For our “big restaurant” visit in Madrid we picked Botin.
Botin is well known as the oldest restaurant in the world which is disputable. We knew up front that this restaurant is now a tourist magnet but we just wanted to go there to experience dining there.
Dining in the world’s oldest restaurant is a big item on our bucket list and we are happy to tick that off the list.
It was not too long a walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid. We knew it was near the Plaza Mayor and so we walked in that general direction. We actually thought it was INSIDE the Plaza Mayor. We walked round and round the plaza and then outside before we stumbled upon THE restaurant.
We were looking for Botin and did not realize that the official name of the restaurant is long.
For what it’s worth, Botin can lay claim to being the oldest restaurant in the world because the Guinness Book of Records said so.
Botin is founded in 1725 which makes it almost 300 years old today.
Actually, Botin had never been operating in the same place over it’s history. Anyway, I checked and found the following interesting article about the history of restaurants.
Botin is in a really old building. The whole structure of the building is made with heavy timber and beams seasoned over the years. It is just simply amazing to think that the great Spanish painter Goya worked here as a waiter before and not to mention Ernest Hemingway too.
We were led to the dining area upstairs. There is also a dining area downstairs and I suspect that they also have other floors too. But it was early for lunch and so only the ground floor was packed.
Service is excellent. It is obvious that speaking English is not a problem here. We can see that most of the customers here are tourists but there are also a few tables of locals. At least we think they are local because … they spoke Spanish and they were in office attire.
And they sure know how to take care of tourists. Even without us asking, the waiter immediate offered to take our pictures. So here … just in case you don’t believe me … this is proof that we had really eaten in the oldest restaurant in the world. 🙂
Despite the old look, dining here is expensive. Yeah, I was trying to calculate how much damage this will be as I was going over the menu.
It was water for the missus and Sangria for the mister. After 2 weeks I finally have the Sangria served the way it is traditionally served … in a jug WITH a wooden ladle.
A half pitcher of Sangria was about 7 euros (about $10 Canadian).
The bread was nice even though it was just plain bread.
We already knew what we wanted to eat here in Botin. It was their suckling pig and the dish above which is called Garlic Soup with Egg (8 euros, $11).
This is one of their signature dishes. Spotting the signature dishes is easy because the dishes are all capitalized on the menu. A nicer sounding name of this dish is called sopa de ajo (an egg, poached in chicken broth, and laced with sherry and garlic).
It is served boiling hot with an egg in the middle. We were instructed to scramble the eggs before eating. While it was a nice dish, our minds were fixated on the next course.
Ernest Hemingway, the celebrated American Nobel Literature Prize winner, wrote in his very first novel The Sun Also Rises the following words:
“We lunched upstairs at Botin’s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.”
The novel became an instant success when it was published and made Ernest Hemingway famous. Those words at the end of the novel too made Botin famous.
The waiter brought the pan from cooking and plated it in front of us. Exciting times. 🙂
It was a big serving. We were so happy to see the succulent soft tender meat and the crispy smooth skin. It was simply awesome and the first bite was heavenly. Rarely have we seen suckling pig which such mouth watering thick meat.
We were told that these suckling pigs are raised to exactly 21 days before they are slaughtered, no more no less.
The skin was just roasted to perfection. No blistering and such. The whole skin crackles as we sink the knife into it. The meat virtually melts in our mouth.
This is 23 euros and we shared this dish. We were half wishing to ask for another half serving because we liked this so much. No, we didn’t ask.
We also ordered something we did not have yet on this trip. We were taken in by the word “ink”.
This is called the baby Squids in Their Own Ink With Rice (18 euros).
The sauce/ink was very black. Frankly, we were not used to eating stuff this black. Maybe if the name “ink” was not there, we might have thought it tasted great.
The tentacles are stuffed inside the squid. Thank goodness for that. For a moment I was kind of worried that it was filled with more ink and that it will explode ink inside my mouth once I bite on it. 🙂
For desserts, we got the Tartar Bodin because of the word “Bodin” on it. This is 6 euros and is a cream layer cake and coated with meringue. It was sweet, moist and rich … a nice dessert.
This is almost $100 Canadian in all. Like I said, this place is overpriced simply because it is famous. The food was not really great. I won’t say that but it was pretty solid.
On the way downstairs I noticed racks of their suckling pig. They were roasted in the same wood fired oven dating back to the days they were opened here.
This was an interesting meal. We asked the waiter if he knows where Hemingway seats when he was here in Botin. He pointed to the small table by the window across from where we were seated. I don’t know if it is actually where it is or this is one of the rehearsed answers they give to curious tourists like us. *shrug*
Oh … one funny thing we saw in the restaurants around this area. While Botin was trumpeting the fact that Hemingway eats in their restaurant and calls them the best in the world, the other restaurants resented that. Some of them put up signs that says “Hemingway does NOT eat here”. Maybe it’s their way of indirectly saying don’t go to Botin as it’s a tourist trap.
After this meal, we went to look for the best dessert in town … stay tuned.