Sobrino de Botín (Madrid, Spain)

The oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world

Sobrino de Botín
Photo by Ronald Woan

Sobrino de Botín, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world has been serving the fine people of Madrid, Spain since 1725. The famous Spanish restaurant was founded by Jean Botin, a Frenchman, and has been recognized by the Guiness Book of Records for its staying power.

Originally called Casa Botín, the restaurant’s name was changed when Candido Remis, Botín’s nephew rook over ownership. Sobrino de Botín, the name that has stood since the 18th century literally translates to Nephew of Botín.

The building itself was constructed in 1590 and Botin and his wife refurbished the ground floor  into what is essentially the same restaurant we see today. Throughout the centuries, Sobrino de Botín has passed through many hands and they have all played a part in its history. The current owners, the González family, have takev care of the the Spanish jewel for three generations.

The oven has been faithfully in service since the founding of the restaurant and its special combination of holm oak, often known as holly oak, firewood and embers. Placed on the left side of the roasting stove, the heat and the subtly circulation of air is said to spread the flavor in a way that can only be described as magic, effectively making the suckling pig and lamb among the most famous dishes in all of Spain.

Being able to properly work with the centuries old oven is so complicated it can take years to be promoted to a roasting master. Once someone reaches the status of roasting master they have spent so much time  honing their craft, they often stay with the restaurant for the rest of their professional careers.

Sobrino de Botín definitely has an understanding that they have played, and are playing a special part in the history of Spain. Their mission statement is more in line with that of an institution than a normal restaurant just trying to keep on the lights. This is what they have to say about their food, their role in history, and their impact on Spanish culture.

“Thus, our mission is for Madrid’s customs and history to be felt with each bite. To continue inspiring writers and artists, ensuring that they continue to seat their characters at our table. But above all we want to continue seducing the palate and soul of each one of our diners, with the care and attention that we put into each dish and into our service.”

Sobrino de Botín claims that the flame in the oven has never been extinguished at any point in the restaurant’s history. There is actually a reason for this and it has more to do with running a restaurant than it does to tradition. In the evening when they are serving, the oven obviously needs to be hot to cook food for customers. When service is finished and the guests have gone home, the ovens are turned down and the slow roasting of suckling pigs begins for the next day.

Francisco Goya, one of the most famous painters ever, worked as a waiter in Cafe Botín before being accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Sobrino de Botín is also the setting for a scene in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises” .

Hemingway, well known for his love of Spain, placed the final scene of what would become his most famous novel in Botín’s. He wrote in 1926, “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.”

Sobrino de Botín Facts

  • Forbes magazine ranked Sobrino de Botín as one of the world’s top 10 classic restaurants.
  • Address: Calle de los Cuchilleros 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain.
  • The cellar is the oldest part of the restaurant and was built in 1590.
  • It is said that the flame in the oven is never, and has never been extinguished.
  • The 1987 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Botín as the oldest restaurant in the world.