Restaurante Sobrino de Botín (for a long time it was a tavern since restaurants were rather fancy Parisian style establishments in the period Botín was opened in the 1725) has a long history spanning almost over three centuries. Today it is known under the name Sobrino de Botín meaning “Botín’s nephew” and it was coined by its second proprietor – a nephew of the Botíns Candido Remis, who took over the restaurant after they died without any direct descendants. This happened after the once ‘to-become-famous’ painter Goya was employed at Botín as a dishwasher to make money for his studies at the Madrid’s Academy of Arts. Goya was not the only famous personality connected to Botín as plenty of Spanish and non-Spanish writers including Ernest Hemingway frequented the restaurant. Its fame might have saved it from closure over the centuries as it happened to many other great yet not historically interesting restaurants.
Atmosphere: Traditional, welcoming and although the restaurant is very touristy it feels more like a huge grandmother’s house with all the old decorations and tableware surrounding you. The food comes surprisingly quickly after your order and all the staff we encountered was helpful and pleasant. If you don’t master Spanish language though turn to one of the English-speaking waiters. Dress casually as this is a very local place (although full of curious tourists).
Food: Authentic (unpretentious), generous and diverse. You can eat light getting the Salad Botín (Enslada Botin), although it was not very interesting just a mix of meats, average veggies and olives or a much better Segovia style big mushrooms (Setas a la segoviana) sautéed with olive oil and Spanish ham. Many visitors though come here for a feast as the whole Roasted Suckling Pig (COCHINILLO ASADO) is the restaurant’s speciality. For this dish you need at least another diner to help you with it as it is too big for just one person (unless you have not eaten for days). Roasted Baby Lamb (CORDERO ASADO) is another meaty signature dish at Botín. Both are slowly roasted in the old wood-fired oven.
From the starters I tried also the Roast Red Peppers with Codfish (Pimientos asados con bacalao); which were a bit too oily on their own to my taste, but otherwise quite nice. Soaking a sliver of freshly baked bread in the olive oil with peppers was a perfect solution making this dish more palatable. The menu also offers one of my favorite Spanish starters often served in a tapas size – Black Sausage from Burgos (Morcilla de Burgos), but you must like black pudding (cooked pig’s blood) to really enjoy this dish as some people roll their eyes just hearing what is inside.
Botín offers also non-meat mains. I can recommend both the Grilled Prawns (Langostinos a la plancha) and Baby Squids in their own Ink (Chipirones en su tinta) served with rice. The seafood is well cooked and of a good quality. The Baby squids have a plenty of ink so your plate will be black like coal, white rice balances the intense taste of this dish, that is often served as a risotto in many Mediterranean countries.
You are in the Spanish capital so the menu cannot go without egg dishes, so popular not just in a tortilla with potatoes or scrambled eggs for a breakfast, but also in a Tortilla de gambas (Omelette with Shrimps) and local take on scrambled eggs for lunch or dinner as at Botín. Vegetarians in particular will appreciate one of these egg dishes.
The Spanish love desserts and the choice at Botín is wide. I went for the traditional Homemade Crème Caramel – Flan de huevo con nata, which was very intense eggy custard with a warm caramel topping. It was so sweet that I was thrilled by the scoop of delicate whipped cream served on the side bringing down the sugary nature of the flan. A glass of juicy red wine or a cup of strong coffee is another great helper balancing the extremes of the sweetness from the dessert with refreshing acidity from the wine or coffee.
My friend took the Hot Apple Tartlet – Tatleta Templada de Manzana. She was impressed by its crisp dough with juicy apples on the top. It is one of her favorite types of desserts thus she is the most credible critic judging it from her frequent encounter with the apple tart.
Cuisine: Traditional Spanish Castilian cuisine.
Visit: November 2012
Price: High for Madrid (although portions are generous), medium in the Western countries measures.
Drinks: It could not be a traditional Spanish eatery if they have not been serving Sangría. At Botín they serve it in a hand-painted pitcher (you can get also a 1/2 Pitcher) and it is not too strong, rather fruity. I went for a glass of House White (Verdejo) and later Red (Tempranillo) wine that was very good. Rosé by the glass is also available.
The wine list specializes in Spanish wines from diverse regions such as Ribera del Duero (from more affordable wines such as from Arzuaga and Bodegas Protos to the highly priced Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva), popular and enjoyable wines from Rioja, fashionable D.O.C. Priorat (Alvaro Palacios Vendimia), but also local and very reasonably priced wines from Castilla La Mancha.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun: Lunch: 1pm–4pm; Dinner:8pm–12am
Address: Calle de los Cuchilleros, 17 (near to Plaza Mayor); 28005 Madrid, Spain
Contact: Tel: +(34)913 66 42 17; +(34) 913663026 or book online.
* Sobrino de Botín was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records (the 1987 edition) as the oldest continually operating restaurant in the world. It was established in 1725.