Cider Houses, or ‘sagardotegis’ as they are known in Euskera, are a major aspect of Basque gastronomic culture. During the cider season (January-April) people flock in large groups to cider houses dotted all over the countryside to drink limitless cider from huge wooden barrels and to enjoy the meat-fest that is the traditional cider house menu. My own cider house experience took place at an establishment called Petritegi in Astigarraga, a ten minute bus journey out of San Sebastian.
We started lunch with a succulent dish of chorizo cooked in cider. It was so soft and moist compared to the other chewy, cured kind you find in most restaurants. I wished there was more but with many courses to come it was important to pace ourselves.
Then we filled up on cider. The building contained at least 15 gigantic 14,000 litre barrels containing different local ciders. An attendant decides which barrels to open and when and then you just help yourself, making sure to shout ‘Txotx!’ whenever a new barrel is opened. It’s something that everyone can enjoy. The cider itself is nothing like the mainstream ciders you find in pubs in Britain – it’s sharper, not fizzy and really tastes of farm!
Sated for the time being we moved onto cod tortilla and cod with crispy peppers and onions:
This was followed by more cider and any meat-lover’s idea of paradise – grilled bone-in rib-eye steak, served bloody:
After yet more cider we finished up with cheese, quince paste (membrillo), walnuts and almond and butter biscuits known as ‘tejas y cigarillos’:
And when we thought it was all finished the waiter gave us a little coupon to go down the road to the local café for a coffee and a liqueur. All in all, the rustic, buzzing atmosphere, great quality ingredients and unbeatable cider made for a fantastic, unforgettable Sunday lunch. If you’re visiting the Basque Country between January and April don’t miss out!
Camino de Petritegi Bidea, 20115 Astigarraga, España
Expect to pay in the region of 28-45 euros for a typical cider house menu.