Restaurants open and close everyday around the world, yet some manage to stand the test of time. None more so than Sobrino de Botín in Madrid, Spain, which has been open for 294 years, making it the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world, according to Guinness World Records.
Sobrino de Botín, which opened in 1725, was founded by Frenchman Jean Botin and his wife, and was originally known as Casa Botín. After being inherited by Botín’s nephew, Candido Remis, the name was changed to Sobrino de Botín, which means Nephew of Botín in Spanish.
The restaurant, which is mentioned in the Ernest Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises, still uses the original recipes and has kept the flame burning in the oven uninterruptedly for nearly three centuries. The restaurant’s specialties are cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and sopa de ajo (an egg, poached in chicken broth, and laced with sherry and garlic). Another notable dish is Clams Botín, which features a house onion sauce, hot chili pepper, garlic, dry white wine, paprika, tomato purée, and laurel leaf.
Sobrino de Botín’s manager, Luís Javier Sánchez, who has worked at the restaurant for 41 years, explained why the oven’s fire has never been extinguished. “It is our jewel. Our crown jewel. The oven has been burning continuously for 294 years. I’ll repeat that: 294 years,” he says. “We never put it out. It needs to keep hot at night and be ready to roast in the morning. That’s the reason why we must never put it out. There is a special aroma in there; it’s truly incredible.”
The restaurant has four floors, which maintain the quaint atmosphere of a traditional tavern. Located in the heart of Madrid of the Habsburgs, Botín has undergone several renovations though the original features have been preserved. The restaurant also features a renowned wine cellar that Sánchez describes as “breathing history.” The recipes have been passed down for generations with each new chef learning from their predecessor.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the restaurant was taken over by the González family, who still run the business today. Interestingly, one of Spain’s foremost painters, Francisco de Goya, considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, worked at the restaurant as a dishwasher when he was a teenager in 1765.