“We lunched up-stairs at Botin’s,” writes Ernest Hemingway near the end of The Sun Also Rises (1926). “It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast suckling pig and drank rioja alta.” You can do the very same thing today, a century after the period of that novel — and indeed, you also could’ve done it two centuries before the period of that novel, for Botin’s was established in 1725, and now stands as the oldest restaurant in continuous operation. Founded as Casa Botín by a Frenchman named Jean Botin, it passed in 1753 into the hands of one of his nephews, who re-christened it Sobrino de Botín. Whatever the place has been called over this whole time, its oven has never once gone cold.
“It is our jewel, our crown jewel,” Botín’s deputy manager Javier Sanchéz Álvarez says of that oven in the Great Big Story video above. “It needs to keep hot at night and be ready to roast in the morning.” What it has to roast is, of course, the restaurant’s signature cochinillo, or suckling pig, about which you can learn more from the Food Insider video just above.
“It’s exactly the same recipe and tradition,” says Sanchéz Álvarez. “Absolutely everything is done in the exact same way as in the old days,” down to the application of the spices, butter, wine, and salt to the raw pork before it enters the historic oven belly-up. “It’s very important that the skin of the cochinillo is very crunchy,” he adds. “If the skin isn’t crunchy, it’s not good.”
Needless to say, Botín is poorly placed to win the favor of the world’s vegetarians. But it does robust business nevertheless, having pulled through the COVID-19 pandemic (with, at the very least, its oven still lit), and more recently received a visit from superstar food vlogger Mark Wiens. Its enduring success surely owes to its more-than-proven ability to deliver on a simple promise: “We will serve you a hearty suckling pick with some good potatoes and a serving of good Spanish ham,” as Sanchéz Álvarez puts it. Working at the restaurant for more than 40 of its 298 years has made it “like home to me,” he says, employing the common Spanish expression of feeling como un pez en el agua — though, given the nature of Botín’s menu, a more terrestrial metaphor is surely in order.
via Mental Floss
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.