Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Ritz, Madrid- Timeless Perfection.

Flamboyant attire at Royal Ascot, thrilling matches at Wimbledon, live music watched by thousands of fans at Glastonbury; all combined with somewhat erratic weather. This can only mean one thing; it is summer time in the United Kingdom! We spent some time deliberating where we would enjoy our summer city break and decided the splendid Spanish capital Madrid would be the perfect location. Madrid is a city with its own unique, captivating charm. The beautiful Spanish architecture, rich history, artistic flair and energy combined with fabulous food and drink in the European sunshine ensures Madrid stands out for the right reasons.

A short stroll from Madrid’s city centre your eyes will be drawn to the delightfully glamorous Ritz Hotel. This five star hotel has an unspoken yet impactful aura of luxury; its white exterior is perfectly complimented by the entrances lush grass feature adorned with flowers forming the letter ‘R’ and the polite, suited doorman eager to greet you. Despite the hotels obvious beauty, the legacy behind the Ritz Madrid is arguably its most endearing feature. The hotel itself was built in 1910 under the personal supervision of Cesar Ritz on the explicit wishes of the King of Spain Alfonso XIII, in a bid to directly rival the Ritz in Paris. The present day Ritz Madrid is part of the exclusive Orient Express collection that has perfectly captured the bygone elegance, and spirit of the hotel whilst incorporating the much desired modern touches. We were particularly impressed with the extensive list of famous faces that have stayed at this hotel including; The Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Al Pacino to name but a few.

From the moment we stepped into the Ritz as cliché as this may sound it felt magical. The surrounding decor perfectly complemented the ambiance of the hotel. The lobby had a beautiful chandelier, which suitably lit-up the room, whilst the bright fresh flowers located on a table in the centre of the room yielded a glorious scent. Our check in was swift, and engaging which further confirmed our initial hunch that we were in expert hands. We were personally guided to our bedroom by a member of staff who enquired about our travels, provided us with some suggestions for enjoying the city and informed us about the bedrooms. The Ritz Madrid has adopted unique decor for each room; the bedding is equipped with embroidered linen sheets and there are options for different pillows to compliment your preference helping to ensure you get an excellent night’s sleep. The rooms also have marble bathrooms filled with suitable amenities and stylish yet comfortable bath robes. Once we were settled into the room, we were left to unpack and marvel at our bedroom. The bedroom made us feel like royalty. We really liked how the room was spacious, airy and perfectly presented. An additional touch that we found especially pleasing was the exceptional personal touch; for example when we returned to retire for the evening our beds had been turned and a little chocolate sat on our pillow awaiting us.

For those of you, who like us are, to put it lightly, fond of the afternoon tea pastime, or perhaps you are keen to try it for the first time, you will be delighted to know that the Ritz holds its very own afternoon tea. Afternoon tea is served from 4.30pm-7.30pm daily in two locations. The first location is outside in the hotels gardens where a live pianist serenades you with delightful melodies throughout your afternoon tea seating. The gardens are pleasing with large water features and bright flowers; once again in keeping with the very high standards of the hotel the area is spotless with well presented white furniture matching the colour of the hotel. The second location is inside the hotels’ lobby bar which is equally luxurious with its own charm for days when the weather is a little more reminiscent of the weather back home. 

As to be expected from such a distinguished hotel, afternoon tea at the Ritz Madrid is a grand affair with a well planned menu catering for a range of dietary requirements. Whilst the inspiration behind the afternoon tea menu is heavily influenced by English tradition; the menu incorporates Spanish flair into the food items within this afternoon tea. Another feature to the menu which is both enjoyable and novel is the wide array of items that you can order in addition to your afternoon tea. A popular add-on is a local treat, hot chocolate accompanied by Churros (which in essence is a Spanish style doughnut) with a pot of Valrhona chocolate for dipping. This is just one example of how the Ritz Madrid stunningly combines local food, and indeed an insight into local life within the confinements of unrivalled luxury. It is also worth noting that all of the items served within this afternoon tea (and additional on items) are fresh, alongside being sourced from the very best pick of local produce. We can personally testify this yields a truly splendid taste. In light of the above information, our levels of excitement were reaching very high levels as we began to imagine what our first afternoon tea in Spain would entail.

We were guided to our table by our waiter David; whom from the onset took great delight in ensuring we really enjoyed our afternoon tea experience. Our table was perfectly presented with a crisp white table cloth, and exclusive Ritz Madrid chinaware (delicate blue flowers, with a gold rim) and silverware. As we sat down, David provided us with a little stool to avoid our bags touching the ground and proceeded to tuck us into our table before placing the napkins on our laps. Afternoon tea began with the menu being explained to us before we selected our first tea (throughout the afternoon tea we were informed you could change teas). We selected a  classic ‘Jasmine’ which had a refreshing taste and ‘Diana Cazadora’ a black tea exclusive to the Ritz Madrid. We were told that the tea was first introduced by a Sultan from India who was staying at the hotel. The tea proved to be very popular with other guests and has consequently stayed on the menu ever since. Our tea was served in elegant silver tea pots, and poured for us through delicate strainers.

As we sat sipping our tea, taking in the beautiful surroundings whilst the pianist melodies played in the background we could not have felt more content or relaxed. David returned within a suitable time frame with our tantalising afternoon tea, presented on a silver three tier stand. We were talked through the differing tiers before we proceeded to indulge. The lower tier consisted of finger sandwiches served on white bread with their crusts removed; the selection entailed the following cucumber and tomato, chicken, egg, salmon and ham from Extremadura. We really enjoyed this selection, and although a subject of much deliberation between us the ham sandwich was our favourite. The middle tier was filled with freshly baked scones (sultanas/plain) and plum cake accompanied with clotted cream and strawberry confiture. Once again we really enjoyed the contents of this tier, but our preference edged towards the plum cake due to intense flavour. The top tier of the afternoon tea, our favourite was adorned with delicate handmade pastries ranging from fruit tarts, mini meringue cakes and pastries filled with light cream. We are unable to determine a favourite for this tier, but can happily agree each one tasted delicious. I must also mention that throughout our afternoon tea David kept a watchful eye over us, to ensure we were enjoying our food, clean plates were provided to us between tiers and even to offer helpful suggestions such as a change from hot tea to refreshing mint iced tea.

Feeling what can only be described as extremely naughty, perhaps encouraged by our lovely surroundings we decided to indulge further by exploring some of the additional items on the menu. There are three items on the menu that we really enjoyed; and think perfectly compliment the afternoon tea, or are divine enough to be enjoyed on their own. The first item is lemon macaroons with cinnamon dusted raspberries. This dessert is beautifully presented on a long white plate and comprised of four light purple macaroons with a succulent lemon filling. The macaroons are bursting with flavour and can only be described as heavenly. The second item is inspired by an exhibition devoted to the artist Salvador Dalí being held in Madrid at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The Ritz Madrid has designed a fabulous caramel cake, with admirable attention to detail to recreate one of the artist’s most famous pieces of work ‘Melting Clocks’. The cake itself is the very essence of indulgence, with a rich taste and bursting with popping candy that yields a unique yet enjoyable experience in your mouth. Our last recommendation was our favourite, violet sorbet served in a martini glass. We were told the inspiration behind this desserts creation was based on the King of Spain Alfonso XIII. Every year of marriage, and every birth of an heir the King would give his wife a diamond flower, based on the popular Madrid based violet candy of that time. The Ritz has transformed this into a freshly made sorbet, with an enticing aroma and unmatchable taste.

Our afternoon tea experience at the Ritz Madrid was a truly fabulous affair, We left feeling relaxed, very spoilt and suitably full! We think this afternoon tea would be a perfect choice for birthdays, anniversaries or like us because you are feeling rather indulgent on a Sunday afternoon. We had a magical weekend staying at the Ritz Madrid, which must be accredited to not only the beauty of the hotel and reputation but the courteous, and helpful staff under the guidance of Alvaro Marzal that really; make sure your satisfaction and happiness is maintained the entire duration of your stay.

Served 4:30 – 7:30pm 

Price: €32 per person, VAT included

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