Diary: Let's Do Lunch - Botin - Madrid

Reviewed by Robert Dunnett, founder, RDA

Any restaurant displaying its Guinness Book of Records certification as the earliest restaurant in the world and noted as a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway will attract waves of tourists. But Madrilenes who appreciate classic Castilian cuisine are also fighting for tables at Botin's emblematic eatery in the heart of Madrid.

Rambling over four floors, the key choice is between the elegant Felipe IV room upstairs - for large groups - and the unclaustraphobic and impeccably air-conditioned 16th-Century rough-hewn wine cellars, or bodegas. Big-bellied, aproned senior waiters take orders with studied brusqueness while green-waistcoated lads hurtle up and down the switchback staircases balancing armfuls of steaming bowls.

For starters, try a pile of black Burgos sausage recalling an impossible melange of black pudding, haggis and onion bhaji or the garlic soup with egg. For the main, specialities are roast suckling pig or baby lamb.

Not a place for vegetarians - side dishes such as asparagus come with Iberian ham.

A wine list as long as a Hemingway novel is a good read but the Riojas at UK supermarket prices make the perfect accompaniment to such robust food.

Definitely an 'event' restaurant, it's probably the place to celebrate a successful project rather than one to win the business in the first place.

Where: Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, Madrid

Contact: 00 34 91 366 42 17

How much: £24.50-£28

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