We all avoid tourist spots when we travel, mainly because they are mostly dreadful. But some cities are serious about food, and even their tourist places can be excellent. Like Madrid.
It is unfair to label Botín a tourist spot though. True, it is mainly tourists that eat there now. Lots of writers have feasted on suckling pig over the years here too, including Graham Greene & Hemingway. Goya was a waiter there. Hemingway is quoted as saying “We lunched upstairs at Botin’s. 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.”
I always liked Hemingway.
Botín has been open since 1725, and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest restaurant in the world. Suckling pig is roasted here in the wood fired oven (which dates from 1725 also) in the Castillian way.
The restaurant is quaint and gorgeous, all dark wood and bright tiles. The counter as you enter is low, with scarlet red drawers. You can eat in the cellar (I did), on the ground floor or on the bright first floor. As you walk in, you are invited to look at the oven, and the shelves of small suckling pigs alongside. It is a remarkable sight, and is the perfect amuse for your dinner.
I had heard much of the garlic and egg soup, and on the menu it is capitalised. So, yes, I ordered that. A terracotta bowl of bread and bacon soup spiked with garlic was presented to me, with a perfect fried egg on top, complete with runny yolk. A meal in itself, but I was hungry. I had a glass of house wine, just one, which was alright, but I would suggest you get a bottle of something better if not dining alone. Or rock like Hemingway and have three bottles of rioja alta. Next time, I will try.
After the soup, I saw a platter of suckling pig whisked to a table at the front of the restaurant, where my waiter plated it with small perfect roast potatoes on the side, all carefully drizzled with roasting juices. I had a leg, split down the centre, revealing gorgeous tender flesh inside. A sheet of crisp light crackling lay on top, and it was all so gorgeous, porky, rich and moist. I ate it all, and I ate it swiftly. Joy with every bite.
I skipped dessert, and so my bill came to €38 or so, but there is a deal to have the soup, pig, ice cream, half a bottle of house wine and half a bottle of water for €45. I loved it and would highly recommend a visit. Embrace your inner tourist and treat yourself to some gorgeous suckling pig in the oldest restaurant in the world when you next visit Madrid.
Botín, Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 66 42 17
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