AHHH Madrid. You were officially a gastronomic destination for this tourists, a designated food tour visit, everything else—the exploration of attractions, will had to be listed second.

This we knew from the start, the moment the European sojourn was planned.

Though it would be everyone’s first time to visit the capital city of Spain, it was the cuisine that my foodie group was more interested in. Having listed the food and the restaurants of choice, we had to consider ourselves lucky to gaze upon the beautiful sights in between food stops.

We were lucky enough to have stayed at t the Centro, where everything around us proved to be interesting and walking distance to where we wanted to be, the next item on the list included—Restaurante Botin.

As luck would have it, it was a “productive” walk to the lunch place. We got to check out the Puerta del Sol, one of the most popular plazas in the city and where the shop for the Spanish fans the ladies wanted was. Along Calle Mayor, we stopped at a few shops to get jamon, sweet treats including turones in different flavors, and got to sit, people watch and shop for more fans at the Plaza Mayor, where one of the nine exits led us to our destination—Restaurante Sobrino de Botin.

It was originally Casa Botin founded in 1590 by a Frenchman, Jean Botin, at 17 Callede los Cuchilleros, the street of “Cuchilleros” (cutlers) in Old Spain. The business was eventually passed to Candido Remis, Jean Botin’ssobrino, or nephew, who renamed the restaurant to Sobrino de Botin in 1725.

The restaurant still stands on the same address since its conception in the 16th century making it the oldest restaurant in operation in Spain, and according to the Guiness World Records, the oldest restaurant in the world.

Maybe Botin’s longevity in its venture already makes it a must-dine in resto, or that the celebrated Spanish artist Francisco de Goya worked there as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, or that literary legend

Ernest Hemigway was a regular client and mentioned the place in his novel “The Sun Also Rises,” or that Spanish Royalty, political figures and cinematic celebrities from across the globe have dined in its halls. However, for us Pinoy foodies, it’s the buzz about the house specialty—the Cochinillo de Asado aka the roast suckling pig, that that got us curious about the oldest eatery.

Though the reviews we’ve come across about the place and the food was mixed, ranging from “too touristy” to “locals’ favorite,” from “bland” to “average” and even “poor,” we wanted to check it out for ourselves and come up with our own. After all, growing up with lechon on our tables (almost all the time), our evaluation can be deemed reliable (or so we think. But of course, taste is subjective).

Botin is charming, very old world— the floor plan very labyrinthine, the structure in dark hardwood and bricks, cement-tiled floors in checkerboard pattern; interior wall details come in a mix of wooden panels and painted porcelain tiles adorned with oil paintings and a few of the restaurant’s gastronomical awards and citations; very narrow wooden stairways; wrought iron chandeliers and wall sconces; daylight streaming through glass paned doorways that open up to balconies on the upper levels; and a “very prohibiton” vibe at the cave-like, windowless bricked cellar still used as a dining hall. “It’s where you get the feel of the original restaurant,” said one of the Pinay crew as she ushered to our tables topped in crisp, white linen.

Yes, there are Filipinos in the place, lots of them, because “the owners love the

Pinoys and how they work.” Getting to know them gives us the “perks” like getting a quick, warmer accommodation from their team, tips, bits of “inside stories,” and access to the holiest spot—Botin’s Forno, manned by no other than, Pinoys as well!

We were looking forward to good lechon after knowing this.

Now, the food. We enjoyed the tapas of Croquettas de Jamon and Morcilla (blood sausage. Complimentary, perhaps, as it was not reflected in the check) while waiting for the dishes we ordered: the Ensalada Botin (a tasty mix of asparagus, olives, potatoes, tomatoes, eggs and ham drizzled with olive oil, Euros14.25++), the

Gambas Ajillo (which was fantastic that we had 4, at Euros24.25++ each), tried the very pricey Angulas (baby eel at Euros102.6++ an order and for us, it was nothing to go gaga over), a whole cochinillo (a bit too much for the 7 of us to finish, at

Euros24.40++ per person. Though it was tender and roasted well, my Pinoy palate found it bland having gotten used the local recipe with a bit more salt and hint of lemongrass), the Surtido de Postres Botin (a nice dessert sampler) and a couple pitchers of Sangrias (cool and refreshing, at Euros 12.55++ per pitcher).

With no reservations allowed, it was a good move for us to arrive earlier than the lunch crowd rush. We were about done when the Botin started to get full. “It’s always this way,” said our server, and the restaurant in open 6 hours a day (Lunch at 1-4PM & Dinner at 8PM-12AM), everyday.

Ticked off the bucket list, we had a few hours to burn the calories we took in before the next meal. Leaving the famed restaurant, the flavor that lingered on my tongue was that of the Gambas Ajillo and not the cochinillo. Oh well, that’s the kick I got from the “World’s Oldest Restaurant.”

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