To stand out in today’s crowded culinary scene, many restaurants feel pressured to do something different. That’s not the case with Restaurante Botín in Madrid. The world’s oldest restaurant has been doing things more or less the same for generations, right down to cooking food with a fire that’s been lit for nearly 300 years.
A French chef named Jean Botín opened the establishment with his wife in the Spanish capital in 1725. According to Guinness World Records, that makes it the oldest continuously operating restaurant on Earth. The building where it’s located is even older, dating back to 1590.
Though the business has stayed true to its historic roots, it has gone through some changes over the centuries. Jean Botín and his wife never had children, and their nephew inherited the restaurant after their deaths. In the early 20th century it changed hands to the Gonzalez family, where it has remained for generations. Today it’s known for its old-school roast suckling pig, but the dish wasn’t always on the menu. Botín didn’t serve meat or wine early in its history because it was customary for inns to only prepare ingredients the guests themselves provided.
The restaurant’s oven is nearly as famous as the food that comes out of it. It harbors a wood fire that’s been burning continuously since it was lit 298 years ago. By never allowing the flames to go out, the chefs are able to start cooking as soon as they come into work each morning.
Restaurante Botín is a relic of the 18th century in many ways, from the food to the architecture. But the proprietors have allowed for a few modern conveniences. If you’re planning a trip to Madrid, you can reserve a table online.