Tag Archives: Hemingway

The Oldest Restaurant In The World

We came to Europe because we won, in some cosmic lottery, a reservation at the best restaurant in the world. But since we were going to be here we also wanted to see what else they had to offer. Although we didn’t know about it before we came, our guidebook tipped us off to the presence of the oldest restaurant in the world here in Madrid. That’s nice and all, but what sold me were the facts the Hemingway hung out here and that their specialty is suckling pig. The place is called El Sobrino del Botin, it was founded in 1725 and it’s featured in “The Sun Also Rises.”

The history in the restaurant is palpable, and the menu is simple. The pretty much do one thing and they do it really well. We started with some Jerez (Tio Pepe) and gazpacho. I think this was the first time either of us had tried either and we’re now big fans of both. Next came the pig, and it was absolutely awesome. I haven’t had this dish since I was ~7 years old, and to be honest I can’t remember anything about that meal other than the cool wine bottles. This time, however, I get to record it for posterity! While they didn’t deposit a whole pig on the table, there was at least a pound of pork split into three large pieces from various parts of the beast. The meat itself was tender, juicy and had more pork flavor than I would’ve expected. The meat was accentuated by a simple au jus-like broth and the skin (crackling). Regarding crackling: think wafer thin chicharones that are as crispy as fresh tortilla chips. The whole package is delectable. I’m really going to seek this out in the US.

While everything was wonderful, I couldn’t help thinking that we just ate at the MadrileƱo House of Prime Rib. They do one thing, they do it well, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. I kind of have to think that if we lived here we would only bring in guests from out of town. But as a traveler, it was exactly the sort of place I seek out. And as a bonus I got to walk in some more of Ernest’s footsteps!

Las Ventas

One of Madrid’s allures to me was the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas. This is widely considered to be the most important bull ring in the world. It’s the equivalent of Yankee Stadium for baseball or Texas Stadium for Football (which oddly enough both had a swan song last season).

This photo was taken just before the start of the parade that kicks off the corrida. Note the position of the shadow at the center of the ring. The location of this shadow is what dictates the start time for the fight because the promoters make more money by selling more seats in the shade. Our corrida started at 19:00, and as you can see we were in the shade (sombra).

Unfortunately there were no Habanos to be had since the state-run tabacarias in Madrid have been closed all weekend because of the Fiesta la Paloma. It’s basically like all of the neighborhood fairs in San Francisco were held over one weekend. Most of the stores are closed, and many of the bars and restaurants have closed for the holiday. However, in our 2 days here we have been to enough cafes, cervecerias and restaurants to last us a month at home. More about a few of those tomorrow!