3 facts we all know about Europe: it’s old, it’s diverse, and it’s beautiful.
Between the infinite assortment of “exotic” foods or the charming architecture from the earliest years, Europe is something we just cannot experience in the States. Because Europe dates back to somewhere in the 45,000 – 25,000 BC, it’s hard to get a solid perspective on how old it really is. My grandparents are old. Anything before they were born is really old. But 25,000 BC, that’s really, really old.
But today we still share something in common with the first settlers of Europe, which is eating. We all eat. We all may eat differently, but I will save that for another blog post (welcome to my brainstorming sessions).
While wandering through Madrid, we toured the “World’s Oldest Restaurant,” dubbed not only by the restaurant itself, but by the Guinness Book of World Records as well. That’s some reputation to maintain. I had never thought about the concept of a restaurant mainly because eating has been around since day one of humanity.
According to the website, husband and wife Emilio González and Amparo Martín opened Restaurante Botin opened in 1725. The family owned restaurant is now in its third generation, but offers the same Mediterranean cuisine, but with a new name: Restaurante Sobrino de Botin.
The restaurant is near Plaza Mayor, but surprisingly (considering its reputation) had only one customer at the time. The expensive menu ranged from a 6 euro soup to a 99 euro (fish) dish.
I was ahead of the tour group and originally walked past the restaurant. At first glance, it looks like any other bar from the outside. Our guide stopped us and told us a little about what we were standing in front of, and proceeded with our tour inside like it was her restaurant.
There are small hallways (I liked to pretend they were secret passageways) that l could crawl through. I kept finding more and more. You could see that some of the brick did not match because of Madrid’s history with secret tunnels. Close to Plaza Mayor was a prison and to avoid the busy streets, the monarchs ordered a system of secret tunnels that connected the prison to their most popular destinations.
Soon I ran off and I gave myself a self-tour. I ran into the owner and though he did not provide tours, he was quick to offer me anything I needed and allowed me to go wherever I wanted. I wanted to capture a candid pictures of the chefs at work, but they seem to be used to tourists as they posed for me.
But I still got a candid of one of the chefs cooking cochinillo asado, or roasted pig. I believe the restaurant is known for this dish. Both cochinillo asado and a lamb dish have been cooked the same way since the restaurant opened and in the same wood-fire oven.
It’s interesting to stand inside a restaurant that has survived so many wars and economic depressions. I wonder how many people have eaten at the restaurant since its opening.
Overall, much has changed in Madrid since 1725, but it’s refreshing to know that the Botin tradition remains.