“We lunched upstairs at Botín’s,” he wrote. “It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.”
The setting for the final scene in Hemingway’s most prominent Spanish novel is located on Calle Chuchilleros, a historic street around the corner from Plaza Mayor. Lined with restaurants boasting “cuevas,” the cave-like interiors of the street’s eateries provide heat during Madrid’s cold winters and cool relief during the boiling summers.
The World’s Oldest Restaurant
Of all the restaurants along this walk, Restaurant Botín not only routinely earns the highest accolades from critics, it is also the most historic.
Founded in 1725, this establishment is the world’s oldest restaurant, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, and has been serving traditional Castillian dishes cooked in the same wood fire oven for nearly 300 years.
It was also Hemingway ‘s favorite restaurant in Madrid and he dined here often, sitting in a corner table on the top floor.
The four levels of dining offer a variety of settings for a meal. The top floor is wide open and walls are adorned with artwork reflecting Spain’s history. Waiters will proudly point out the table where Hemingway frequently dined, and one corner contains an original Mickey Mouse sketch drawn by a former Disney artist who enjoyed a meal here.
The ground floor is alive with the sizzle and fragrance of the kitchen and is the best spot to catch a glimpse of the famous roast suckling pigs lined up for cooking.
The bottom two floors inhabit the area that used to be the bodega, or wine cellar. With arched ceilings and brick walls, the warm environment down here is the perfect setting to escape the cold and enjoy a cozy meal. Patrons can also visit the wine cellar, which was also used as a hiding location during the Spanish Civil War.
Dining at Botín
For my dining experience my friend Emily and I sat in the caves. Our meal began with a bottle of house red wine and bread.
An English menu is available for those who don’t understand all the intricacies of gastronomic vocabulary in Spanish.
The menu offers a variety of traditional Spanish appetizers. The croquettes, fried bread balls stuffed with potatoes and ham, are the creamiest I’ve had in Madrid yet (and let me say, I’ve been eating a lot of croquettes). The Morcilla de Burgos, or black sausage, was also quick flavorful and unlike any other dish I’ve had thus far in Spain.
Huevos rotos, or broken eggs, is another typical Spanish dish eaten before or as a meal. Botín offers four types, and vegetables lovers will be in heaven with the asparagus suffused option.
For the main course Emily and I split two of Botín’s most sought after dishes: roast suckling pig and grilled fillet minion Botín.
Cochinillo, or roast suckling pig, is one of the most typical dishes from Segovia, the region north of Madrid. Botín’s Cochinillo is jucy and flavorful, served with gravy and roast potatoes.
The filet mignon is also a special treat, served with mushrooms.
For dessert the tarta de queso con chocolate blanco, or white chocolate cheese cake, will end the evening deliciously.
Restaurant Botín is a bit on the expensive side, but not overpriced for a restaurant of its stature. With such a special atmosphere and delicious food it is worth the splurge.
If dining is out of your budget, the restaurant staff will gladly let you take a peak at the establishment before dining hours. Stop in if only to see the cochinillos in the kitchen and Hemingway’s table.
If you do plan on dining here be sure to make a reservation as the restaurant quickly fills up. To make a reservation call 913 66 42 17. Lunch is served from 1 to 4 p.m. and Dinner from 8 p.m. to Midnight.