“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.” – Ernest Hemingway
Unlike Hemingway, I didn’t drink THREE bottles of wine but I certainly did sit at his favorite table for an unforgettable experience at Botín Restaurant in Madrid! Even if you’re not a Hemingway fan, this famous restaurant is worth a visit as it is the oldest restaurant in the world. While it dates back to 1590 as a bodega, Frenchman Jean Botín opened as a restaurant in 1725, and its doors have been opened ever since.
My friend and I were lucky enough to tag along on an Insider’s Madrid Botín Restaurant Experience. Our incredibly friendly and informative guide, Joanna, showed a small group of us around for an hour before the restaurant opened to the public for dinner. Impeccably dressed waiters and chefs were preparing for the busy Saturday evening crowd, but other than that, we had the place completely to ourselves which was a truly special experience.
Lucky for us, the majority of Botín has remained unchanged over the years which includes the original oven where roast suckling pig (their speciality – and Hemingway’s favorite!) are cooked every night. Each dining room was beautifully decorated and full of character. These rooms are often filled with celebrities, politicians, and royals, however, it is easy to feel right at home at Botín.
In the main dining room, you will find a painting, which may or may not have been stolen from the Prado hundreds of years ago, which shows what Madrid looked like as a fortified city. You will find beautiful blue and white tiles in this room which, Joanna told us, are from Portugal. This restaurant is practically a museum with so much to discover; it was hard to put my camera down! We learned when you become a waiter at Botín, it is usually for life. There is even a book you can look at that shows some of the waiters throughout the years posing with the restaurant’s famous visitors.
As we headed down to the wine cellar, my claustrophobia kicked in a bit but this place was just too cool not to explore. I loved learning that part of the old tunnel system of Madrid runs under Botín Restaurant. Back in the day, their underground passageway would connect you to Cava Baja and Plaza Mayor which are both a short walking distance from the restaurant. Unfortunately, they became too hard to maintain for the city which is why they aren’t in use anymore.
The Botín Restaurant Experience ends with six courses of delicious Castilan style cooking. We only planned to meet for the tour since this was a last-minute arrangement on our part, and every table was booked for the night. However, Joanna surprised us and managed to snag Ernest Hemingway’s table for us which completely made our day! My friend and I foolishly ate shortly before this tour so we didn’t opt for the six courses but that didn’t stop us from ordering sangria, bread, cheese, and a not-so-little appetizer of the best eggs and asparagus I have ever had. Spaniards love their egg dishes which are so simple yet incredibly tasty. Okay, we might’ve ordered a dessert as well but there’s no photographic proof (as we ate it too fast) so you cannot hold that against me!
See that hand-painted pitcher that held our sangria? You get to take one of those home with you at the end of your meal which is something Joanna always includes for her tour group! Joanna knew every inch of this restaurant and it was such a treat listening to her explain their vast history. For me, dining at the oldest restaurant in the world was a bucket list moment and the highlight of my trip to Madrid. If you’re a history buff, Hemingway fan, or someone who simply loves great food (who isn’t?!) then I’d highly recommend The Botín Experience.
Did you know Madrid was home to the oldest restaurant in the world? What’s something that you’ve checked off your bucket list? I’d love to know in the comments below!