Madrid, Spain’s central capital, is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry
Tucked away on a quiet backstreet between the buzzing landmark plazas and terrazas of Colón and Alonso Martínez, Hotel Orfila occupies a small 19th-century palace with a gorgeous, wood-shuttered neoclassical facade. Though it is now under the Relais & Chateux banner, manager Verónica García Castelo effectively grew up in the building, her parents having bought, restored and preserved it with scrupulous attention to detail. Each room is individually furnished with period-appropriate pieces sourced from auction houses and antique dealers across Europe. Deluxe suites are downright regal, and make for one of the most classically luxurious stays in the city. This is very much the kind of place where one might recline on a Venetian chaise lounge or in a whirlpool bath with a complimentary half-bottle of good Andalucían sherry. In-house restaurant El Jardín de Orfila makes elegant use of the lush secluded courtyard, and well-heeled Madrileños book regular tables for the popular Sunday brunch. Award-winning chef Mario Sandoval took over the kitchen in 2017, designing his own seasonal eight-course dinner menus with an emphasis on Mediterranean seafood. Tactile thought and care extends to the handmade Irish linens and silverware by British artisans Mappin & Webb.
A well-tailored shirt is to a man what a little black dress is to a woman. In that sense, Camisería Burgos is the little black dressmaker to Madrid’s male elite, with a clientele that reads like a who’s who of Spanish society, from royals to bullfighters, artists and aristocrats. The decor is just as it was when the store opened in 1906, with the cloth cutting – Italian cotton, silk, linen – done in its workshop on the premises. Shirt-making at Burgos is dedicated to individuality, from the deeply personal process of choosing the desired fabric from 2,000 options to the tailor’s hand-drawn creation of an individual pattern and the selection of cuffs, collar and embroidery. Each pattern is logged permanently at the store for subsequent orders as, really, there is little chance Burgos’s customers won’t be back.
Sala de Despiece
Chef Javier Bonet grew up in the Santa Catalina fresh food market in Mallorca, where his parents had a butcher shop, and his childhood is on display in Sala de Despiece – literally, the cutting room. Decorated like a meat locker, with waiters dressed in butcher aprons and styrofoam meat and fish coolers covering the walls, Sala de Despiece pays homage to great raw materials. Delicately sliced chuletón (T-bone steak) carpaccio is served with minced tomato and truffle sauces and booms with flavour (though it could be a bit salty for those who fear the white stuff). The tomato salad – crunchy tomato halves served with black salt and an injector of olive oil – is a study in simple perfection. Razor clams come topped with sweet angel-hair pumpkin and shiso vinegar, while the seared tuna cubes are armed with a spicy red alegrias riojanas pepper and thickened soya yuzu sauce. Even the artichokes are meaty, served with eel, black olives and powdered almond and a pomegranate seed pond bordered by stracciatella. The food, served at a large white bar as dance music wafts overhead, arrives on metal trays with paring knives (the bar is first come/first served; a separate “butcher’s table” for twelve can be reserved all or in part). The wine list, like the menu, is handwritten on a product list, ample, and not painfully expensive. Opened in 2013, Sala de Despiece is an integral part of a food crawl along Ponzano Street’s exploding number of restaurants and bars; it has become such a phenomenon that it has a hashtag: #ponzaning.
Madrid has several family-run guitar stores that date back generations, also serving as workshops and museums for some of the most beautiful instruments ever made in Spain. This may well be the daddy of them all, founded by José Ramírez in 1870. There’s some knotty family history tied up in the place. José was an acknowledged genius, who founded the Madrid School of Guitar Builders and invented the tablao guitar that solved the sound problems of flamenco players in his day. He had a falling out with brother and fellow luthier Manuel, who left to open a rival shop where a legendary guitar was made for Andrés Segovia that is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Many big names have bought here over the decades, including American classicist Christopher Parkening and veteran pop megastar Sting – an accomplished player of the Spanish guitar. The shop is now run by great-grandson José Ramírez IV and his sister Amalia, one of the few female master luthiers in the country. They use a few modern techniques these days, but still practice the old ways in the workshop.
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