10 Historic Restaurants in Madrid, Spain
None of the capital’s dining rooms can quite match the pedigree or the longevity of Botín, a restaurant specializing in roast meats. Botín began welcoming diners in 1725 and since then it has earned the admiration of many of Spain’s literary greats, along with Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, who set the final scene of The Sun Also Rises in one of the restaurant’s wood-paneled dining rooms. Add to that Botín’s association with Francisco de Goya – who once worked there as a waiter – and it’s unsurprising that the restaurant is popular with tourists. It’s a popular venue that serves an outstanding cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig).
Botín, Calle Cuchilleros 17, Madrid, Spain, +34 91 366 42 17
Although Casa Pedro has only been known by its current name since 1940, the restaurant’s history goes back much further. Indeed, it goes back far as 1702 according to some, when the site was an inn catering to travelers on the road to France. At that time, it welcomed many of the great and the good of Spanish society, among them Kings Alfonso XIII and Juan Carlos I. The cooking is as robust as you might expect from a restaurant with Casa Pedro’s history, with pigs trotters, oxtail and roast lamb on the menu. Look out for the messages of affection scrawled on the white tiled wall by decades of well-fed diners.
La Bola has been a favorite in the Spanish capital since 1870 and has been in the Verdasco family for four generations. The restaurant serves an excellent cocido for which it is rightly famed. Gently cooked in individual clay pots over a smoldering bed of oak charcoal, the recipe for this madrileño classic has remained unchanged since the day La Bola opened. This dish has even earned the restaurant a Premio Alimentos de España award for the preservation of traditional Spanish cuisine. Cast an eye over the dessert menu and you’ll find another of the restaurant’s specialties: syrupy apple fritters with ice cream.
Along with ancient restaurants, Madrid does a good line in historic cafes: places where artists and intellectuals met to discuss literature and current affairs. Many such meetings, known to Spaniards as tertulias, took place in Café Gijón, which has occupied its site on the Paseo de los Recoletos since 1888. Among the restaurant’s most famous patrons is the exalted 19th century novelist Benito Pérez Galdós. In addition to coffee and tapas, Cafe Gijón offers a series of set menus. Should you wish, you can also stage your own tertulia and order a buffet-style spread of drinks and canapés, including smoked anchovies, meatballs and tortilla. Heated debate and dismissive Castilian arm-waving are optional.
Loved by Federico García Lorca, a celebrated Spanish poet and playwright who was tragically executed during the Civil War, Casa Labra opened its doors in 1860. The wood paneled dining room and bar is renowned for its salt cod croquettes and deep-fried tajada de bacalao, often hailed as one of Madrid’s most castizo (iconic or representative) dishes. To go with it, you’ll find beer from the barrel, fino sherry and local wines.
Casa Labra, Calle de Tetuán 12, Madrid, Spain, +34 915 31 00 81