For One of the Best Restaurants in Madrid, Eat at the Oldest Restaurant in the World
We recently ate at one of the best restaurants in Madrid, and it felt like eating in a welcoming home, long ago here in Spain. Sitting in the bodega, the old walls of brick and rock rose up into arched ceilings and the lights created a warm, romantic glow. The tables were elegantly set with white tablecloth and brightly painted jarras of homemade Sangria were being served to some of the first customers. With us was one of the owners, Antonio Gonzalez, sharing his stories about this restaurant that is part of his family. Before the food was even ordered our hearts were won, and by the end of the evening so were our stomachs.
How is a restaurant so captivating? In this unique case, they have used time to their benefit, carrying on their legacy through an exceptional dining experience that combines welcoming people, quality food, and a magnificent ambiance. After all, this is Restaurante Botín in Madrid, Spain, the oldest restaurant in the world. Experiencing them goes beyond their historically delicious cuisine, so let us introduce you to their story.
The History of Restaurante Botín,
One of the Best Restaurants in Madrid
Above Image – One of several black and white photos of Botín’s history, that are displayed in the restaurant.
Before our dinner, Antonio gave us a tour of the restaurant and so kindly took time to sit down with us and tell us about the restaurant’s history and his family’s story.
Known as one of the best restaurants in Madrid, Restaurante Botín is the world’s oldest restaurant continuously in business, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Ideally located in the heart of Madrid and right next to the Plaza Mayor, it has been a favorite among historical figures such as Ernest Hemingway, royalty, celebrities and politicians. Even Goya was a dishwasher there before being accepted into the arts academy. While it is sought out by tourists because of its history and authentic, Spanish cuisine, it is also still a favorite among locals.
So how old does the oldest restaurant in the world have to be? Oh, only close to 300 years old. Restaurante Botín was founded in 1725 by a French man named Jean Botín. At that time, the term restaurant rarely existed, so it was more like a tavern. It was called Casa Botín until his nephew inherited the business and part of it was a pastelería (bakery shop). The name changed to Sobrino de Botín (meaning nephew of Botín), which is still on the restaurant exterior. Today it is referred to as either name, Sobrino de Botín or Restaurante Botín.
The People & Legacy of Restaurante Botín,
One of the Best Restaurants in Madrid
Above Image – One of Botín’s eye-catching front windows, displaying a miniature model of the restaurant’s interior, and other references to what is inside.
Then in the 20th century, the restaurant came into the ownership of its current family, the Gonzalez family. It was Emilio Gonzalez and his wife Amparo Martín, who took over the business in the early 1930’s. At that time it was a small restaurant with seven employees, including the couple and their three children. Emilio featured the recipes of traditional Castilian dishes, prioritizing that they were made with the best quality ingredients. Today, this is still the foundation and standard for the restaurant’s superb gastronomy.
When the Spanish Civil War took place in the late 1930’s, it greatly disrupted the aspirations and dreams the family had for their business. Amparo took the children to the safety of a village in Castellón, while Emilio stayed in Madrid with the restaurant, which he used to serve meals to the militia.
During the difficulty of the post-war years, the sons of Emilio and Amparo took over the family business. They were Antonio and José, and they slowly grew and built Restaurante Botín into what it is today. Now the third generation, Antonio, José and Carlos, are successfully carrying it on.
In learning about the history and story of Restaurante Botín, a lot of things stood out to us. Yet what stood out the most were Antonio’s memories of being with his grandfather Emilio and that he was the man that Antonio would go to for advice and wisdom. The Gonzalez family treasure his character and integrity so much, that they ensure that his values and local recipes, are always at the heart of Botín.
The Cuisine of Restaurante Botín,
Family Recipes of Traditional Castilian Gastronomy
The menu of Restaurante Botín is exactly what you want for a dining experience when visiting Madrid. There are a variety of traditional entradas (starters) like callos a la Madrileña, roasted meats like their cochinillo asado, and various other seafood, meat and vegetable dishes. Overall, their dishes are the epitome of authentic Castillian gastronomy.
What they are famous for though, is their signature dish the cochinillo asado, roast suckling pig. Two main things are the magic of this dish: the wood-burning oven where they are roasted, and the high-end quality of the pigs. This oven of Moorish architecture, is as old as the restaurant. It burns holm-oak wood, giving a delicious smell and taste to the roasted piglets, that come out with a golden, crispy skin. Only the best of the piglets that come from the province of Segovia, an area famous for raising them, are selected by Restaurante Botín.
Above Image – Their famous ‘cochinillo asado’ (roast suckling pig), served with roasted potatoes.
Then, there is their cordero asado, roast lamb, that is another favorite dish. This is also cooked in the wood-burning oven and sourced from the best selection of lambs in Spain. They come from what is known as the ‘magical triangle’ for these meats, Sepúlveda, Aranda, and Riaza. Another popular dish is the garlic soup, which is served with an egg and Spanish ham. You can compliment all this with their house-made sangria, served in the lovely hand-painted jarras, and their fantastic Spanish wines.
Our dinner at Restaurante Botín was shared with good friends Marco and Michelle who were visiting from Denver. They are restaurant owners of Kobe An, a Shabu Shabu and Japanese Restaurant in the Denver LoHi area, and Marco is their chef. Their appreciation for family owned restaurants and quality cuisine, made Restaurante Botín the perfect place to bring them for a traditional, Spanish dinner.
To eat, we started with a small taster of the morcilla de Burgos (blood sausage made with rice). We are quite particular about what morcilla we like, and this was exceptionally good. Then we shared the sopa de ajo con huevo y jamón, their garlic soup, ordering one serving per couple. This was superbly flavorful, with a wonderful balance of the garlic and accompanying flavors, yet not heavy or too rich. Next we shared an appetizing entrada of the croquetas de pollo y jamón, croquettes of chicken and Spanish ham. These are like comfort Spanish food, made of potato and lightly fried. Restaurante Botín makes them homemade, as they do all things, and of course as this traditional Spanish entrada should be served. They were delectable.
Above Image – The ‘sopa de ajo’ (garlic soup), another of Botín’s most popular dishes.
At long last, we arrived at savoring our cochinillo asado, the roast suckling pig. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth good, with the rich taste of its own juices that are created as it is slow-roasted, and that delightfully crisp, golden skin that keeps the moisture in. It lived up to all the excitement and has set the standard high for us regarding this dish. As owner Antonio Gonzalez explained, the tasty success is in the simplicity of his grandfather’s recipes and the commitment to using the best quality ingredients. And we certainly tasted that.
We had one order of the cochinillo asado per couple, and were not able to finish it all, so we recommend sharing the dish, especially to have room for trying some of their other amazing dishes. It also depends on your appetite though, because we each do not eat a lot in one sitting, especially late at night.
Since we were so full, we did not have any of their homemade desserts, but we did enjoy some traditional liquores de hierbas, herbal liquors. They are wonderful for helping to digest food after a meal, and we were brought a few different kinds to taste, each of them wonderful.
The Ambiance of Restaurante Botín,
A Charming Experience of Spain Long Ago
Above Image – One of the upper dining rooms.
As if the history and food were not already amazing enough, imagine enjoying it enhanced by the fantastic ambiance maintained in the restaurant’s historic building. When you walk inside, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, and into a Medieval tavern. But a very nice and elegant one, with dark wood paneling and period paintings decorating the walls. The building itself goes back to the late 1500’s, when it was an inn, and the Gonzalez family have taken great care to expand and restore it as an authentic representation of the many eras it has seen.
There is the main floor, which is the original dining area of the restaurant. The upper floors, which used to be housing, were later converted so that today there are four floors of dining halls in total. Yet even older is the original bodega from the late 1500’s, which is still in the very bottom level of the restaurant. If you want to be in the presence of some very old wines, ask to step inside and take a look around.
Antonio then took us up to the second floor and showed us the corner area that is referenced in the end of Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘The Sun Also Rises’. Here is the table where his characters enjoyed a dinner much like we did, and where it’s said Ernest enjoyed dining during his frequent visits. Here and on the upper floors, there are stained glass windows, colorful Spanish tiles decorating the walls, and the old-world styled ceilings of wooden beams.
Above Image – The cellar dining room on the lower level.
After seeing all four floors, we chose to eat in the bodega, or cellar dining room, which is the lowest floor. It truly feels like being in a castle in this particular space. The room is long and the walls flow into arched ceilings, all made of rock and brick. It creates quite the romantic setting.
How the Oldest Restaurant in the World is One of the Best Restaurants in Madrid
The test of time is one of the greatest measurements of value and quality, and Restaurante Botín is a gastronomical portrayal of that. But rather than just be tested by time, they have also embraced its nature and opportunities of carrying on a treasured family legacy. A family legacy that they share with the world through their food and hospitality. No wonder they are known for some time now as one of the best restaurants in Madrid.
We were so touched by Antonio’s generosity in spending time with us, even as the restaurant was just opening and becoming busy with guests. He sincerely and freely loves to share the story of his family’s business, their heritage and their superb recipes. It is the heart of what has kept Botín going for nearly 300 years. And, as they like to say at Restaurante Botín, that will continue on for 300 more.
They get busy, so we recommend making a reservation at Restaurante Botín.
To find where they are, click here.
Have you heard of Restaurante Botín? What would you eat if you could go there today? We’d love to hear from you in our comment area further below. Thanks!
Watch Our Video of Restaurante Botín
Our sincere thanks to Restaurante Botín, their kind and helpful staff, and the warm welcome and generous time of owner Antonio Gonzalez. Restaurante Botín is a new favorite for us and we will be visiting any time we are in Madrid.
This is NOT a sponsored or paid post, and we received no compensation of any kind. As always, our opinions are our own.
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to TravelingWe’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…