Luxury Hotels


Apparently dancing flamenco for 30 minutes burns 157.5 calories (that extra half makes all the difference). And you use masses of calories, too, walking up and down the glorious gilded-rail staircase of the regal MANDARIN ORIENTAL RITZ MADRID. That Swiss genius Cesar Ritz knew how to build palaces back in 1910 – the age of the building is written in gold on the building’s side, on Calle de Felipe IV, next to the Prado. Girlahead passed this when doing a quick hike, out of the hotel door, turn left, left again up Calle de Felipe IV -Prado grrounds on your right – up to Retiro Park, left, left, left and home.

And home this hotel becomes, immediately on arrival. This is thanks to so many people, including, well over a century ago, Spain’s King Alfonso XIII.  He wanted to rival Ritz Paris, and he called on architect Charles Mewès to design the necessary. Honestly, since it re-opened July 2020 after a transformational hibernation for its current Gilles & Bossier design, it has beamed confident, un-glitzy style. Mushroom-coloured patterned carpets have inset faux doormats next to gold numbers on marble flooring outside all 160 bedrooms. Bathrooms’ Hollywood-style flattering lighting complements GHD hair dryers and tongs in stylish leather movie-star carry-cases. Toiletries are Natura Bisé, rosemary and white tea. There are more than enough USB ports for multi-million tech start-ups.

My favourite suite is 405, up 97 stairs from the lobby. The suite’s spacious and airy, its circular sitting room looking down at the hotel’s year-round El Jardin del Ritz restaurant, and across to the Prado. Soft walls blend with the stylish mushroom leather doors of the entertainment centre, which includes an easy-work Krups Nespresso, enticingly-wrapped Madrid Postal chocolates, Chivas Regal 12, Vina Tondonia Res Rioja 2009, Ruinart 375 ml and a dozen, sic, bottles of Mondariz water, litre-size.

There’s true-style everywhere. Loyalty FANS of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group find their favourite daily newspaper waiting, and welcome notes are real-ink, and legible. Wonder how GM and RVP Greg Liddell has time for such minutiae? He’s in the hotel by 7.30 a.m., for a start, for a day of networking with his team, his guests and anybody who might be a vital-body in Madrid’s politics, or arts and thoughts (he was able to do the same, too, during his years in Bangkok). But he’s fun rather than a U Heep type, or rather a Mick Box rather than a Charles Dickens Mr Heep.  Details provide a cornucopia of touch points. Down in the hotel’s lowest level, there’s what looks like a woodland of mediaeval tapestry, in fact paper-printed. Walk this shaded avenue, some 70 metres to a pale blue pool, with vitality stations. Feel yet more vital after a TBC, The Beauty Concept, facial – Biologique Recherche, Valmont and more brand choices.

Back up to ground level, via the central glass-ceiling winter garden to a crumpled gold wall (see above) that might well be real 22 carat. Next, in the bar, a ceiling-high collage of Old Masters pastiches is recognisable locals somewhat photo-shopped.

Dine outside, with Bordeaux burners or water-spray coolers as warranted. Real greenery dividers make every table exclusive. Start with jamon, paper thin slices, and cheeses. Go on to beef tartare in a bone and, in this heat, the sommelier might suggest Rebisaca 2021 Bodegas Gerardo Méndez.

And turn tourist – concierge Zoubida Santissi, as chic and charming a performer as everyone else in this gorgeous theatre, seems capable of doing, and suggesting, anything. Girlahead was heading to an outdoor brunch somewhere or other and she actually wanted to walk at least some of the way there (by the way, fellow travellers, many of central-Madrid’s streets are closed to traffic Sundays, which is great for perambulators and others who go by foot but not good for vehicles). Let’s think outside the box. Flamenco in the streets, all Sunday long. Bearing in mind that Buenos Aires business folk nip outside for a quick tango in their lunch break, why not the same here in Europe?

Finally, here is that other great arbiter of taste, Hermann Elger: