Why we’re mad about Madrid!
It’s not unusual for guides to speak fondly of their hometowns, but Pedro Jesús Jiménez has a relationship with Madrid that’s truly enviable. “It’s very special,” he told me as we were walking up Gran Via, the city’s central street. “I’m not objective. I have lived in Barcelona, London and San Francisco, but Madrid is home.” I suggested that perhaps the other places had merely romanced him but he found his true love here. “Yes, exactly,” he said, smiling. “I am in love with this city.”
I think Madrid began to seduce me the minute I tasted my first croquetas de jamón at the resto at Dear Hotel. By the time I’d had the “Gourmet Experience” at the El Corte Inglés store on Serrano Street, I was smitten. After trying the “deconstructed” club sandwich from David Muñoz’s StreetXO, the insanely addictive guacamole from Roberto Ruiz’s Salón Cascabel and the chocolate ice cream topped with cotton candy from Jordi Roca’s Rocambolesc, I understood why these chefs are all members of the Michelin club. I also learned that there’s more to Spanish imbibing than cava and sangria. At Tatel, a new hot spot whose owners include tennis champ Rafael Nadal and pop star Enrique Iglesias, I tried the smoke-infused Coco Chanel cocktail. This vodka-based sipper had notes of rhubarb, lychee and strawberry and was topped with a rose petal. The other cocktail that seemed to be having a moment in this city was the classic G and T. After trying one of the tumbler-size versions at the rooftop terrace at the Principal Madrid Hotel, I was relieved I was only an elevator ride away from my discreetly posh room.
But I didn’t just eat and drink! My other indulgences included shopping trips through the tony Salamanca neighbourhood to check out the latest Gaudí-esque collection from Delpozo, the Malasaña district for its hipster-fashion shops, like Rughara, and the popular street-food-inspired Mercado San Ildefonso. “This was supposed to be a place where people grabbed a quick bite,” explained Esther de la Cruz, who handles the PR. “But nobody wants to leave.” When I asked for the Wi-Fi password, she laughed. “The owner won’t ever have it. He wants people to talk to the people they’re with.” No wonder Jiménez fell so hard for this city. n
The luxe Principal Madrid Hotel; tapas emporium Platea Madrid (below, left)
Clockwise: Head to Tatel for cocktails, Jamonería Lopez Pascual for jamón Ibérico, El Corte Inglés for the “Gourmet Experience” and Mercado de la Reina for tapas and soup.
Spain’s famous Camper shoes