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Botín - Botín Restaurant - Casa Botín - Restaurante Botin

Address:

Calle de Cuchilleros 17, near Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain. Near Metro stop Sol.

The history:

Botín is the most famous restaurant in Spain and perhaps even the whole world. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest restaurant in the world, dating back to 1725. The ground floor of the building itself has been around since the late 16th century. A cast iron wood-fired stove, common in Castillian restaurants, has been in the kitchen since it opened. Botín gets its name from Jean Botin, the Frenchman who founded the restaurant. Botin married a woman from Asturias and then settled in Madrid. In the late 19th century, Emilio González, then just a chef, went on to buy the place.

It it reputed that Francisco de Goya was a dishwasher at Botín before he became famous as a painter. (Goya is known for certain to have lived in Madrid when he was a 17 year old).

Ernest Hemingway often said that Botín was his most favorite restaurant. Hemingway can be credited for making the place famous internationally. In his book The Sun Also Rises (1926) he writes, "We lunched upstairs at Botin's, it is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drunk rioja alta.". Then again in Death in the Afternoon (1932) he writes, "I would rather dine on suckling pig at Botin's than sit and think of casualties my friends have suffered." It is clear that many people visit the restaurant solely because of the Hemingway nod, because a nearby restaurant on the Plaza has a sign lightheartedly mocking the tourists - in English: "Hemingway never ate here."

The present:

Botin is now owned by the Lopez family, the great-grandchildren of Emilio González. Botín is comprised of 4 levels with 3 distinct dining atmospheres: the bodegas (or wine cellar room), the Castilla rooms, and the Felipe IV rooms (increasing formality as you read the list). The food is still mainly roasted foods in the Castillian style.

I visited the restaurant last in 1986 during a trip to visit some friends. We were taken upstairs to the Castilla. Before dinner we had a punch bowl of Sangria placed in the center of the table, with fresh citrus fruit pieces floating in it. You serve yourself booze with a ladle! I had a hearty Gazpacho soup for an appetizer followed by a roast chicken breast that was very moist and delicious.

The prices are very reasonable. The prices for entrees are currently between 6 and 46 euros (US$5-US$40) and the majority under 17 euros (US$15). The house specialties are roast young suckling pig (cochinillo asado) and roast baby lamb (cordero asado) which both fall under the 18 euro mark.

It can't be denied that this place nearly reeks of tourists, however it is also frequented by locals, including King Juan Carlos himself. The food is very good and well worth a try if you are in the neighborhood.

The newest Botin:

Address: 2101 Coral Way, Miami, FL.

Unlike its counterpart, Miami’s Botín, in Coral Gables, offers the a sampling of all of Spain’s varied regional cuisine, but the food is still predominately from the wood burning Castillian ovens. Miami's Botin is 3 stories and imitates the look of the Madrid location to some extent. The prices are considerably higher since the meat is all imported. Most entrees are between $23 and $48 with the average around $25.


sources:
my very own Botin menu from 1986
http://www.gomadrid.com/rest/botin.html
"Memorable experience in Madrid", Orlando Sentinel, Scott Joseph, November 20, 2001

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