24 hours at the hotel Ritz in Madrid

The return of one of the world’s great hotels

Inma Casado de Amezua (Public Relations and Press), Rafael Tapia and Francisco Caballero (Maitre D of the Palm Court Restaurant), and Carlos Charro (Head of reception) under the direction of Greg Liddell are some of the employees of the re-opened Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid and responsible together with the rest of this great family to make the guest feel at home in one of the most legendary hotels in the world. I was able to see this unique formula’s success first-hand during my 24-hour stay at the Ritz, which has risen like a phoenix to occupy a place of honour once again among the select group of the world’s grand hotels.

Gran Restaurant 1950s

In the 1980s, during His Majesty the Sultan of Negeri Sembilan Tuanku Ja’afar and his family’s visit to the hotel, I had the privilege of spending a couple of nights there as my father hosted the royal family. I was assigned to look after them during their stay in Madrid. I was eager to relive the Ritz experience after its restoration and under the management of Mandarin Oriental, and my wish came true in the last week of August. 

Hall y Winter Garden (1910)

In 2009, I wrote my novel The Toucan Lodge, inspired by the life of my father, Rodney Mundy, who had been a spy for MI6, the UK intelligence service, and my research repeatedly featured both the Ritz and the Palace Hotel in those years owned by the Belgian George Marquet from 1932 until 1977 when his grandson sold both hotels to Enrique Masso. From that date onwards, the strict dress code began to be relaxed.

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid, Champagne Bar

During the years when the Ritz belonged to the Marquet family, the management imposed a series of strict rules, as most of their distinguished clients were of the highest social calibre. The management wanted to safeguard their privacy, comfort and tranquillity. The Marquets believed not everyone qualified to be a client of the Ritz. This assessment depended on economic power and aspects such as family background, education, style, and good manners. In fact, it so happened that the Ritz always filled up when a famous Hollywood actor or a star singer requested a room!

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid, Deluxe-Room-Bedroom

With that in mind, Mr Marquet introduced strict rules and a secret code to select the clientele. The less fortunate ones were called “NTR, ” meaning “No Ritz Type”. Mr. Marquet aimed for the most select clientele and transferred those who did not follow a particular behavior to other hotels. Much has happened since then, and since 1977, the hotel has been a favourite of European royal families and aristocracy and the world of politics and show business royalty. 

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid, Lobby

I wanted to live the experience to verify that the reborn hotel had achieved the arduous task of recovering its lost grandeur. I must confess that it exceeded all my expectations. 

The journey of the Ritz Hotel began on the 2nd of October 1910 with the grand opening. This long-awaited event transformed Madrid from a provincial capital to a European city. His Majesty King Alfonso XII, who attended with Queen Victoria Eugenia, promoted it. The young king was instrumental in this successful new initiative to create Spain’s first luxury hotel. Charles Mewes, the brilliant architect of the Ritz in Paris, oversaw the work under the supervision of two of the best Spanish architects, Luis de Landecho and Lorenzo Gallego, who interpreted with great accuracy the perfection of the classical design imposed by their French colleague. The elegant structure of the Ritz Hotel also has the privilege of having been the first in Spain to be built in steel. 

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid, Palm-Court

The Ritz Development Company commissioned the famous French architect who designed the Ritz in Paris and invited the well-known Cesar Ritz – hotelier par excellence and “father” of the Ritz in Paris – to participate in the creation of the new hotel. What distinguished the hotels created by Cesar Ritz from the Palace Hotels at the time were the noble proportions of their architecture, the beauty and exquisite taste of their interior design, the attention to detail of their staff and the comfort afforded by their magnificent style. In short, Mandarin Oriental has not only managed to preserve this spirit, but it has also enhanced it.

Since its inception, the hotel has been closely associated with the royal families from around the world who have stayed here. The list of kings, emperors and princes would be too long to include in this article. Still, this particularity makes the Ritz Hotel a ROYAL hotel and a silent witness of our history. 

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid, Spa

The ambitious project of the prestigious architect Rafael de la Hoz has been a success. It aimed to recover elements lost in the course of its long history, such as the glass dome that was covered up after the war and to open the door that leads to the Prado Museum, which can now be seen again from the moment you enter the hotel through a sizeable 21st-century palatial door designed by him. Today, the hotel has 153 rooms and 53 magnificent suites.

French decorators Gilles & Boissier have got the concept right and have opted to include spectacular works of art, including a sculpture entitled Whirlpool of the Retreat by Habeldashery suspended from the ceiling of the rotunda in place of a traditional chandelier. Both natural and artificial light create magnificent reflections and shadows from the brass and nickel elements. 

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid,Pictura-Bar

The gastronomy is under the baton of the three Michelin star chef, Quique Dacosta, who brings to the hotel the restaurants Deessa, Palm Court and El Jardín del Ritz, and the new bars, Pictura and Champagne Bar. Since their inauguration, the restaurants have become part of the most gourmet gastronomic route in the city, and the bars have become a reference point for beautiful people. The Ritz is a luxury gastronomic hotel with a team of more than 200 dedicated exclusively to working in the five gastronomic spaces created and directed by the award-winning chef.

To my surprise, when I entered my magnificent suite, apart from the usual amenities (a magnificent fruit tray, a chilled bottle of Champagne and two very affectionate welcome letters), two bottles of Mondariz water were labelled with the covers of two books. A really touching gesture that demonstrates the team’s sensitivity to detail. These small and charming details bring us unexpected joy and happiness.

I made the most of my 24 hours at the hotel. After check-in, I asked to visit some of the rooms and suites, followed by the works of art that the hotel houses and that were selected, looking for the reinvention and encounter of the new in history. Among the pieces I liked the most were the Fan Dance by Factum Arte, the Geometry of Thought by Juan Carlos García Pérez, the tapestry by Clara Sulla, the circular sculptures Salt Tondo by Rachelle Reichert, the Etruscan Horse by Edward Waites and the busts by Christophe Charbonell among others.

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,Madrid,Terrace

In the afternoon, I enjoyed my magnificent suite overlooking the Prado Museum. I reflected on the energy of a historic hotel like the Ritz, a silent witness of significant events during its long history. At 8 o’clock, I invited my dear friends HRH Prince Idris and HRH Prince Ana Maria Al-Senussi of Libya for a drink on the terrace of the Pictura bar and dinner at the Palm Court, where Quique Dacosta’s menu is inspired by modernised classics with a Mediterranean touch and under the direction of Juan Antonio Medina, who also brings back the hotel’s afternoon Tea. The dinner was exquisite, and we spent one of those evenings among friends, which can be considered magical.

After a sweet, sound sleep, I went for breakfast on the garden terrace, where the attention was impeccable, and the breakfast was delicious. It was a most pleasant way to start the day. I then visited the new spa, an urban sanctuary that includes a treatment room, an indoor pool, and a state-of-the-art gym. I underwent a facial treatment lasting over two hours, which almost brought me to a state of nirvana!

24 hours a day in one of the few hotels in the world that can be considered GREAT is a privilege. If it wasn’t because I live in Madrid, the Ritz would undoubtedly become my second home. I will revisit the restaurants and bars soon and recommend them to all my readers.

The lovely surprise
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