The world’s oldest restaurant. Goya worked as a waiter there. Their famous cochinillo asado or roast suckling pig was mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s book The Sun Also Rises. Yipes. That’s a pretty impressive pedigree to live up to. Simply surviving 285 years of operations should be awe inspiring! Located just around the corner from Casa Hernanz and close to the Plaza Mayor, Sobrino de Botin is an absolute legend. And dining at “legends” can often be disappointing, but that was not the case at Botin…
We showed up before two in the afternoon without reservations and luckily they had some tables free. We opted to stay on the ground floor, to avoid the stairs, but I later had a look upstairs and noted that the dining areas there were quite boisterous and lively, filled with lunch time diners.
The menu was straightforward enough, with just a few (presumably tried and tested) dishes on offer. Appetizers include plates of freshly sliced jamon iberico, a few salads, anchovies, peppers and croquetas. Several dishes of scrambled eggs. Gazpacho and Sopa de Ajo. Several fish dishes, with the priciest dish on the menu being baby eels at Euro95 per order. Then of course the famous roast suckling pig and baby lamb. A few other roasted meats and several vegetable side dishes.
We took note of the serving portions on nearby tables and for once, ordered in a rather restrained manner. One order each of baby roast pig and baby roast lamb and a dish of white asparagus.
The baby roast suckling pig was very good. Crisp, nearly wafer thin skin, extremely moist and succulent meat, served au jus and with some roasted potatoes on the side. This pig had been oven-roasted, basted every so often, and if I could take a wild guess, using both olive oil and possibly butter. The piglets couldn’t have been more than 6 weeks old at most, and they were well seasoned and a joy to eat.
But the surprise was that the roasted baby lamb was possibly even BETTER than the roast pig. Superb flavor, tender meat and the most amazing bones. Also served au jus and with some roasted potatoes as well.
The white asparagus didn’t hold a candle up to the roasted meats, and we were hard-pressed to consume all of the massive spears that appeared overcooked and frankly, just on the “gross” side, if you know what I mean. We weren’t that hungry so while we nearly finished this modest order, we left a piece or two of meat and some of the asparagus. Together with some drinks and bread, this lunch came to a total of Euro65 or so, a relative bargain considering the food, history and longevity of the place. But the best tidbit of all? Once we had paid our bill and left the restaurant, I turned around to take a few photos of the facade and noticed the doors to the kitchens of Sobrino de Botin, and as if on cue, who should emerge from the kitchens to go to a building (probably owned by the same folks) across the street? A Pinoy chef or sous-chef (one of several in the kitchens of Botin, I am told). Now you know, even in Madrid, Pinoys cook some of the best roasted suckling pig in the world. :) Heeheehee.
Sobrino de Botin
Calle de los Cuchilleros 17
Reservations highly recommended.