I knew Madrid would have excellent tapas, exquisite architecture, and amazing art museums (yay, Prado!). I didn't know, however, that it would also be home to one particularly storied eating establishment. Built in 1725, Restaurante Botín (or just "Botín," as the locals call it) has been designated by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Oldest Restaurant.
Now, depending on your definition of "restaurant," you (like me) may doubt this distinction. I'm pretty sure there are other less formal and/or official eating and drinking spaces where people have continued to gather since before the eighteenth century.
But I didn't go to Botín because it's old; I went for its second claim to fame: mouth-watering roast suckling pig. Renowned for this dish, Botín has one chef whose sole job is to shovel trays of piggies into a fiery oven. You can observe this industrious man and his piglets through a window in the restaurant, and if you knock lightly on the glass and smile, he may even wave at you. But don't expect any grins from the pigs.
As I sipped my vermouth and soda at my table in Botín's cavernous basement, a few other diners took notice that I was dining alone, and one kind couple offered to take my picture. No one seemed terribly surprised or bothered that a single woman would choose to feast by her lonesome, though I think my waiter was impressed I finished my generous appetizer of fried eggplant and garlic aioli by myself.
The roast suckling pig mostly met my high expectations. The meat was tender and moist, and the skin, delightfully salty and crisp. Surrounding the pig were some baked taters, which nicely soaked up the excess juice. Although the meat could have benefitted from more inventive seasoning, it was pleasant in a way to just taste unadulterated pig flesh.
With reasonably priced traditional entrees, a cozy brick interior, and an attentive English-speaking waitstaff, Botín is worth visiting even if you don't buy its "oldest restaurant" shtick. And you'll be in good company, as apparently Hemingway kinda liked it too.
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