Casa Cámara is a place with a lot of tradition, open since 1884, more than 138 years ago.
We propose here a few bites of history.
We tell it to you from A to Z:
We start with a Casa Cámara classic: Armagnac ice cream. A classic recipe with an unusual combination in our region. A good part of our French clientele is a fan of this ice cream and of course... whoever tries it, asks for seconds.
Since at least the 16th century, there is written evidence that it was the women from Rentería, Lezo and Pasajes San Juan who dedicated themselves to the work of towing, as well as to the transport of passengers and merchandise from one side of the bay to the other.
The historian Lope Martinez de Isasti, in 1625, narrates when describing the port of Pasajes: "This place has had and still has manly women, who without fearing the storms of the sea, have come with barges to stow, and to put in the port galleons of the royal navies and other ships that come from Newfoundland and other parts, rowing with great effort as if they were men, in lack of the sailors that are at see in their trips".
The bateleras also conquered Victor Hugo and inspired some passages of the romantic writer's work, making them known worldwide.
The origins of the restaurant Cámara go back to when Pablo Cámara came to occupy the position of secretary to the city council of Pasai Donibane in 1850. He bought the house, a 17th century building, from Mr. Egino. The space now occupied by the dining room was used to unload the fish brought by the "arrantzales" from the village and the building of the "Venta" or fish market was in front of the current entrance of the restaurant. When the unloading of fish was moved to another place in the village, Pablo Cámara built the fish hatchery that currently stands in the center of the dining room and began to provide meals and snacks based on seafood and fish. Gradually the land began to be covered, first with a simple vine and later with an awning. It was the year 1884, the beginning of Casa Cámara.
Pasai Donibane (Pasajes de San Juan) has a special magic. So close to the water, with a fantastic architecture that comes out of the slopes of Mount Jaizkibel, a strong historical burden and, at the same time, an exceptional viewpoint of the other Pasajes (villages at the other side of the port), their cranes, fishing boats and factories. Pasai Donibane has preserved its essence, and the houses in the Plaza de Santiago, where the big ships unloaded their merchandise during the 17th and 18th centuries, have hardly changed their appearance in the last three centuries.
Visitors who walk along the unique street of San Juan, come to enjoy our gastronomy and to visit the house that Victor Hugo lived in in 1843. This house is nowadays a small museum in memory of the man who said the following about Pasajes: "This unpublished corner is one of the most beautiful corners that I have seen and that no tourist visits; this humble space of land and sea would be admired if it were in Switzerland, it would be famous if it were in Italy, but it is unknown because it is in Guipúzcoa. This small Eden where I have arrived by simple chance...".
And off we go from Donibane to Everest, because as extraordinary as it may seem, dishes prepared in Casa Cámara were tasted above eight thousand meters on the southwest wall of Everest Mountain. After the preparation of the food, everything was transferred from Casa Cámara to the Azkue Canning Factory, where it was carefully packaged. The Basque mountaineers of the Sagarmatha expedition enjoyed different dishes such as chicken in sauce with mushrooms, macaroni with prawns and also a beef stew with potatoes and peas. Those rich delicacies were undoubtedly the envy of mountaineers of other nationalities. In the photo we see the great-grandson of Pablo Cámara, Felipe Uriarte Cámara, member of that expedition and father of this original idea.
Since the restaurant was founded in 1884 by Pablo Cámara, the establishment has always remained in the Cámara family, the current generation being the fourth generation to run the family business. On many occasions this family character is commented on by our customers, who recall family meals and celebrations that took place 40, 50 or 60 years ago, remember anecdotes of that time and tell us about the illusion of being able to remember it in the same place, at the same table.
The tradition of our gastronomy and the seafaring character of Pasajes makes fish and seafood the specialty of our menu. Thus, some of our most outstanding dishes are baked spider crab, hake kokotxas in green sauce, grilled seafood, clams in seafood sauce, squid in its own ink, hake in green sauce, or roasted sea bream. The lobster, one of the main attractions throughout the history of Casa Cámara, deserves a special mention. We'll talk about it later...
We always try to offer an honest and simple cuisine, based on quality local products and according to the gastronomic tradition of Gipuzkoa. We do not renounce to reinvent some recipes, or to create some new ones. But without losing the essence, because an honest cuisine is an authentic cuisine.
Quality raw materials and seasonal ingredients are the basis of our cuisine. We like to work with local products, we like to know the origin of our raw material, we care about the elaboration process from the beginning. We value the fact that behind a product there are people who put a lot of effort to pamper the quality of that product.
We believe that the cuisine of a place has its own personality, so that people who come from other places will eat something new and authentic. And those who come from our area will feel at home.
Pasajes is a natural harbor, a fjord between the Ulia and Jaizkibel mountains. Due to its coastal location, its silhouette is visible from the high seas and from the nearby French coasts. Jaizkibel is in fact the highest mountain on the Cantabrian coast, and one of the highest in Europe so close to the sea. Starting from Guadalupe, Hondarribia, the route along the cliffs of Mount Jaizkibel is a fantastic excursion. The cliffs and sandstone rocks modeled over millions of years offer a spectacle not to be missed.
The music band of Pasai Donibane, founded in 1818, is the oldest in the Basque Country. Never has a name been so premonitory: "La Constancia” (The Perseverance) or "Konstantzia" as it is known in Basque.
It is said that at the end of the 19th century, most of the musicians in the band were fishermen, and that they took their instruments with them for the sparse free time they could find to rehearse when they were at sea. They used the back of the oarsman in front of them as a stand to support their scores. The scene inspired the creation of the Tamborrada Arrantzale Sanjuandarra, which is still celebrated today.
Having the natural nursery in the center of the dining room, lobster has always been the protagonist at Casa Cámara. Cooked, or grilled, or with an exquisite American sauce as Valentina Alegría used to prepare it in the old times.
The French newspaper "Sud-Oest" published an article in which it spoke almost exclusively about the rite of eating lobster at Casa Cámara: "When the client orders a lobster, one of the waitresses approaches the natural nursery located in the center of the dining room and raises the box of lobsters by means of ancient pulleys. The box is placed on the balustrade and the diner can choose the lobster he or she will later enjoy at the table. The strange appearance of these almost prehistoric animals from the bottom of the sea is an irresistible temptation. Then, the lobster box returns to the bottom again, back to the sea... The lobster and its ritual are part of an uncompromised meal. Casa Cámara in the port of Pasaia is out of time".
Manuel Mampaso Bueno (1924-2001), pioneer painter of the avant-garde of the fifties. Realist, expressionist and abstract, poster artist, set designer and great draftsman, he was an artist in the broadest sense of the word. Born in A Coruña, his family later moved to Madrid, where he lived most of his life. But he also lived for long periods in Pasai Donibane, in a house next to Casa Cámara. A painting of him presides over the family table. A lobster is the protagonist of the still life where the tiles from Talavera de la Reina that formerly decorated the dining room of the restaurant can be appreciated.
There are photographs like these that evoke a certain nostalgia, there are flavors that recall a distant childhood, there are people who think that those times were better and that they will never come back.
We like to think that time has not stopped in Pasai Donibane... but sometimes it does seem to go a little slower than in other places.
Ham croquettes, cream of seafood, fish soup, grilled hake, grilled seafood, dessert of meringue with cream and strawberries...
Vincent Crown, photographer specialized in lifestyle and gastronomic image, who among others has worked with chefs Ferran Adrià, Andoni Aduriz, Joan Roca or Quique Dacosta, visited us with his wife.
He enjoyed the town and the food and as a thank you, he gave us some pictures of his visit.
Thank you Vincent!
It's the expression in Basque to wish a good meal. Bon appétit! Eet smakelijk! Bon profit! Buon appetito!...
In the Basque Country, due to the importance of our gastronomic tradition, it is one of the first expressions to learn and practice.
Eskerrik asko eta on egin! (Thank you and bon appétit!)
Pastry & desserts
The best way to end an uncompromised meal at Casa Cámara is to enjoy our selection of homemade desserts: Armagnac ice cream, fried milk, custard, walnut and raspberry tart, French toast, chocolate mousse, meringue with cream and strawberries, red currant pudding...
“Q” for quality
Normally, quality means being surrounded by professional experts who offer the best of themselves. In this case, it also means honoring the history and tradition of Casa Cámara. A history that began with Pablo Cámara in 1884 and that four generations have brought to the present day.
The quality of the raw materials used and the genuine flavors of Casa Cámara's cuisine have made it a classic of Gipuzkoa's cuisine.
Robert Mitchum lived up to his legend during his visit to Casa Cámara. “Scandal came with him” (Spanish title to “Home from the hill”) was the title of that movie directed by Vincente Minnelli with Mitchum as the main character. The chronicle of that visit could have had the same title, starting with the chosen menu, which was somewhat peculiar: two glasses of Chinchón, fried squid, a small portion of vanilla bavaroise, and... another three glasses of Chinchón!
The dedication in the signature book was no less peculiar: "Forgive me for my company, I cannot choose my friends, but I have enjoyed your hospitality" signed, Robert Mitchum.
San Juan, 79
When you get to Pasai Donibane, you can't miss it, you will find Casa Cámara at number 79 San Juan street, or Donibane kalea, the unique street that runs through the town from side to side. This cobblestone street not only crosses the village, but also crosses some houses, which coming out of the slopes of Mount Jaizkibel, jump the street and come to rest their terraces on the water, thus forming some curious passages that give a very particular atmosphere to San Juan. Walking along this street that winds its way between stately and seafaring houses, is part of the experience of visiting Casa Cámara.
The local name for rowing boats is traineras. The first news written in the press about Casa Cámara was related to rowing boats and a bet. It was 1889, and the skipper of the San Juan boat challenged any rowing team to bet 2,500 pesetas. "The answer to the challenge will have to be addressed to the café-restaurant of Don Pablo Cámara, in Pasajes" said the newspaper of the time.
Hence the sport par excellence in Pasajes is that of the regattas of these traineras. A rural sport based on the way of life of an epoch, with bets and challenges that characterize the tradition of the Basque Country. The two Pasajes, San Pedro and San Juan, and the enormous rivalry between them deserve a special place in the history of rowing. The book "Santos Pasajes de Remo" is a good reflection of this history and reviews the triumphs of the Pasajes boats.
The relationship between the rowing boats and Casa Cámara is closely linked to celebrations and tributes. Thus, a menu from 1920 is preserved, written in verse, of a tribute to the rowers of San Juan held after the dispute of a regatta.
The menu in verse consisted of the following:
The tribute to the rowers
should be attended by the whole of San Juan.
Kiriko, at the stern
will be the first to eat soup
In high honor of the flag
veal will be served afterwards.
There will be lobster afterwards
for the astonishment of the coast
And the cup prize and the pesetas
will be celebrated with chops.
To Kiriko a Pater Noster
will be prayed when eating dessert.
And when sucking coffee and liqueurs
the undertakers will come.
So that not everything is a celebration
it is ten pesetas per plate.
"Untar" means... rub the plate! Hake in green sauce, txangurro, vegetable stew, cod ajoarriero, green peppers stuffed with seafood, mushroom brick with foie gras and apple...
Do not deprive yourself to rub, to dip your bread in a rich sauce, to lick the shrimp heads, to slurp our custard and lick your lips after enjoying a lavish meal. You can always ask for a saccharine with your coffee.
The natural nursery in the center of the dining room is one of the hallmarks of Casa Cámara. Currently one is maintained, but there was a time when there were two nurseries in the dining room where lobsters, claw-lobsters and clams were perfectly preserved. Do not forget that the restaurant dates back to 1884, a time when there were no refrigerators and when the founder Pablo Cámara devised this system that is still in use today.
Balenciaga, Chillida, Hitchcock, Berlanga, Montserrat Caballé, Bernardo Atxaga, Mikel Laboa, Susan Sarandon... are some of the celebrities who have visited Casa Cámara; among them, some are distinguished by returning on further occasions, thus establishing a relationship with both the family and the restaurant. Orson Welles was one of these people and as you can see in the photo, he liked to share a table with the family of the house. In fact, he never ate in the restaurant's dining room.
Casa Cámara is a 17th century manor house with a very narrow and deep rectangular floor plan, which comes out of the Jaizkibel mountain and extends its lifelong dining room to the waters of the port of Pasajes.
Casa Cámara es una casona del siglo XVII con una planta rectangular muy estrecha y profunda, que sale del monte Jaizkibel y extiende su comedor de toda la vida hasta las aguas del puerto de Pasajes.
The yolk contains the most important vitamins and minerals of the egg, nutritionally it is the most valuable part and of course, also the tastiest.
The truth is that, besides being healthy, egg yolk is a delicacy that everyone likes and is essential in many of our classic recipes, both sweet and salty: fish cakes, puff pastries, creams, soups, flans, puddings, custards...
This is an onomatopoeic expression that we relate to splashing in the water. Now you just have to come to Casa Cámara and dive into its exciting history, enjoy its food and discover its environment.
We are expecting you!
Ya sólo te queda venir a Casa Cámara y zambullirte en su apasionante historia, disfrutar de su comida y descubrir su entorno.