Scotland on Sunday travel: Madrid
Make sure you get the right hotel on your visit to Madrid. NH Hotels have almost 30 in the Spanish capital, with seven that fall under their five-star NH Collection banner.This nine-year-old 83-room one, in the Barrio de las Letras literary district, was originally designed as a palace in the 18th century by Juan de Villanueva – the same architect who designed the Prado museum and the Plaza Mayor, no less. I’ve stayed at other NH hotels, and their aesthetic is very cool, simple and calming. Perfecto in a hot and busy city. As it inhabits the end of a block, this Neoclassical building has three entrances. We enter through the Plaza des Angel one, where bottles of cava on ice, and a sugar fix of iced fruit tea and jelly sweeties await us.
Budget or boutique?It’s not a design hotel created for Instagrammers. This is a tasteful space for those who want to glide along marble corridors and feel discreetly pampered. Also, though there are no obvious candles, it smells so good.
Room serviceI was hoping that we would be staying in one of their very cool Premium Rooms, which are up in the rafters, with exposed beams. However, my expectations are surpassed when I find we’ve been upgraded to a 78-square-metre suite. It’s a split level space, with a living area (including a couch/pull-out bed) in neutral tones set off by tasteful still-lifes. There’s also a plush Italian marble bathroom, storage and study spaces on the bottom level and a mezzanine boudoir, up a set of spot-lit steps. Open the wooden shutters downstairs and step on to one of the three wrought iron Juliet balconies, two of which look on to the side of the Parroquia de San Sebastian and its bell (not chiming, thankfully).
Wining and diningThe hotel has its own quiet ground floor restaurant, with main courses around the €20 mark, and a bar. There are plenty of cervecerias, with loads of outdoor seating, nearby. If you’re feeling flush, Paco Roncero’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, La Terraza del Casino, is just a short walk away, as is Toga, a more moderately priced hipster place where we tried (and failed) to bag a table. For a coffee fix, stroll to Acid Cafe. Or splurge your daily calorie quota at the hotel’s buffet breakfast. Served under chain mail chandeliers and a mosaic of a clockwork horse, there are juices, yoghurt, appropriately gooey-centred tortillas, a good selection of meat, cheese and bread, and warm crêpes and pastries. You can also order from their à la carte, which includes intriguing options such as low temperature egg with potato foam parmentiere and truffle oil, creamy chocolate with whipped cream or sweet potato toast with guacamole, banana and chia seeds.
Worth getting out of bed forMadrid is a walkable city, and you’re an easy stroll to Retiro Park, where you can have a shot on one of the blue rowing boats and try not to collide with any of the other amateur Popeyes. For more greenery, the Real Jardin Botanico is just next door, with its beautiful displays of dahlias and greenhouses.No trip to Madrid is complete with a visit to the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia galleries. In the other direction from the hotel, you’ll find the Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor.
Little extrasWe appreciated the hotel’s civilised check-out time of noon (check in is the equally generous 3pm). They also have a 24/7 gym, and a Wellness Area for treatments. The products in the room are by Penhaligon’s, and we were left plenty of bottled water, tea bags, little chocolates on the pillow at turn down and there’s a well stocked Nespresso machine. There’s also free wifi and 24-hour room service.
Guest book commentsFrom enduring our many questions to making reservations for amazing dinners, the staff couldn’t have been more patient. The rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable. The location is perfect and we were able to walk to everything.Gaby Soutar
Rooms start from €210 in November, €170 in December. NH Collection Madrid Palacio de Tepa, San Sebastian, 2, Madrid (+34 91 389 6490, www.nh-hotels.com). For more information on the city, see www.esmadrid.com