I will be spending ten days in Madrid in January, and will be going to Segovia for a day or two. I've been researching the various restaurants, and although I expect I shall want to eat the famous Segovian suckling pig, it's hard to decide where to go to eat it. I'd be grateful for your impressions of Meson de Candido and Meson Duque, also, Meson Jose Maria. What are they like, which do you like best, and are there any others I should consider? As it will be a treat, cost isn't really an important factor: good food and a good experience are.
We visited Segovia in September and had a good meal at Meson Jose Maria. When we arrived at our hotel we asked for recommendations, and then asked them how Jose Maria compared to Candido and Duque - in their view it was the best in terms of value and quality.
It is quite a large restaurant with a number of interconnected rooms, we ate on a Saturday night and it was quite full. Lots of locals and some big parties having fun - a few tourists like us but it felt very local (I assume in January it will be nearly 100% local). We wanted to try both the suckling pig and young lamb and the waiter kindly served us small portions of both even though this option was not on the menu. Both were good, although you do need to order side dishes if you want them. When they serve the pork, they quarter it using the side of a plate which is a good photo opportunity. I don't remember it being expensive.
We stayed at the Hotel Infante in the main square which was very nice, there are lots of tapas bars around the square with outside seating (maybe be challenging in Jan) and we had a nice breakfast in one of these the next morning.
I've been to both Mesón de Cándido (very recently) and José María. I think they are both good when it comes to cochinillo. I would give a slight edge to José María, because as I remember it has a more varied menu of entradas, salads, etc. Cándido, due to its insanely great location, might have more of a tourist vibe, but the product seemed to be essentially the same. With cochinillo (and roast lamb), I think it is particularly important to go during the correct meal times (2-4 for lunch; 9-12 for dinner) or else the oven might not be up and running and you could get reheated food. You don't have to make reservations way in advance at these places, but it's a good idea to call a day before and reserve so you don't have to wait. Segovia is a bit out of the suckling lamb (lechazo) zone. I'd stick to pig unless you are looking for variety.
Another dish (my favorite) to look out for in Segovia is judiones de la Granja (a.k.a. del Real Sitio--white bean stew).
Pack really warm clothes. It can be very cold in that part of Castilla in January.
I've got loads of visitors coming into town in the next month or two and I'm sure I'll get a chance to do another taste comparison soon... I'll post back if I do.
here's a vote for the cordero (lamb) over the cochinillo (pig). technically technically the ideal 'lamb zone' is supposedly farther north, in burgos, but i must say i've eaten some damn fine roast lamb in segovia, which is after all still in the middle of the 'mesta' (historic pastoral route).
for those that have a car, there's a little meson (don't remember the name) right in front of the turn off to the resevoir in revenga (on the small national highway going to segovia from madrid) which is cheap and excellent.
Just wanted to thank everyone who contributed to this thread. I was just in Segovia (late February 2009) and really loved the cochinillo at Restaurante Jose Maria. The starters were disappointing, but the cochinillo was excellent.
I then spent a week tasting wines in the Ribera del Duero and enjoyed lechazo (roast suckling lamb) in the region's small towns.
To read more details, please see my blog post about R. Jose Maria: