If you’re a fan of Ernest Hemingway and have read ‘The Sun Also Rises’, you’d probably remember a certain Sobrino de Botin in Madrid that he referred to in the book. Spain was one of Hemingway’s most favourite places in the world, but it’s not just famous as that: Botin has been recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest dining establishment in 1725. Let’s find out more. By Devyani Nighoskar
This four storeyed restaurant with wooden beams and honey-coloured tiled floors is luxe and elegant but the arched brick walled, vaulted wine cellar, the panelled dining rooms lit up by lanterns, creaky wooden stairways and the authentic, bright Spanish art work gives the place an old worldly charm. There are three dining rooms: The Bodega (wine cellar), the Castilla room, and the Felipe IV room, made dynamic by their Castilian waiters, fancily dressed in their crisp white jackets adorned with bow ties.
Botín was opened by Frenchman Jean Botín and his wife, but since they didn’t have an heir, it was passed on to the man’s nephew who added the ‘Sobrino De’ (nephew of) to the restaurant’s title. Located on a tiny street behind Plaza Mayor, this restaurant now occupies four floors of the house- it had started with just one. It is more of a tourist spot now and people come here for an experience rather than to dine. Currently it is being run by the González family who still retain the authentic charm and the legacy of the yesteryear.
The popularity of the restaurant is credited to the their most famous dishes, which are the ‘cordero asado’ (roast lamb) and the ‘cochinillo asado ‘(roast suckling pig; with juicy meat on the inside and crispy skin outside). This dish was what Hemingway particularly loved. So much so, that he went on to mention it in one of his books. He writes; “We lunched upstairs at Botín’s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta.” These dishes are said to have retained the authentic taste, perhaps because they are still roasted in the 300-year-old original wood-fired oven made of cast iron.