Thursday, May 17, 2007

The oldest restaurant

“Is this a tourist trap?’’ asked my dinner companion. And we figured that the oldest restaurant in the world, Madrid’s El Botin, probably was.

But who cares? The cozy 300-year-old eatery serves up historic ambience and traditional Spanish fare in equally generous portions, and there are bragging rights in having eaten where it all began.

We slipped beneath a beamed entry past a serving area stocked with wines where a man carved a smoked ham, past the richly tiled kitchen and up a slim stair to a rambling space decked with antique pottery and white-draped tables. We opted for two of the house specialties – Clams Botin, roasted in a light red sauce hinting of chorizo, and roasted suckling pig, which arrived with a crisp crackle of skin armoring the moist meat inside, all washed down with a sweet sangria. Service was all that we’d hoped: Efficient but not pushy.

The place was filled with tourists, and we did duty as guest photographer for several tables. But the meal was tasty and the price amazing right: about 30 Euros per person including a generous salad (shared), two main courses, a half-pitcher of sangria and an apple tarte for dessert. Well worth a visit.

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