Restaurants for Literally Great Food
One of myMEGusta’s favorite things is to find historically significant restaurants which have kept their character and not turned into tourist traps. It is especially fun when they not only played a role in real life, but when they have turned up in historical fiction, whether written, televised or in films.
During a recent drive in seaside Estoril, Portugal, we went by the Casino at a distance. “So what”, said myMEGusta to herself, then the guide explained that this little seaside city played a big role in World War II, when Portugal was neutral, and this was a hotbed for spies and other action. Ian Fleming was among the players, and this Casino was the model for Casino Royale, the first of the James Bond novels. We will speculate that the food there was (and is) expensive and fancy, but not designed to distract the guests from the business at hand (losing their money).
After numerous visits over many years, Rules (allegedly the oldest restaurant in London, established in 1798, and close to Covent Garden, home of the Royal Opera) is still a myMEGusta favorite. It’s the place for traditional British food, perfectly prepared to old standards, set in surroundings that never change, and just as elegant as when Downton Abbey characters went there on several occasions in the 1920s.
On a recent visit, myMEGusta enjoyed a perfect portion of suckling pig, the skin crackling (and not at all chewy) atop fork tender meat, served with applesauce and a little salad on the side. She watched people at the next table tucking into what appeared to be steak and kidney pie, not exactly what it looks like in your average pub.
Speaking again of suckling pig, when reading “The Heart has Its Reasons” by Maria Duenas, myMEGusta found herself at Madrid’s Casa Botin, supposedly the world’s oldest restaurant (established in 1725) where the specialty is little piggy as well as roasted baby lamb. This venerable institution also appears in “The Sun Also Rises” and other literary works too numerous to mention.
During a visit in the 1990s, myMEGusta was able to wheedle a look into the room where Casa Botin’s roasts sit after coming out of the giant wood burning oven, awaiting delivery to the hungry patrons. Her 2013 piggy portion was just as good as remembered. The gazpacho, a perfect appetizer on a hot summer’s day, was excellent, too.