Where to Eat in Madrid: Restaurante Botin – Centuries-old Restaurant in Madrid that serves the World’s Best Roasted Suckling Pig
Nowadays, the best restaurants around the world are often judged based on their Michelin stars – or lack thereof. A two-starred Michelin restaurant means you’ll likely wait at the entrance for at least an hour. A five-star Michelin means you’re about to have an amazing gastronomical experience.
But a restaurant I tried in Madrid did not boast of Michelins; rather, a Guinness. Restaurante Botin, established in 1725, Is recorded by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest restaurant. It was opened by French cook Jean Botin and was originally called Casa Botin before it was renamed to what it is known today.
I was lucky to have been invited to dinner at this iconic restaurant, whose clientele included famous people like Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, who was said to have worked at the restaurant as a dishwasher before he became a famous painter. Also known to have frequented the restaurant is renowned author Ernest Hemingway, who said Restaurante Botin is one of the best restaurants he has ever tried.
A quaint place located on Calle de los Cuchilleros in Madrid, Restaurante Botin has four levels of dining areas to choose from. The wooden panels and wood-beam dining rooms give the restaurant its old-world charm.
Dining areas in the upper levels are next to old brick ovens that should be more than 200 years old. Meanwhile, the ground-level dining area is located near the kitchen, while the basement area is also where you will find their old-world wine cellar, housing some of the best wines in Europe.
Reservations are highly encouraged if you want to dine in this restaurant. People line up on the street outside the restaurant, even before it opens, so it’s pretty difficult to get a table if you just walk in.
Since I had a reservation, I was ushered immediately to the basement level, through the brick archway, and onto my seat. The basement has a cave-like feel to it, so it may not be the best area for claustrophobic types. I enjoyed my table just fine. I just felt alienated as I was the only one who doesn’t speak Spanish inside the basement and my Uno, dos, tres was definitely not enough but I was gladly assisted by an English speaking waiter.
For starters, order a sampler platter of croquettes, manchego cheese, and house ham. This is a great way to start your meal and whet your appetite for the main entrée to come.
I asked the waiter for their specials: number one on the list was the Cochinillo Asado or the roasted suckling pig. The pig (more like a piglet) is slow-roasted in a brick oven, and then prepared ready to serve in a room near their kitchen. It is served with nicely roasted potatoes on the side.
I was a little bit curious about how Callos are being cooked in Spain that’s why I ordered one. Similar to Filipino Callos which is obviously one of the Spanish influences in our local gastronomy, their callos are also tender and it also has chorizo. What makes it different from the Callos I usually cook was the absence of olives, laurel leaves, red bell peppers, and garbanzos which are normally present in the Pinoy version of Callos. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed it since Callos is one of my favorite dishes.
Forget Hong Kong suckling pig! The Cochinillo Asado is hands down the best suckling pig I’ve tried so far! The meat is juicy and flavorful, and surprisingly not oily.
The skin was crisp and remained so throughout my meal. Unlike the local lechon in the Philippines, the cochinillo is served as is – no need for lechon sauce, as the meat is tasty even by itself.
According to the restaurant manager, other bestsellers in their menu are the Gazpacho, an Andalusian cold soup; the Chipirones en su tinta, or baby squids in their own ink (served with rice); and the Cordero Asado or roast lamb.
Ask the sommelier for the best wines to pair with your meal. Their in-house cellar has some of the best bottles sourced from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in Spain, and some other wines from other European countries.
Save some room for dessert! I capped my meal with an order of the crème Catalan, the Spanish version of the French dessert crème Brulee. It had just the right kind of sweetness and a perfect ending to a great meal.
After my dinner, the manager of Restaurante Botin was gracious enough to tour me around the area and let me see the kitchen. Part of its charm is really in the interiors; well preserved, it seems, so that it does not lose its old-world feel. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that one of the kitchen staff working in the restaurant is actually a Filipino. It’s always heartwarming to find a kababayan wherever you are in the world.
Restaurante Botin is a must-try when in Madrid. While it definitely is a tourist destination, it still retains a homey feel thanks to the warm atmosphere and the excellent service of their managers and waiters.
The classic Spanish dishes add to the comfort food feeling, which reminded me of traditional dishes my grandmother used to prepare for Sunday lunches with the family. And that is the same feeling you get at Restaurante Botin: you may be miles away from where you’re from, but the restaurant feels like a home away from home.
Restaurante Botín is located at Calle Cuchilleros 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain. Lunch is served from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, while the dinner service is from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am. Phone: 913 66 42 17
My Madrid Trip was made possible by Madrid City Tourism Board and Madrid Destino.
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