At the newly-renovated Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, walk the footsteps of royals and get treated like one.
Few city hotels can claim such regal connections as Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, situated in Madrid’s central Plaza de la Lealtad. It was built at the behest of King Alfonso XIII who, after a holiday in Europe, felt that Spain needed a hotel to rival the Ritz London and Ritz Paris. Designed by French architect Charles Mewes and Spanish architect Luis de Landecho in 1910, overseen by Swiss hotelier César Ritz, the hotel just last year re-opened after an extensive renovation.
Today, the 153-room hotel remains the jewel in the crown of Madrid hospitality. It is so steeped in history that the hotel's façade is a listed national monument.
The hotel recently hosted some 24 dignitaries from across the globe, including the Emperor of Japan and Crown heads from Oman and Saudi Arabia, for the Royal wedding of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia. But the royal connections go back a century before.
It was here that Prince Rainier of Monaco and Princess Grace began their Honeymoon in the mid-fifties, and returned often thereafter. It was also here that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor stayed on many occasions always in Suite 511-512. The Duke of Windsor loved speaking Spanish, and spoke it well, which no doubt was admired at the many social events, polo tournaments and hunting parties to which the Royal couple was invited.
1915 saw the visit of the colourful Maharaja of Kapurthala and his wife, the young Spanish dancer, Anita Delgado. The Spanish public in general was fascinated by the romantic story of a simple Spanish girl being able to capture the attention of an Indian Prince. The Maharaja had fallen in love with 15-year-old Spanish dancer Anita in 1906 when he had come to the Spanish capital in order to attend the wedding of King Alfonso XIII.
Emperor Haile Selassie, Ethiopia, was perhaps the most idiosyncratic of all royal guests, and for the Ritz staff it was not an easy task to serve him correctly. Ethiopian etiquette dictated that nobody could leave his presence showing their back, which meant that the staff had to leave walking backwards. Needless to say, this resulted in quite a number of ‘crashes’ by the hotel staff, who of course, lacked eyes in their back. Neither was anyone permitted to look directly into the eyes of the Emperor and of course, no touching was allowed. This was a very difficult task especially for the housekeeper who on various occasions was requested to sew his many medals and distinctions on to his official evening attires after he was already dressed.
While in Madrid, the Emperor purchased a great deal of jewels from jewellers who were invited to visit his suite. To the delight of the merchants, he not only paid in cash, but also gave the salesmen a gold coin with his image. The 1981 visit to the Ritz of King Jaled of Saudi Arabia was a memorable and most lucrative occasion for hotel and staff as the king came of course not alone, but with a retinue which occupied 90 rooms.
Now, 110 years on since its inception, the luxury Belle Époque palace in Madrid's cultural centre is still a beacon for society's well-heeled and distinguished. It has had an extensive renovation but still captures the essence of the original property designed by César Ritz.
The property overlooks the city's National Picture Galleries, the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemizsa Museum. The hotel is also close to the Madrid Stock Exchange, while Madrid’s museum of modern art, The Reina Sofia, is within walking distance.
Following an extensive renovation by design duo Gilles & Boissier, the décor in the some 100 rooms and 53 suites have a classic, contemporary feel with a soothing colour palette, rich fabrics and designer furnishings. The bathrooms are equally as luxurious, with Dolomite style panelling, fine mouldings and a marble Emperor’s floor.
The F&B is one of the hotel's major draws. One of the most celebrated chefs in Spain and a leading light of the culinary world, Quique Dacosta oversees all culinary operations at Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid’s five restaurants and bars which include Deessa, Palm Court, El Jardín del Ritz, the Pictura bar and the Champagne Bar.
The signature restaurant, Deesaa, which recently was awarded a Michelin Star, serves two degustation menus with a selection of the most acclaimed dishes by the Chef. Overlooking the garden and terrace, the restaurant offers al fresco dining during the summer months. A 10-person private dining room is available, known as Countess Masslov, named after the famous spy Mata Hari who used this nickname when staying at the hotel in 1916.
With countless stories woven into its walls, to stay at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, is truly to stay in history.