What does it take to become the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world? We visit Madrid, Spain to have a chat with Antonio Gonzalez to find out. He is the General Manager of Sobrino de Botin.
Sobrino de Botin is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. It opened in Madrid, Spain in 1725. They have survived some unorthodox rules and regulations, as well as a chaotic history.
How Sobrino de Botin Got Its Start
Sobrino de Botin was started in 1725 by Jean Botin. He was a chef from France who made his way to Madrid to open the restaurant. When the restaurant first opened, it was against the laws for inns and restaurants to sell meat. Botin would cook what patrons brought in. After Jean passed away, his nephew inherited the restaurant. That was when Sobrino was added to the title. Sobrino means nephew in Spanish.
The Gonzalez Family Takes Over
In the early 1900s, the Gonzalez family took over the restaurant. The Spanish Civil War forced the family to separate. Amparo took the kids and went to the countryside. Her husband, Emilio Gonzalez stayed behind to look after the house. It became a dining room for members of the military. At a time when it was dangerous for men, and particularly business owners, to be in Madrid, the Gonzalez family made it work without even needing to close.
The third generation of the Gonzalez family runs the restaurant today. Sobrino de Botin has survived this long because they do the classics right. Their feature dishes are roast suckling pig and roast lamb.
The Historic Oven. The Heart of The Restaurant Since 1725
The oven is an iconic emblem of this restaurant. This oven dates back to the restaurants original opening in 1725. I asked Antonio about the oven. There is a popular legend around the internet that the oven has never gone out. Antonio can’t vouch for what happened before their family took over the restaurant in the early 1900s. However, he did say they keep it lit currently out of necessity.
They roast so many pigs that they have to get an early start on it during the day. It takes a long time for the oven to heat up to temperature. It simply wouldn’t be practical to put it out and light it each morning.
The Hemingway Bump
When I interviewed Antonio Gonzalez, he talked about luck being a major reason why Botin is still around today. Every restaurant that lasts needs a little luck. Their luck came from Ernest Hemingway.
Hemingway loved dining at Botin. He had a special table reserved for him whenever he wanted to stop by. Ernest Hemingway even featured Sobrino de Botin, and their signature dish, suckling pig, in his popular novel, The Sun Also Rises. That has been a bit of luck that has kept Sobrino de Botin in the spotlight.
Guinness World Records
A patron who dined at Botin, submitted the restaurant to Guinness World Records. This was the second bump of luck that the Gonzalez family experienced. Sobrino de Botin was listed as the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world.
Antonio made it clear in his interview that both of these mentions were not sought after by the restaurant. They were bits of luck that they received that have helped them stick around and remain popular to this day.
Visit The Oldest Continuously Operating Restaurant In The World
Sobrino de Botin continues to thrive today. They are busier than ever. If you are in Spain, and have an appetite for history, you have to stop by Sobrino de Botin. The restaurant takes reservations, but they also cater to tourists wanting to just drop in. You can make a reservation and learn more about Botin here. Enjoy!
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