Modern art and the oldest restaurant in the world

Madrid day 3

I noticed a flyer next to the elevators at the hotel very specifically prohibiting pranking. No other house rules. Just no pranking. Partaking in such tomfoolery would lead to immediate expulsion from you rented room. 

I walked through Park de El Ritero once again, which was nicely cool in the morning. I visited a peacock garden there. Next I passed a series of bookshops near the Botanical garden, kind of like those in Paris along the Seine River. I’d guess that’d be an occupation in a rapid decline. This walk got me to Museo Reina Sofia, a modern art museum. The main attractions were Picasso’s Guernica, which was painted for the 1937 World Expo along with some Miro and Dalí paintings. What surprised me were both realist and cubist paintings by Dalí. I found a temporary exhibition by the swede Charlotte Johannesson to be the most interesting. She started her artistry using a vertical loom, but in the late seventies she switched it for an Apple II computer and was one of the worlds first digital artists. The pixilation of the works were immediately reminiscent of the loompieces. I’d venture to call her work some of the earliest examples of glitch art. Sprinkle in some CRT aesthetics along with off-kilter humor and that was what really made my day. It reminded me of a “Computer Films of the 1960s” exhibition that I saw at Museum of the Moving Image in NYC, which in turn depicted some of the earliest computer animations ever made.

I bought a sandwich and a yoghurt at a deli a grocery store, which I enjoyed alone amongst the trees in El Ritero. Next, I found myself back in the hotel pool, a nice respite from the 34°C temperatures. 

Dinner, I decided, should be at Botín, provided that they had a table … which they they did. Thank you, Covid-related tourism downturn. Many restaurants, Botín included, only open at eight p.m., which quite a bit later than most countries I’ve visited, Greece being the only other people I know of who dine equally late. Founed by Jean Botín in 1725 Bobrino de Botín had the Guinness World record of the oldest restaurant in the world that had been in continuous operation. When Jean, the original owner died, the restaurant changed name from Casa Botín to Sobrino de Botín, nephew of Botín, which stuck to this date. The aforementioned spanish painter Francisco de Goya worked as a waiter at Botín before getting into the art academy.

So, how was the food? The recipes were mostly unchanged from when the restaurant was founded. For entrées I had, Morcilla, a kind of black sausage from Burgos, which was both savory and sweet but not cloying. No notes of blood in the taste, fortunately. The most famous main dish was roast suckling pig, but seeing the small piglets, head and all I instead went for Pollo en Pepitoria, chicken in an almond sauce instead, which was nice. The meat was incredibly tender and the sauce rich in butter and with that red wine from Rioja. I felt as if I were tasting a piece of history at Botín.

Next morning I got on a flight back home.

Leave a Reply