The emblematic Mesón de Cándido is the pride of the historic Spanish city of Segovia. Ideally located under the arches of one of the most impressive, best preserved Roman aqueducts in the world, this restaurant has welcomed guests from near and far for over a century.
Terrace Mesón de Cándido.
The building that hosts the restaurant is listed as a place of historical interest. Documents show that, in 1786, a license was requested to open a tavern in this old house, although what we know is that it was managed, since 1895, by the Rivera family. In 1912, the establishment was sold to the parents of Ms. Patrocinio Duke Casas, future wife of Cándido López, a great cook who would become the soul of the Mesón. In 1931, he took control of the business and made the roasted suckling pig––despised at the time––the restaurant’s emblematic dish. Gradually, Mesón de Cándido would earn a reputation as one of the world’s most famous dining destinations.
Cándido died in 1992, but his son Alberto and his grandchildren have continued to follow his legacy of serving the best traditional Castilian cuisine, faithful to its roots and using a bounty of local products. Mesón de Cándido, like Casa Lucio, is one of Spain’s most visited traditional restaurants.
2. Alberto López, Cándido’s son.
3. Cándido López, Cándido’s grandson.
There are some who consider Cándido the first celebrity chef, even before Paul Bocuse, Juan Mari Arzak or Ferran Adrià. He was a man of principles, respectful, with the nobility of a Spanish gentleman, loquacious when the occasion required it, somewhat ironic and always attentive to details.
His maxim reflects the current philosophy of the Mesón: “Any person who honors this house with his presence, whatever their nationality or status, deserves respect and all the attention characteristic of Spanish hospitality “. The ingenious, clever restaurateur helped bring a touch of color and humor to postwar Spain, isolated from Europe and plunged into an oppressive military dictatorship.
Cándido turned his oven roasted, tender, juicy suckling pigs, which he would cut with the edge of a plate, into a ceremony that served to promote his restaurant. Since then, many fans of gastronomy, travelers and curious newcomers from every corner of the planet, come to his spacious dining rooms to taste this famous delicacy and other regional dishes such as the judiones de La Granja (beans from the farm), Castellian soup or the lamb roast, all happily paired with outstanding Spanish vintages from the cellar.
Many anecdotes surround the mythical Mesón. In the 1960s, the Spanish journalist Tico Medina recounted in one of his articles how actor and director Orson Welles, famous for his excessive appetite, could eat in one sitting a bowl of beans from the farm and two roasted piglets accompanied by loaves of white bread, and several pitchers of wine.
Politicians, movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era including Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and Edward G. Robinson among others; European monarchs, even the Emperor of Japan, have signed the Mesón’s Golden Book after enjoying Cándido’s splendid cuisine.
1. Sofia Loren.
2. Romi Schneider.
3. Grace Kelly.
4. Cary Grant.
Cándido met Pablo Neruda in Madrid and invited him to have dinner at his house. The famous poet dedicated these words to him: “Good food on the plate, good wine in the jug, sounds from guitars that awaken with song, because Spain is for living, Castile is for wining, Segovia is for feeling and Cándido for eating”.
Segovia is a Castilian city rich in architectural treasures. It is a pleasure to stroll its ancient streets and squares watching people go by in a place steeped in Spanish culture and tradition. And when you feel tired and hungry, nothing compares to a visit to Mesón de Cándido to delight in cuisine that is simple and without artifice, a highly enjoyable gastronomic experience. ■