We were on the last leg of our Spain Roadtrip. From Burgos we were driving into Madrid with a stop at the city of Segovia for lunch at Meson de Candido for their world-famous cochinillo (roast suckling pig).
Roman aqueduct in Segovia, right beside the Meson de Candido restaurant
The Meson de Candido has a fantabulous location, right beside the still-functioning aqueduct that was built by the Romans in 50 AD. The aqueduct was declared a world heritage site in 1985 and is considered an engineering feat because it was built without any mortar--the stones were just stacked on top of each other. Read more about the aqueduct here.
We were a "big" group of 12 diners compared to the smaller groups in the restaurant that day, and Señor Candido (his name is really not Candido according to their website) welcomed us graciously. He also took note that we were from the Philippines, a former Spanish colony halfway around the globe.
We were here specifically for this little piggy
Señor Candido started speaking to us in Spanish, figuring that since we were once a colony we'd probably converse with him in our "mother tongue". Unfortunately only a couple of us understood him so he had to speak to us in his stilted English (In my head I could already hear my mom ribbing me "que horror, que indio!" as she always does whenever she speaks to me in Spanish and I look at her blankly and say "¿que?" )
As our cochinillo asado was brought out, Señor Candido explained there was going to be a special ceremony. He put on a purple ribbon with an important-looking medal before he began what seemed to be a revered tradition. After a short spirited speech, he picked up a dinner plate, and with a few quick whacks, chopped the cochinillo into portions. Then he said something about welcoming the visitors from the Philippines, then he tossed the plate in the air and it crashed into bits as it landed on the brick floor!
The loud crash startled us (and all the other diners) and everybody applauded. That was the end of the ceremony and now it was time to finally eat that pig!
Each of us got a serving of this luscious cochinillo which was really melt-in-your-mouth tender. The skin was as crisp as a potato chip--the crispest cochinillo skin I've ever had.
Isn't that sauce just waiting for rice?
And yes, that above is how it was served to each of us. It was the only thing on the plate. What?!? No rice?! No veggies?! No Mang Tomas?! We ordered white asparagus and stuffed peppers before this main course and we also had soup on the side, but I'm not used to eating a whole chunk of pork by itself. It was sinfully good--but it would've been even better with sinangag.
The plating techniques of this restaurant is a dead giveaway of just how long they have been in operation. No fancy stuff--just plain basic good food.
There's lots of memorabilia in the restaurant. Here Señor Candido is explaining who all these signatures belonged to--some sounded really impressive. I think I overheard something about kings, queens and an emperor.
Heads of state, royalty, dignitaries, ambassadors, rock stars, celebrities... you get the picture. This is the place to eat in Segovia.
The plate chopping ceremony goes way back. That's probably his father in the photo behind him, and look at that book on the counter.
In Manila, we are lucky that we can get superb cochinillo asado at El Cirkulo, one of my favorite local restaurants. To go with the cochinillo, we usually order a salad, their delicious paella montana, and the succulent slow-roasted beef belly. Of course before all that we would have already started with the chorizo, spinacas, croquetas, y boquerones. Now you know why we're not used to cochinillo on a plate by its lonesome. Oink!
El Cirkulo's cochinillo
Back to Meson de Candido in Segovia. As we were leaving the restaurant, we checked out all the photos and letters on the wall. I thought I took more photos of the display on the walls, but after checking my iPhoto files, the only one I have is this one below. Ooh la la Antonio! They were only two... I hope they tried the cochinillo!
Meson de Candido
Azoguejo, 5 Segovia
Telefono 921 425 911
Fax 921 429 633
900 Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road)
Makati City 1200 Philippines
Telephone: 810-8735, 810-2763