Eat at the Oldest Restaurant in the World
It's been in Madrid for over 300 years and deemed the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the world. What's their secret?
Madrid’s Restaurante Sobrino del Botín, the oldest continuously run restaurant in the world, has been serving a stellar suckling pig (cochinillo asado) over the course of three centuries. Yes three hundred years and as such, Botín has an unusual history some of which sounds more fable than factual.
It’s been reported that Goya washed dishes at the restaurant (circa 1765) and Ernest Hemingway a regular diner. Of course the latter can be proven, but it’s hard to find hard evidence that Goya was a dishwasher while painting his masterpieces. (I mean, wouldn’t he worry about getting dishpan hands?) Hemingway, who became fascinated with Spain after visiting Pamplona in 1923 and returned to live in Madrid during the time of the Spanish Civil War, spent time writing in the restaurant’s upstairs quarters.
As a friend of owner Emilio González, father and grandfather of the current owners Carlos and Antonio González, Hemingway even requested to learn how to make the restaurant’s paella. Don Ernesto, as the Madrileños called him, was so in love with the restaurant he set the final scene of The Sun Also Rises there where the characters dined on that famous suckling pig.
Botín’s suckling pigs are prized. They are sourced from Segovia where they take their Cochinillo Asado very, very seriously. Strict rules demand that the breeder’s pigs cannot weigh more than 4-5 kilograms, are exclusively milk-fed, with pig’s mothers too eating a specific diet, and sadly, they cannot be older than three weeks at slaughter. (Warning: The cochinillo asado are not for the squeamish or for the table that has a die-hard vegetarian—though vegetarians are welcome.)
The lamb come from the same culinary triangle, Sepúlveda-Aranda-Riaza, where it is believed Moors, Jews, and Christians all passed through the region roasting the sacred lamb or lechazo. Lambs from the region are protected with the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), much like the Italian wines DOC demarkation, which also states the animal must be sacrificed at no more than 20 to 30 days and weigh between 5-7 kilograms. Just like the suckling pig, the lambs must also be milk-fed hence its name lechazo stemming from the Spanish word for milk (leche).
The lambs and suckling pigs are roasted slowly, more than 4 hours, in the old wood-fired oven creating a crisp, golden skin. But in case that is not to your liking, the menu at Restaurante Sobrino del Botín spans to seafood and other Spanish classics like gazpacho, garlic soup, white asparagus, stews and they will happily accommodate dietary requests.
Need to Know:
Reservations are recommended and accepted or book the VIP experience with local culinary guide Joanna Wivell who has a exclusive relationship with the González family which includes a guided tour of the restaurant. After the tour, guests dine on a tasting menu of “The Classics of Botín” including the signature suckling pig cooked in the restaurant’s original ovens dating back to 1725.
Sobrino del Botín
Calle de Cuchilleros, 17; +34 913 664 217 or +34 913 663 026; www.botin.es