Today’s bread today? Not exactly, but there is no doubt that the entrants in our list of the best oldest restaurants in the world are doing something right. No restaurant can survive on inheritance alone for over 20 years let alone hundreds of them unless the food and atmosphere – never mind anything else – is up to scratch. By the look of things, it won’t matter if it takes you years to get to visit these places – they clearly have a reputation for sticking around. So enjoy – this year, next year, next decade, next century!
St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, Salzburg
Dates from: 803AD.
From Then To Now: Whether or not it’s a myth, it is said that Christopher Columbus once had dinner here. Positioned within the walls of St Peter’s Abbey, this venerable restaurant is presumed to be the oldest in the world. Whatever the price of food was back in the day (century?), St Peter has certainly upped the outlay. While the award-winning food is truly special and toothsome, a starter of confit fish of the day (€24.90), a main of prime boiled veal Rossini (€41.90), and a dessert of Salzburger Nockerl (€19.80) pretty much took care of the day’s budget. An amazing place, nonetheless. Sankt-Peter-Bezirk 1/4;
Honke Owariya, Kyoto
Dates from: 1465.
From Then To Now: Honke Owariya began centuries ago as a confectionary shop, but due to demand the task of making soba (thin noodles made from buckwheat) was bestowed upon the owners. The exterior/interior doesn’t do your expectations any favours – this place is as humble and unfussy as you can get. What to try? How about something the locals have been eating for, well, hundreds of years: Hourai soba with toppings (on a separate plate) that include shiitake mushrooms, shredded omelette, shrimp tempura, nori (seaweed), wasabi, grated daikon (radish), sesame seeds, and leeks. Now under the stewardship of Ariko Inaoka – its 16th generation owner – the legacy of this honoured restaurant continues. 322 Kurumayacho-Nijyo;
La Tour d’Argent, Paris
Dates from: 1582.
From Then To Now: Regarded by historians to have first begun as a hostel, La Tour d’Argent was the first restaurant in France to introduce a ground-breaking item of cutlery: the fork. As the centuries passed, notable historical figures such as Henry IV and the Duke de Richelieu massed through its doors, and by 1830, following the turmoil of the French Revolution, Napoleon’s personal chef, Lecoq, re-established the restaurant as one of the best in France. Interesting fact: the Michelin-starred restaurant inspired scenes in Pixar’s 2007 animation feature, Ratatouille. 17 Quai de la Tournelle;
Zur Letzte Instanz, Berlin
Dates from: 1621.
From Then To Now: The building originated in the 13th century, but it wasn’t until 1621 that it became a tavern, opened by a retired stable hand. Since then, it has been at the heart of Berlin’s culinary community – the likes of Napoleon, Beethoven and Angela Merkel have eaten there – resisting world wars and the Lord knows what in order to keep its place in the city. While the restaurant is now something of a tourist magnet (the original interior and significant add-ons to the building have been wisely preserved) the quality and presentation of the food is remarkably high. Walsenstraase, 14-16;
Zum Franziskaner, Stockholm
Dates from: 1622.
From Then To Now: While there was some connection to Zum Franziskaner being founded in 1421, it seems that 1622 was the year of its establishment at its current address. Formerly inhabited by monks of the Franciscan Order (hence its name), the food way back when was quite likely as thin on the ground as were the waists on the monks. These past decades, however, has seen the restaurant present Swedish and Southern German food that is classic but not necessarily innovative. Unsurprising point: some of the furniture has been designated by the City Museum as being of distinctly historical value. Skeppsbron 44;
A La Petit Chaise, Paris
Dates from: 1680.
From Then To Now: Let there be knives at dawn! Similar to La Tour d’Argent, A La Petit Chaise (‘The Little Chair’) also lays claim to be the oldest restaurant in Paris. Whatever about the facts, there is little doubt that in 1680 wine and food were being sold here. Such was its reputation in the 17th century that it was the meeting point for many high ranking religious and political figures, and in the late 1800s, actors and singers came here to be sketched by none other than Toulouse Lautrec. These days, enticed by a menu fit to bursting with fine dining options, expect to occasionally see a well-known face or two. 36 Rue de Grenelle;
Restaurante Sobrino de BotÍn, Madrid
Dates from: 1725.
From Then To Now: This is where it gets very interesting. The Guinness Book of Records presents a certifiable fact: Sobrino de BotÍn is the oldest “continuously operating” restaurant in the world. Founded in 1725 by Jean BotÍn, and originally known as Casa BotÍn, it changed its title to Sobrino de BotÍn when a nephew inherited it (‘sobrino’ is Spanish for nephew). With the atmosphere of a traditional Spanish tavern, and laid out across four floors and three dining rooms, the benchmark signature dishes cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and cordero asado (roast lamb) are justifiably world-famous. Calle de Cuchilleros, 17;
Dates from: 1784.
From Then To Now: One of the oldest restaurants in Europe, and the oldest in Lisbon, this august establishment (also known as Tavares Rico) is straight out of a picture book on palaces. In other words, despite its age and legacy, it remains an exclusive and sophisticated place to visit. Food-wise, there is a Tavares Tasting Menu (very comprehensive) and/or an a la carte, which similarly includes options that refer to the restaurant’s history. Often overlooked by food guides (you will rarely, if ever, see this place in Top 20 Restaurants of Lisbon lists), it’s worth visiting for a rare slice of opulence. Rua da Misericórdia 37;
Rules Restaurant, London
Dates from: 1798.
From Then To Now: As British as Downton Abbey (in which it has appeared in a few times) and as traditional as afternoon tea, Rules Restaurant has successfully managed to preserve a way of life that for many has died a quiet death. Its walls are decorated with oil paintings and cartoons, it has been written about in novels by Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, and it has even made an appearance in a James Bond movie (2015’s Spectre). With such strong cultural connections, the restaurant continues to thrive, featuring as it does a selection of classic British game dishes (if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you may walk away now). Old school, straight and strict? With red velvet knobs on, sir/madam. 34-35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden;
La Puerta Falsa, Bogata
Dates from: 1816.
From Then To Now: A tiny place, with a distressed wooden bar that seats about a dozen people, and an upper floor that seats about the same number, this famous eatery is located one block away from Bogata’s Plaza de Bolivar. The signature meals here are tamales and ajiaco soup, but what makes these little babies different is over two hundred years of top-secret family cooking techniques. The restaurant holds on very tightly to tradition, which means limited menu, uncomplicated décor, slow service, and absolutely no tourist traps. What you see is what you get, but what you eat is amazing. Calle 11 N, 6-50;
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA