job for groups and special occasions. I’ve been there with groups of 10-12 people, with no drop in service or food quality and if you have an event (birthday, anniversary party, etc), the staff will keep the food coming and glasses full. For these kind of parties, we often get a contribution from the guests beforehand, give that to the staff and they keep the tab and let us know when the money runs out. While I’ve never used it, I understand they also do catering for private parties.