Skip to main content

The Weekender: Madrid

Billionaire's publisher enjoys a culinary stopover in Madrid... sans credit card.

The Champagne Bar of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid.

A trip to a magical party recently took me via Madrid. It had been years since I was at The Ritz, a historic five-star Belle Époque hotel on Madrid’s Retiro district, next to the Prado Museum. It has been fabulously renovated and is now part of Mandarin Oriental.

I had left my wallet on the plane and the hotel staff jumped into action immediately, paid for my taxi and then followed up with calls to the airline and the airport to try and locate it.

David Leppan checking into The Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid.

Already impressed at their service and support in a moment like this, I was nonetheless struck by the room-key cards, which are made of cardboard rather than the ghastly plastic that is too much of an industry standard.

My room overlooked the Prado Museum and I guess this will be the closest I ever come to sleeping next to Velázquez’s Las Meninas, one of the greatest Old Master treasures.

An almond cake kept me company although not for long absolutely delicious. And I was equally impressed the nightstand had a wonderful glass bottle rather than the usual toxic plastic bottles most hotels continue to put out.

Restaurant Sala de Despiece.

Having gotten some cash from an ATM (rather cleverly without a card), I went to dinner at Sala de Despiece, a restaurant first introduced to me by a good friend. Helmed by chef-entrepreneur Javier Bonet, this is an upscale tapas bar with an industrial, warehouse vibe. It is designed with the aesthetics of old-school fish and meat-market stalls, and everything on the menu comes down to the best-available produce on the day.

I ordered the artichoke with Baeri Caviar Imperial, the legendary Navarra peeled Tomata (yes, with an a, not an o) with crispy fried basil and the most wonderful eel with foie gras and apple. It definitely kept my mind off quite how I was going to travel without a credit card.

Madrid also boasts a wonderful private members’ club: El Matador. Spread across an entire first floor in a grand building in one of the best parts of town, it is a haven to escape into, albeit for just a brief rest. 

The gardens of the Royal Palace of Madrid. 

Charrua Madrid is one of my absolute top restaurants. I love sitting fireside and watching the action in the kitchen but, be warned, it gets pretty warm, which inevitably means copious amounts of Ribera del Duero red wine ends up being consumed.

When not staying at The Ritz, I tend to be at Santo Mauro, which is now operated by Marriott but has to be the gem in its entire portfolio. When booking, try and ensure you get one of the rooms in the main building. The decor is fabulous and slightly over the top, which is what I like in a hotel. I never understand why people want an experience that’s ‘just like home’. I want something different so that I can walk away and be inspired to do something a little more adventurous in the place I call home. 

‘En España se vive muy bien.’ One of the first sentences I was taught when I arrived in this remarkable country.

Viva España!