El Jardín del Ritz at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid: Gastronomy & Heritage in the Art Quarter
Arguably the most iconic hotel in the Spanish capital city, the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid is located in the enviable location of Madrid's Golden Triangle of Art in close walking proximity to some of the world's most impressive and notable museums and art galleries such as the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Museo Nacional del Prado. Timeless luxury is the benchmark of the MO Ritz's hotel aesthetic and interior design with every facet, ornament and minute detail, a contribution to the property's ode to regal opulence and its fascinating royal roots. The hotel's dining operations are spearheaded by none other than leading culinary Spanish legend, Quique Dacosta with three Michelin stars awarded to his acclaimed Alicante flagship restaurant since 2012, ensuring top-quality gastronomic excellence and innovation throughout the hotel's three restaurants: Deessa, El Jardín del Ritz and Palm Court.
The idea of this grand hotel was conceived originally by King Alfonso XIII in 1910 of this historic belle-epoque palace designed that has hosted royalty, nobility, and esteemed guests from all over the world, and even till today, boasts an art collection as remarkable as its regal history. Today, the MO Ritz Madrid honours the prestige of the Spanish capital's prominent artistic repertoire and lavish, bountiful heritage by incorporating it into its interior design and art exhibitions dotted around the hotel.
Just past the entrance, we were greeted by the rotunda brass and nickel sculpture adorning the ceiling replacing the usual traditional chandelier. This structure is inspired by the nearby beautiful botanical sanctuary Parque del Retiro with the golden leaves being representative of Madrid's own native trees and the silver embodying the embrace of other foreign plants in the park. Both natural and artificial light reflect light constantly off the brass and nickel leaves and sculpture sways and moves each time wind from the front door opening seeps in. Be sure to find some time to take a cup of coffee in the lovely Palm Court just a few steps past the lobby. It is the hotel's focal point, placed right in the centre under an expansive crystal dome ceiling that illuminates the space with endless natural light, a swanky, sophisticated palatial-like open area plush velvet floral and botanical-patterned upholstery.
Before we reached the garden for our lunch, we were taken through the hotel's stately Pictura bar, possibly one of the most fascinating venues within the hotel, and where my absolute favourites series of the MO Ritz art collection is displayed in. An elegant and stylish bar with a prominent gold colour scheme against more neutral tones depicting the timeless grandeur this property embodies, set to be one of the most vibrant and upscale nightlife hotspots to come in Madrid. The highlight of this bar is clued in by its eponymous name, Pictura. Yes, it is the stunning series of fourteen commissioned works of arts shot and created by Madrid-based photographer Paula Anta, aptly titled Portrait Gallery, of the faces of current Spanish artists in a style which imitates the nobility's traditional picture galleries, similar to the Old Masters' portraits but set in the era of today. Much like the intention behind portraits of yesteryear, Anta's portrait collection pays homage to the vital creative figures who shape our artistic scene and continue to pave forward the path of the arts, such as musicians, writers, visual artists, architects and so on.
Lunch at The Ritz Garden // Almuerzo en el Jardín del Ritz
We stepped into the hotel's garden, a resplendent, alfresco botanical paradise that affords its guests an unobstructed view of the property's grandiose exterior under the effervescent summer noon's sunlight. Though the outdoor area is large, the layout of the restaurant makes dining there feel wonderfully intimate with large marble tables, sofas and chairs in their own little area surrounded and cordoned off by lush foliage and shrubbery along with yawning parasols overhead for incredible privacy. This elegant corner of the palatial gardens serves a signature amuse-bouche tapas menu that places unrivalled quality of produce and culinary mastery coupled with impeccable service in an enchanting, balmy environment at the forefront of El Jardín's concept.
As we perused our menu we sipped on some Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne and studied the restaurant's broad selection of Spanish fare with mouthwatering traditional staples like the Paella Valenciana, Beef Tartare served on its bone and marrow and Chipirones a la brasa (grilled baby squids) and Padrón Peppers available to order a-la-carte. The Menú Degustación El Jardín del Ritz is available to try for those who wish to try the full gastronomic experience that the restaurant has on offer at 56 euros per person, including a welcome snack, two cold starters, two warm starters, a main dish and a dessert.
Of course, as it was only our second day in Spain, we thought it only obligatory to kick the lunch off with a famed plate of Jamón de Bellota, 100% acorn-cured Iberian ham Torreón along with Pan Cristal con Tomate as the local Spaniards do. Needless to say, being that it is the finest ham in the world having aged free-range over two years on an acorn-fed diet, every piece of this exquisite ham is a truly tantalising treat for both gustatory and olfactory senses. The fresh tart and zestiness of the tomato spread onto the sea-salt-crusted and olive-oil-lathered bread make a classic, fool-proof accompaniment to the Iberian ham.
The specials came highly recommended by our gracious server so we heeded her advice and ordered the Grilled Artichokes with Sea Urchin Foam, a wonderfully innovative dish that can be served either as a starter or a main course with an egg yolk cooked at a low-temperature hidden in the centre of the dish. The charred artichokes were plated almost in the shape of a flower with the sea urchin foam drizzled over on top and we really appreciated the unique character of this dish. The flavours were smoky and palatable between the blend of bitter notes of the artichoke and the uni's umami-salty sweetness, not to mention the satisfying creamy texture of the yolk hidden within.
Another special that we ordered was the Grilled Whole Lobster and Beurre Blanc with Caviar. It's hard to go wrong with a premium piece of lobster and the best way to enjoy such quality seafood is, in my opinion, to keep it simple and grill it. Presented simply, allowing the stunning vibrant colours of the lobster to speak for itself, the meat was succulent, juicy and stored all of the wonderful smoky flavours and aromas from being grilled. To add another layer of sensational flavours and textures, the silky and creamy Beurre Blanc with Caviar can be poured on top of the lobster, lending a perfect combination of mild sweet with tangy and slightly vinegary notes.
When in Spain, it's a given that we must try the Paella, especially at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid, where chef Quique Dacosta is heralded for his mastery at Arroz dishes. So for our main course, a massive, fragrant serving of Paella Tradicional Valenciana con Arroz with the rabbit meat replaced by chicken. Prepare to be blown out the water by this mouthwatering, aromatic and flavoursome paella where you experience stand-out Spanish produce and fresh ingredients combined with traditional techniques and authentic flavours all infused into one gigantic sizzling pan of firm, savoury rice. Not to mention, the paella dish is easily the most aesthetically pleasing course in possibly all of Spanish cuisine, each time a piping hot Paella is carried out of the kitchen, heads will be turning.
The rightful conclusion to our gastronomic lunch was always going to be with dessert. And since we are well into the summer season, El Jardín del Ritz offers a very special, lovely dessert that is perfect for the hot weather and a showcase of the iconic purple madrileña flora: Yogur y Violetas. A refreshing, summer-appropriate dessert yielding an airy, light creamy texture from yoghurt in tandem with a pleasing crunch from the candied little rocks embedded around the plate. The unique taste of the violet ice cream was a wonderful surprise that struck the perfect balance of aromatic, floral notes without being overwhelming as a result of the counterbalance of dairy milk and the yoghurt.
The Flan Untuoso de Café is Spain's most prominent postre. The sweet custard, creamy dessert that has a delightful wobble to it is beloved nationwide and a common sweet treat brought out from the fridge in homes for families to enjoy. The enticing fragrance of roasted dulce café beckons you first and the first creamy bite feels luxurious and light in texture and you'll get a taste of this custardy flan soaked in coffee-caramel syrup, the signature taste of Spanish sweet treats. Be sure to get a scoop of that whipped cream on the side for some extra indulgence.
El Jardín del Ritz at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid
Instagram: @clarabangkok | Location: El Jardín del Ritz at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid, Plaza de la Lealtad 5, 28014 Madrid, Spain | Instagram: @mo_ritzmadrid | Facebook: @MandarinOrientalRitzMadrid
Phone: +34 91 701 68 22