3 historic restaurants across Europe
In a time of pop-up restaurants and fast-moving foodie fads, these classic establishments in historic European cities have barely changed in centuries
If there was ever a travel destination to make Australia feel its youth, it’s Europe. As you immerse yourself in the rich culture of European cities – exploring medieval architecture and impressive churches, tasting recipes that have been refined over centuries and treading cobble stone streets laid hundreds of years ago – you begin to feel the full weight of human history.
While we tend embrace the new with such fervor when it comes to dining out, let’s take a look at some European restaurants that have been doing the same thing for hundreds of years – and owe their success to the fact that some tastes simply don’t change.
Rules has been dishing up traditional English fare from its Maiden Lane, Covent Garden location since 1798. Privately owned by just three families over its 216-year history, it has served literary legends including Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and H G Wells, along with thespians Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Classics including Duchy of Cornwall oysters, steak and kidney pie, roast poussin and potted shrimps fill the menu, enjoyed against a backdrop of the sumptuous red velvet and dark wood of the dining rooms. The restaurant’s estate in the High Pennines provides the game served to diners, with a warning that dishes may contain a lead shot.
Start your meal over house cocktails including the Champagne and Guinness ‘Black Velvet’ concoction, treat yourself to a Cropwell Bishop Stilton to round out the meal and turn out into the London night as others have done before you for hundreds of years.
Sobrino de Botin, Madrid
Cropping up time and time again in literary works over the years – including Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon, where the author paid homage to the restaurant’s roast suckling pig on both occasions – Madrid’s Sobrino de Botin is forever etched in history. Established in 1725, it once employed Spanish romantic painter Francisco de Goya as a waiter while he was waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Today the restaurant is as popular as ever, with visitors to the city flocking to its signature polished timber façade to feast on the traditional menu, including black sausage from Burgos, artichoke hearts with Iberian ham and the enduring roast suckling pig specialty. With a décor that has stayed true to its beginnings, Sobrino de Botin transports you right back to 18th century Madrid.
Trattoria Sostanza, Florence
Renaissance architecture, handmade leather goods, old-fashioned stationary shops and beautiful frescoed ceilings from the days of the Medicis…travelling through Florence already feels like a trip back in time. While not quite as old as Michelangelo’s David, Trattoria Sostanza has certainly chalked up the years serving the good citizens of Florence since 1869.
Between the Arno River and Santa Maria Novella, this local haunt has changed little of its interior or menu over the years. Simple and consistent, it’s all about the artichoke omelette, chicken cooked in butter (decadent but delicious) and the Florentine steak. With communal seating, reservations based on sittings and cash only, it’s not somewhere you come to linger all evening, but it’s a local winner that has remained true to its focus on food.