Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

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.

restaurants casino royaleDuring 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.

Suckling Pig at Rules

Suckling Pig at Rules

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.

Gazpacho at Botin

Gazpacho at Botin

Suckling Pig at Botin

Suckling Pig at Botin



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6 thoughts on “Restaurants for Literally Great Food

  1. Kam, Jean on said:

    I am a huge fan of Casa Botin in Madrid too! It is old school but always reliable!

  2. Bea Crumbine on said:

    We lived in Estoril for 4 years and visited the Casino only a very few times. I had no idea that it was the literary venue for Casino Royale! Fun to know…

  3. I love the story about the traditional restaurants but must make one comment about the oldest restaurant in the world. In Salzburg as part of the Benedictine monastery is the St. Peter’s Keller, a wine cellar restaurant. The sign outside says: Founded 800. Whether they served food since then is not recorded. The present building itself is from around 1200, relatively new. The food is quite good and locals and tourists love it.

  4. How interesting! We stayed in Estoril (the locals omit the ‘E’ and call it ‘Storil) last year, right across from the Casino which is as much a concert venue as a house of cards. To keep the espionage theme going, there’s a hotel (the Avenida I think) in Lisbon, close to the main train station, where both British and German spies liaised with their respective ‘handlers’ – presumably never at the same time or in the same bars!

  5. Nancy on said:

    Yummmmm – great memory of suckling pig at Botin. Wonderful place!

  6. Beth Allen on said:

    Hi Mary Ellen,

    Hope you’re enjoying all your travels!

    Whenever you have a moment, could you please change my address for these postings from the AOL one to this:

    Thanks… love reading these!

    Oh, and did you get my “ask” for your photo for the Brock Circle? Be sure and send me one when you can.

    Thanks so much!



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