Oldest restaurant
Restaurante Botín
España (Madrid)

Restaurante Botín in Calle de Cuchilleros, Madrid, Spain was opened in 1725 by a French cook called Jean Botín and his Asturian wife at the beginning of the 18th century with the intention of working for a nobleman of the Spanish Royal Court. Today the restaurant is run by the third generation of the Gonzalez family, Antonio and Jose Gonzalez. Located in the heart of Madrid near the Plaza Mayor it now has four floors which retain the original 18th-century interiors as well as the original firewood oven.

The existence of the building which currently houses Restaurante Botín dates back to 1590 coinciding with the temporary transfer of the Royal Court to Valladolid, northern Spain by Felipe III. The proprietor of the building at this time requested what was called an 'Exemption of Guests Privilege' a document which still exists today. After paying a certain tax, this exemption allowed all owners of a building with more than one floor to avoid having to house guests from the Royal Court when they visited Madrid. In 1606 the Royal Court returned to Madrid and in 1620 renovation work started in nearby Plaza Mayor (the old Plaza del Arrabal) and the area became a commercial enclave of the city filling the streets with shoemakers, tanners, metal workers and others. The streets today bear the names of the businesses which were once there: 'Ribera de Curtidores', 'Plaza de Herradores' and 'Calle de Cuchilleros' where Restaurante Botín is located. In 1725, Jean Botín and his wife opened a small inn and renovated the ground floor closing the existing arcade, evidence of which can be seen today. It is curious to note that well into the 18th century, the inn was not allowed to sell meat, wine or food but only what guests brought themselves and which was then cooked on the premises, a Spanish custom at the time. Jean Botín and his wife passed away without any children so the restaurant was taken up by Mrs. Botín's nephew and since then the restaurant bears the name "Sobrino de Botín" ("Nephew of Botín"). After further renovations to the ground floor (in the 19th century), the restaurant was taken up by Gonzalez family (Amparo Martin and Emilio Gonzalez) in the 20th century who are the present proprietors. When they took over, only the entrance and the first floor were dedicated to the restaurant, the warehouse was used for storage and the second and third floors were the family quarters. When the Gonzalez family took control of Botín it was only a small family business with seven employees, including the couple and their three children! The restaurant is famous for its roast suckling pig (cochinillo asado). Not only has Restaurante Botín been mentioned in numerous works of literature by famous Spanish writers but has also been visited by the rich and famous including the Spanish Royal Family, King Hussein of Jordan, Pedro Almodovar, Quentin Tarantino, Henry Kissinger, Antonio Banderas, Miguel Bose, Ernest Hemingway, David Niven, Tom Jones, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroanni. On view in the front window is the original Guinness World Records certificate signed by Norris McWhirter (see attachments).

(Translated from the restaurant's Spanish website by SC, 23/01/04)