San Sebastian – The Cider House Rules!
Ahh, sunny San Sebastian… well, not for us.
During our four-day visit to the Spanish city, rain drowned out any available sunshine. We even awoke to snow atop the nearby mountain tops, and this is in mid-April! We discovered a new love during our time here: Tapas and pinxtos! The combinations of colours, textures, and flavours blew our minds and taste buds away. We began thinking that we could eat these Spanish delicacies every day, every meal. Then we experienced a bit of a tapas overload. Don’t get me wrong, our love of tapas is still very much with us, but our stomachs started wondering if there was something else, even to change things up for just one meal.
After doing a bit of research, we came across a traditional Spanish experience that made our eyes light up; a cider house! Also known as a ‘sidreria’ in Spanish, there was one about three minutes down the road from our hostel. Named Txirrita Sagardotegia, it’s the only sidreria in central San Sebastian, and it’s only a year old. Although there are many traditional cider farm houses in Basque Country — just outside of San Sebastian — we chose to go to this one. That turned out to be a good call, because we could hardly move afterwards. Their use of an easy-to-use online booking system, and six different ciders they house compared to other cider farms, which only sell their house cider, made our choice that much easier.
We made our way down to the cider house around 8pm. It reminded us of a German beer hall, but with a few Spanish twists. Expect to enjoy unlimited cider, up to six courses of food, and a great atmosphere. At Txirrita Sagardotegia we paid €35 each, which included the 6 courses and unlimited cider.If I'm honest, I'm really not a fan of cider at all. At least, not since my 18th birthday. But San Sebastian cider is different! Click To Tweet
We were greeted by Ekaitz, our charming Basque waiter, who showed us to our table. Ekaitz handed us two empty glasses as we followed him towards six enormous cider barrels behind a glass screen. He showed us the correct technique in pouring a cider from the barrels while he aerated the glorious golden nectar. We were told the importance of aerating the cider; as it is not carbonated and has no added sugar, by holding our glasses about a meter away from the tap, it gives the drink its desired taste. Just remember not to fill your glass up too much. The tradition is to only pour 100-200ml each time you fill up. If the cider is left sitting too long, it loses its fresh taste.
If I’m honest, I’m really not a fan of cider at all. At least, not since my 18th birthday. But this cider was different! I find your average cider too sweet to handle. But this stuff was almost too easy to devour, and I actually ended up having more cider than Lauren, getting a bit tipsy after a few glasses. Then began the six-course feast:
- Txistorra – a special kind of chorizo
Zurrukutuna – breaded salt cod soup
Panceta – crispy bacon
- Salt cod omelet
- Pan-cooked salt cod with Biscay sauce
- Rib eye steak with salad
- Cheese, quince and walnuts
- Basque almond biscuits with goat’s cheese ice cream and walnut sauce
As you can tell, this feast is not for the likes of vegetarians or vegans, but going just for the cider and atmosphere is still well worth it. We both thoroughly enjoyed all six meals, but the highlight was the steak; cooked to absolute perfection, well seasoned, just everything you could want in a steak! (Yes, I am a bit passionate about steak.) The cod was also amazing. It’s traditional for all cider houses in Basque to serve the cod omelet, pan-baked cod and steak on their set menus, to pair with the cider. Then the goat’s cheese ice cream wraps it all up nicely. So weird, but so great! It went perfectly with the almond biscuits.
Some words of advice: allow yourself a good 2-3 hours to soak up the experience, and don’t rush through any of the food! After all, you get unlimited cider for the duration of your visit. Definitely go in with an empty stomach. On Friday and Saturday nights, the sidrerias get busiest at around 10:00pm, so hang around for a good time.
We highly recommend this sidreria to anyone visiting San Sebastián.
If you want to visit a cider house a short drive away in Basque Country, the ideal time to visit is between January to April, as January is the time of the year the the apples are harvested. Here are a few that were recommended to us by some locals:
- Petritegi Satardotegia
Visiting any sidreria in Basque is bound to be a great experience for any food or drink lover as an alternative to spanish tapas, so get amongst it!