Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Sobrino de Botín: The Oldest Restaurant in the world

Sobrino de Botín Restauramt
Calle de Cuchileros, 17

Madrid turned out to be the best place for experiencing Spanish food. This is hardly surprising as it's the capital of Spain, and so it's naturally to be the food capital of Spain as well. In the last few days, we had tried the best paella we have ever eaten in La Mi Venta thus far, as well as sampled the national dessert of churros in one of the oldest churreria Artesanos that established in 1902. That's more than 104 years old.

So relatively old folk like me would love to try out restaurant that are even older than Artesanos 1902. Well, 177 years older, to be exact. Speaking of old, i'm being told that i'm now a spring chicken. It seems we're all getting younger. As they say, "the new x is the old x+10 years old" (so if you're 40, you're now the new 30. But in 10 years time, the old x+15 is the new x, etc. We're ageing slower every decade, and may never die, thanks to Zeno Paradox).

Greek philosopher, Zeno of Elea
Zeno of Elea. Greek philosopher. Born in 930 B.C.
This old guy is old. He's older than Botín restaurant or me.

Anyway, back to the Early Enlightenment Spain from ancient Greece. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Sobrino de Botín is the oldest restaurant in the world and was founded in 1725. Ok, ok, restaurant history buff would jump at my throat (thus preventing me from enjoy my food) and say, "This isn't the oldest restaurant in the world. That title should go to Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House (马豫兴桶子鸡), which was opened during the Jin Dynasty in China in 1153."

Hey, don't shoot the messenger or strangle him me.

Menu cover, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
The restaurant's menu cover.
Is there a better plug for a restaurant?

Alright, if you let go of my throat, i can then tell you that Botín restaurant is the oldest continuing operating restaurant. The Bucket Chicken House is no longer there. The site is probably occupied by an apartment block, a mahjong club or blind man massage clinic today. Of course, Botín is probably not even the oldest restaurant in Europe. But it's the oldest one that you can reserve a table today. No need to install a flux capacitor into your DeLorean (if you own one. I think Tesla is a better choice because it's the fastest car that cracked the record 0 to 60 mph in 2.28s) to travel back in time in order to order a Bucket Chicken a-la-carte for this supposedly spring chicken. Btw,  that's Bucket Chicken, not Chicken Bucket, which you can get from KFC's drive-in from your DeLorean or Tesla.

Facade, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
It's located close to one of the entrance to Plaza Mayor

It's said that this is one of the fave restaurant for Ernest Hemingway , which i don't doubt as he was something of a foodie like myself. King Juan Carlos I also liked to dine here with his band of bodyguards (did they eat or just stand around and watch him eat?). But most interestingly of all is that the greatest Spanish artist - to me anyway - Francisco de Goya worked here as a dish washer (just like me. Except that i washed dishes in a Burmese restaurant in Sydney. It was established in 1988 and no longer exists by 2002).  Yes, you need to have a morbid taste to like Goya's arts. Well, my taste is "morbid" enough that i do enjoy very much all kind of Chinese delicacies from pig ears, chicken feet, bone marrow or ligament,  sheep brains, pig blood jelly, snails, cow stomachs, bird saliva, etc (if you haven't tried them, you haven't lived. So eat some and live), but i draw a line at fried scorpion and other assorted less poisonous creepy crawlies or duck embryo or kids (that's children, not baby goats. No kidding) . Talk like this makes me drool like Hannibal Lecter.

Saturn devouring his son, Goya
Saturn Devouring One of His Sons by Goya (1821).
Source: Prado Museum in Madrid.
Dunno if he got his inspiration from working in the restaurant.
I heard some adults say to babies: "you're so cute, i just want to eat you!"
I will then ask, "Who do you think you are, Saturn?"

Facade, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain

Receipt or docket, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
Pan (or bread roll), as usual, is quite nice.
Why 2 forks? Why not 3 or 5? I would give them 5 forks. Are they selling themselves short?

We ordered 2 dishes: the house clams, and suckling pig that Spain is known for. While they're not the best of these dishes i have tried before. They're quite decent (they can't survive this long if they aren't, and their food are fit for a king. I know, i know, i'm a little more picky than king, and eat dinner like a queen). But then you're here to feast your eyes on history, soak in the ambiance of antiquity, meet your fellow travelers (who are considerably younger than the restaurant or Zeno, or me), and having a sparkling conversation (oh...never mind, just drink those sparkling mineral water then).

Clam, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain

Suckling pig, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain

The restaurant have a few floors, and the waiters galloping up and down those wooden stairs like Andalusian stallions with loud thumps. If they quit their jobs, they can join the Spanish national soccer team based on the qualification of the stamina and strength of their legs. I also worked as waiter in a restaurant before, and i know i wouldn't last a week here. The only thumps you hear from me is the sound of me rolling down the stairs like the boulder in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) because of over exhaustion. Run! Forrest Indie Francis! Run! Or more correctly, roll! Francis, roll! )maybe run refers to running out of the restaurant).

Door to staircase, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
Dining room to the staircase. The old wooden staircase creaks like old man's / my joints. Very genuine.

Dining room, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
Looks like a scene from a 1970s James Bond film.
"Give me a Tío Pepe, chilled but no ice, and stir it like crazy."

Dining room, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
Looks a bit like an impressionist painting circa 1900

Ceiling, Dining room, Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain
Ceiling with exposed horizontal beams are often seen in Spanish buildings.
And you don't see posts in restaurants anymore.

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