Restaurant Botin, founded in 1725 in Madrid, is the world’s oldest restaurant and thus has quite a story to tell! This is an amazing place to enjoy true Castilian cuisine, with fantastic service, in a history-filled environment.
In 1561, King Philip II moved his court to Madrid, which was central, had good water and a pleasant climate. His arrival in Madrid lead to some major changes. A police force was set up and Madrid was rapidly expanded under the charge of architect Francisco de Mora. Then, in 1590 the building, which today hosts the now legendary restaurant Botin, was built.
In the now famous Plaza Mayor was refurbished and this area became the main commercial enclave in the city with shoemakers, tanners, cutlers, braziers, and blacksmiths. The streets in the area even adopted the name of the trades carried out there: ‘Ribera de Curtidores(tanners)’, ‘Plaza de Herradores (blacksmiths)’ and of course ‘Calle Cuchilleros (cutlery)’.
It was in one of these streets that French cook Jean Botin and his wife set up home with the intention of working for a nobleman from the Court of Habsburg. In 1725, a relative opened a small inn on the Calle Cuchilleros and carried out a refurbishment of the ground floor of the building, closing the existing arcade. Evidence of this work remains in the form of a slab at the building’s entrance which features the date.
An interesting fact is that until well into the 18th century it was forbidden to sell meat, wine and other foodstuffs as it was considered an imposition which would jeopardise other trades. As a result, you could only serve what the guest brought to be cooked. From here came the legend that in Spanish inns you only found what the traveller brought ..
When the Botins passed away the restaurant remained in the family and was taken over by their nephew. During the 19th century, the ground floor underwent more renovations. Back then, Botin was considered as a type of tavern, since the term ‘restaurant’ was solely used for the few and rather exclusive places which attempted to emulate Parisian establishments.
With the arrival of the 20th century, Botin fell into the hands of its current owners, the González family. At that time, only the entrance and first floor were dedicated to the restaurant, with the wine cellar being used for storage and the second and third floors for the family dwelling and Botin was only a small family business with just seven employees, including the couple and their three children.
However, the Spanish Civil War sent the family fleeing Segorbe in Castellon whilst Emilio stayed behind to look after the house, which turned into a dining room for members of the military. After the war and the terrible period immediately following it, the couple’s sons, Antonio and José, assumed control of the business and gradually turned it into what it is today.
Currently, the restaurant is made up of four floors, all of which have preserved the charming atmosphere of a traditional tavern.The business is being run by the third generation of the González family: Antonio, José and Carlos. All of them are dedicated to achieving Botin’s age-old commitment to not only spoiling the stomachs of their guests, but also reaching their hearts for at least three hundred more years to come.
Situated at the heart of El Madrid de los Austrias or Madrid of the Habsburgs – the old centre of the city, Botin boasts a truly unbeatable location. This is exactly why great effort has been taken to maintain the restaurant’s original appearance. A series of renovation processes have been executed to cater for the ever-growing number of customers, without changing the building’s characteristic features.
Botin’s speciality is Castilian cuisine, with a special emphasis on roast lamb and suckling pig. Three or four times every week, the restaurant receives suckling pigs straight from Segovia and lamb from Spain’s renowned magic triangle: Sepúlveda-Aranda-Riaza. The lambs and suckling pigs are roasted slowly and carefully in the old wood-fired oven.
Nevertheless, this is by no means intended to deflect from the other tasty dishes on offer: guests can also choose to sample delicious hake, fresh sole, clams with the house’s special sauce and many more irresistible delights.
Listed by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest restaurant, and on the Forbes list of as one of 10 of the world’s classic restaurants, Botin has been turning out impeccably roasted meats from its original Castilian-style cast iron wood-burning oven since 1725 – nearly three centuries. Guests have ranged from Hemingway (who mentions the speciality of cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) in the closing pages of his novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’) to the painter Goya to countless European royalty, and it remains very popular with visitors, locals and especially Spanish politicians.
Botin’s four floors are packed with diners every night of the week, making reservations a must, and no visit to the Spanish capital would be complete without a delicious meal here, which also makes diners a part of living history.
Calle de los Cuchilleros, 17 Madrid, Spain
00 34 913 66 42 17