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World’s oldest restaurants

Ever wanted to know what are the world’s oldest restaurants? Maybe you’ve already visited some of them, without knowing the fact? I have always been curious why some restaurants are more popular than others… And why some survive in any circumstances and enjoy popularity decades and even centuries after they first welcomed guests.

This is by no means the most comprehensive list of the oldest restaurants, nor is it a list which shows the restaurants in order of their establishment. I don’t want to spark controversy over which one is the oldest restaurant in the world.

This post reflects my curiosity towards the oldest eateries that seem to have been around forever.  What’s their recipe for longevity?

Some of them are from Napoleonic times, others are even older. Officially, being certified by Guinness Book of Records, Botin restaurant in Madrid is the oldest restaurant in the world. However there are few other restaurants quoting significantly earlier dates of establishment through their websites. Read on to find out how they were established and what they have to offer today.

BOTIN RESTAURANT – MADRID, SPAIN

Founded: 1725

Botin was founded by Frenchman Jean Botin and his spouse, and was originally called Casa Botín. It was inherited by

Casa Botin Restauran, Madrid, Spain

Casa Botin Restauran, Madrid, Spain

his nephew, Candido Remis, who changed the name to Sobrino de Botín, which survives to this day.

According to the Guinness Book of Records this is the oldest restaurant in the world*, dating from 1725. The restaurant is also mentioned in the book Fortunata y Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós (published 1886-1887).

Interior:

The restaurant is housed in a XVI century building in the old part of Madrid and really is a must when visiting Spain’s capital. It consists of four floors of tiled, wood-beamed dining rooms, with caste-iron ovens several centuries old.

Connection with famous people:

Goya supposedly worked here before becoming a painter and Hemingway was a frequent visitor and pronounced it one of his favourite restaurants.

Specialties:

Cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and cordero asado (roast lamb)

Address:

Botin Restaurant, 17Calle Cuchilleros, Madrid

*However, as one of our readers suggests, there is another restaurant that could be even older, and that is Den Gyldene Freden in Stockholm. The restaurant was opened in 1722 and since has been frequented by actors, writers, painters and songwriters, and we’ll soon be writing a separate entry about this famous restaurant with impressive history.

RULES RESTAURANT – LONDON, UK

Founded: 1798

Rules was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London.

The Rules restaurant, London, UK

The Rules restaurant, London, UK

Interior:

The restaurants and private dining rooms are spread over three floors. On the ground floor there is a dining room that goes all the way to the back of the shop. There are a number of stained glass tinted sky lights to let in natural light. It is covered with wood paneling and various photos, pictures and drawings of the clientele who have frequented the place.

Connection with famous people:

Throughout its long history the tables of Rules have been crowded with writers, artists, lawyers, journalists and actors. It was frequented by writers Charles Dickens and William Makepeace, actors Henry Irving, Laurence Olivier, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and John Barrymore

Specialties:

Rules serves traditional British food, specialising in classic game cookery, oysters, pies and puddings.  Renowned for its game dishes and as such, the Game Season dates play an important part in shaping menus of Rules.

Address:

35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7LB

UNION OYSTER HOUSE – BOSTON, UNITED STATES

Founded: 1826

The Union Oyster House originally named the “Atwood and Bacon Oyster House” after its founders, opened in 1826 and

Union Oyster House, Boston, U.S.

Union Oyster House, Boston, U.S.

occupies a building that was built sometime in the 1740s, around 30 years before the American Revolution. In addition to now being Boston’s oldest restaurant, it is also the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in the U.S.

Connection with famous people:

In 1796, the future king of France lived on the second floor. Exiled from his country, he earned his living by teaching French to many of Boston’s fashionable young ladies. Later Louis Phillippe returned home to serve as the last King of France from 1830 to 1848.

Much later, in 1950s and 60s the Kennedy Clan has patronized the Union Oyster House for years. J.F.K. loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room. His favorite booth “The Kennedy Booth” has since been dedicated in his memory.

Specialties:

A good place to begin is with house speciality: oysters and clams on the half shell.  Also hot oyster house sampler for 2 which includes grilled oysters, baked stuffed clams, oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, and shrimp scampi.

Address:

Union Oyster House is located at 41 Union Street in Boston, right around the corner from the historic Freedom Trail in one of the oldest parts of the city.

DIE LETZTE INSTANZ BERLIN, GERMANY

Founded: 1621

According to the restaurant’s website, the first documented mentioning of the building (which is home to the

Die letzte Instanz, Berlin, Germany

Die letzte Instanz, Berlin, Germany

restaurant today) originates in 1561. In 1621, a retired knight’s servant of the elector of that time opened a little distillery, and by this he laid the foundations for “Letzte Instanz”.

Situated in Berlin’s historic centre, Die letzten Instanz is one of the few Medieval buildings in the German capital which has survived the turbulence of past centuries.

“Die letzten Instanz” (“The last instance”) received its today’s name after the erection of the court house nearby in 1924. There is a story about two peasants, who had long and unsuccessful legal proceedings, which they eventually solved with merry and heavy drinking in “The last instance”.

Interior:

The medieval building was completely restored in 1960s, whereas the historical annexes and the original interior have remained preserved. Apart from the interior with its local flavor, a lot of drawings, paintings and photographs tell even more stories of former days.

The restaurant seats 120 people and has a beer garden with 50 seats with a view of the last remaining remnants of the oldest of Berlin’s city walls.

Connection with famous people:

The oldest and probably most popular piece of furniture is the 200-year-old tiled stove – on which Napoleon made himself comfortable and enjoyed culinary specialities. Berlin’s oldest restaurant was frequented by Napoleon Bonaparte during the French occupation of the city.

Specialties:

Most food items have a reference to the law in their names. Jars of pickled eggs await the guests and liver is served Berlin style (with sliced apples, onion rings and potato puree) – these truly are among the last examples of old Berlin.

Address:

Waisenstrasse. 14-16, 10179 Berlin

A LA PETITE CHAISE PARIS, FRANCE

Founded: 1680

Founded as a coaching inn in 1680, and so perhaps the oldest restaurant in Paris, it was opened by the baron de la

A la Petite Chaise Paris, France

A la Petite Chaise Paris, France

Chaise at the edge of his hunting preserve. (According to lore, the baron used the upstairs bedrooms for afternoon dalliances, between fox and pheasant hunts.)

Interior:

Very Parisian, the “Little Chair” invites you into a world of cramped but attractive tables, old wood paneling, and ornate wall sconces.

Connection with famous people:

History tells us that, in the 19th century, Vidocq, the famous Parisian policeman, made several important arrests in this place. The famous gourmet, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, mentioned the restaurant menus in his book “La physiologie du goût” (1826). La Petite Chaise was also likely to see Musset, George Sand, Juliette Recamier, Chateaubriand and others, all living nearby.

In the beginning of the 20th century, artists and actors gathered here after show-time. Cabaret stars from Montmartre came to La Petite Chaise to be sketched by Toulouse Lautrec.

Much later, politicians, such as François Mitterand, came from nearby Poly-Sci and cabinet members from the nearby National Assembly.

Specialties:

The menu features model examples of French classics: slabs of foie gras, escargots, French onion soup, and salads of boudin noir (French black pudding) with a big pile of fresh greens. Other examples are magret (breast) of duck with sweet-and-sour sauce, and grilled sea bass on a bed of fennel with a light butter sauce.

Address:

36 rue de Grenelle, 7e, 7th Arrondissement (Eiffel Tower/Musée D’orsay)

YAR RESTAURANT MOSCOW, RUSSIA

Founded: 1826

Yar restaurant, Moscow, Russia

Yar restaurant, Moscow, Russia

When the restaurant was originally established in 1826, it was situated on what is now Kuznetsky Most. But since 1910, its address has been moved on Leningradsky Prospekt where it shares a building with the up-market Sovietski Hotel.

Interior:

Yar’s main hall – called “The Gypsy Theatre” – has impossibly high walls, marble columns, balconies and a stage at one end for the performance of over-the-top Russian cabarets. There are enough seats for 300 people, and when operating at full capacity on a show-night the hall resembles something like Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

There is also a separate “VIP room” next door to the gypsy theatre, with huge wall-length mirrors and white grand piano.

Connection with famous people:

Being the oldest restaurant in Moscow, Yar has played host to the likes of Tolstoy, Rasputin, Chekhov, Gorky, Stalin, Margaret Thatcher and… Chris de Burgh and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Specialties:

The menu is a mix of Russian and French cuisines, with specialties such as French oysters and three sorts of Russian caviar which you can order as an amuse bouche. There are also more basic Russian foods, like borshch, pirozhki, veal Stroganoff and other meat and fish dishes. The sweets menu is designed by the star in the pastry world, Laurent Cordonnier of Institute Paul Bocuse, and is made up of the likes of soufflés, sorbets, blini and tiramisu.

Address:

Moscow, Leningradskiyi Prospect, d. 32/2

HOSTARIA DELL’ORSO – ROME, ITALY

Founded: in the 16th century

It is hard to establish an exact year of founding of The Hostaria dell’Orso but one thing is for sure – it is the oldest

Hostaria dell'orso - Rome, Italy

Hostaria dell'orso - Rome, Italy

hosterly in Rome. Build in 14th century, the building has been changing functions – from tavern, to a lodging place to a restaurant and a night club, to be finally closed in 1997.

Then in 2002 the entrepeneur Vincenzo Nicastro and the great Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, reopened the restaurant after three years of restoration.

Interior:

Housed in a historic building, you would expect that restaurant has intimate, romantic dining rooms, decorated in a antient style. And it offers just that – elegant simple style with a touch of modern. The restaurant is divided in 5 dining rooms with a different capacity from 8 to 30 seats, and can accomodate up to 100 guests.

Connection with famous people:

In the 16th century when  Hostaria Dell’orso functioned as a hotel, Rabelais, Montaigne and Goethe where among its guests. In the middle of the twentieth century, when the place was operating as a restaurant and night-club, it was much frequented by the stars of the Dolce Vita: Onassis e la Callas, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power and many more.

Specialties:

In the Hostaria dell’Orso Gualtiero Marchesi presents his philosophy of cooking of historical dishes such as: Riso Oro e Zafferano and Raviolo Aperto, which are in a way a rethinking of the roman cuisine. The restaurant menu also offers more modern skilled Italian haute cuisine such as Carrè D’agnello Arrosto, Cipolla Rossa Fondente, Granella di Pistacchi (roast lamb cutlets, sweet onions and pistachios). Dishes can be ordered à la carte and there are various menù degustazione (set-price menus).

Address:

Via dei Soldati 25c – 00186 Rome

TAVARES RICO – LISBON, PORTUGAL

Founded: 1784

Established as a café in 1784, the oldest restaurant in Lisbon and Portugal, Tavares Rico pleases its customers with a

Tavares restaurant, Lisbon, Portugal

Tavares restaurant, Lisbon, Portugal

handsome Edwardian dining room

Interior:

The dining area is a palatial space with an opulently gilded interior that is classified by the Portuguese Architectural Heritage Institute.

Connection with famous people:

Ever since Tavares Rico was founded it has been one of the preferred places for the national and international cultural and political elite. Musicians, politicians, actors, singers and other art people tasted some of the best meals in town.

Specialties:

This seems to be a place where the molecular cooking meets traditional Portuguese dishes along with some great international favorites such as foie gras. The sole cooked in champagne sauce is a classic, and there are game birds available in season, served roasted in a rich wine sauce. Cravings for Portuguese food can be assuaged by the bacalhau or the sopa alentejana (Alentejo-style soup that’s a concoction of garlic, bread, and egg).

After learning skills in the kitchens of some of greatest cuisine masters in the world (Ferran Adrià, Alain Ducasse and Claude Trois Gros) the young chef José Avillez has settled in Tavares and soon earned a Michelin star for his, without a doubt, very interesting menu.

Address:

Rua da Misericórdia, 35-37, Lisbon 1200-270

However, as one of our readers suggests, there is another restaurant that could be even older, and that is Den Gyldene Freden in Stockholm. The restaurant was opened in 1722 and since has been frequented by actors, writers, painters and songwriters, an we’ll soon be writing a separate entry about this famous restaurant with impressive history.

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