At the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Hotel, Madrid (the comma enters the official name) Christmas begins to be on everyone's lips when the rest of the city/country begins to bring out their bikinis to release for the summer.
Back in May, in the offices of this benchmark of luxury -and history- "the concept" with which the year will end is defined, explains Greg Liddell, an Australian who has been in charge as general director for two and a half years.
This year we wanted to do something with Thyssen
", he says in one of the rooms after taking a quick look at the surrounding tables.
Art has been installed in every corner of the house, decked out for the occasion.
It smells like fresh flowers;
the party is about to start.
The Christmas tree that welcomes the Ritz.
After 9:30 a.m., a door close to the reception opens and a group of people come out and disperse along nearby stairs, elevators, and doors.
It is the morning meeting, in which members of the different teams analyze everything that has happened the day before.
We see if there has been any incident and we try to solve it
," explains Rebeca Fernández, the CEO's right-hand man.
Mistakes cannot be allowed and when they occur you have to react immediately.
She has been at the Ritz for 19 years and one of her duties is to "make an exhaustive read of who is staying at all times and keep the general manager informed of it."
Borja Martín, on the phone last Tuesday, together with two members of the concierge team.
In the entrance hall under the famous transparent vault, where a Christmas tree decorated with flowers welcomes you, all the tables are already occupied.
Breakfasts are shared with the 'Financial Times' in a couple of them.
In the background, a ham cutter toils with a piece.
Delicate music accompanies the routine, while the waiters move discreetly between the tables.
Every day here is a challenge
," explains Borja Martín Guridi, the hotel's head concierge and president of the Llave de Oro Association of Spain.
The 'no' is not contemplated when a guest throws the order.
Last-minute reservations at Michelin stars with a waiting list, renting a helicopter in two hours, closing a museum for a private visit or a boutique on the Golden Mile, and even buying a bullfighter costume for an Australian client who was leaving in a few minutes. hours from the hotel... To this achiever, who
moves around Madrid with a radar to be up to date with what comes to the city
-this includes restaurants, but also shows, shops, exhibitions, concerts...-, no he is caught in a resignation.
"If a client goes to the Plaza Mayor and wants to know where to eat the best potato omelette in the area, I have to know."
Today he has 25 people under his care, including 'conçierges', bellboys, drivers...
Sergio de la Plata, the hotel's executive chef, oversees one of the desserts.
Service makes the difference
It is the phrase that is repeated from the maids to the governess, passing through the general director or the butlers.
The first luxury hotel in Spain with more than 100 years of life, it reopened its doors after a complete overhaul in April 2021.
It did so with 153 rooms -before there were 167-, 53 of them suites and a team of 370 people
, with more than 10 different nationalities.
"We have a lot of international audience, although at these parties the national one is gaining importance," says Liddell, shortly before getting up to greet a young couple with their baby who arrives in the room.
"This is part of my job," she explains when she returns to the table.
"That deal with customers, knowing who they are, taking an interest in how they are, knowing if you can help them with something...".
Now that Madrid is chaining the openings of luxury hotels, it is necessary to seek to differentiate itself from the competition.
"The 'king size' bed, the champagne, the spa... You will find that in any hotel with these characteristics.
The personalization of each stay, tailoring each guest's visit, no
," says Borja Martín,
The stewardship team plays a key role here.
It is the only hotel in Madrid with this department.
Olga Carrillo, 28 years old, has been one of the four 'butlers' (butlers in English) for a year and seven months.
This is a service included in the 53 suites.
"We investigate the tastes of the clients before they come to personalize the rooms. If there is someone who is fond of cars, we look for some miniature pieces; if there is a couple celebrating an anniversary, we decorate the rooms with family photos...
We are the intermediaries and personal assistants before, during and after the stay
", he explains with an impeccable suit designed by Jorge Vázquez. It is what they call 'MO Wow', the surprise effect with the client. Antonio Banderas, Tim Burton, Helen Mirren are some of the well-known faces with whom he has dealt lately. Cuesta give a name,
discretion is -they carry- engraved on fire.The
team of butlers works hand in hand with that of 'guest relations', which has three people, and, of course, with the 'conçierges'.
Catalina Penciuc, one of the hotel maids.
"I entered the Ritz 17 years ago."
The Ritz façade is a attraction every Christmas for tourists, but also for locals who come to see it.
The majestic building, once designed by the French architect Charles Frédéric Mewes and later updated by the Spanish Rafael de La-Hoz and the French interior designers Giller & Boissier, looks impeccable.
Mariluz Peñalver and her team from Brumalis are in charge of choosing and taking care of the flowers in the halls, the stairs, the elevators, the rooms and the façade.
Once we know the theme, we study it to adapt the flowers to the theme
", explains the florist. In 2019 she won the contest and joined the hotel team. They have a cold room and workshop, where arrangements, bouquets for a guest or vases to dress the tables also come from. The wild and natural style of Brumalis has fit in well at the Ritz. "There are five people in the workshop." And they show their chests without fuss. "The floral level of the Ritz is impressive."
Brumalis, who has a workshop and a chamber to preserve the genre, is in charge of the floral decoration and its maintenance.
In the rooms, in addition to the flowers,
absolutely everything is taken care of in detail
From today the occupation is maximum.
That night costs around 1,100 euros these days, the same as enjoying the New Year's Eve menu.
Estíbaliz Ramiro has been working in the house for more than 17 years.
"My mission is to ensure that the hotel is always clean, tidy and well decorated," explains the housekeeper or 'housekeeping' manager.
"We are three housekeepers and six floor supervisors."
Paz Torralba (in a skirt) checks the agenda with her team.
"People come to the spa, get a treatment, and then have dinner at the hotel."
A room is not delivered without a supervisor having seen it;
In the case of suites or VIP clients, they are always checked by a housekeeper.
We even carry a flashlight when we do it. We check it in a circular direction and from top to bottom so as not to leave any area of the room unanalyzed
Small details always make the difference.
"Pillowcases bear customers' initials."
They work with two types of sheets, cotton and thread, and they all have a microchip “to prevent losses.
This laundry is outside, while the customers' laundry is inside the hotel."
All the garments that go down come up impeccable in a box and many times improved.
"If we see a loose button or a ripped hem, we'll fix it, even if the client didn't ask for it."
Olga Carrillo arrived at the pioneer butler department more than a year and a half ago.
One of the hotel services that has the busiest schedule these days is The Beauty Concept spa, led by Paz Torralba.
Here the challenge is to maintain excellence every day
The center remains open 24 hours.
"People want to get pretty for the 31st but on January 1st they need a massage to relax."
And you have to answer.
"The hotel customer is highly demanding, but also highly close and affectionate."
Until the latest renovation, the Ritz did not have a spa.
"There are 15 permanent people and 10 freelance".
In addition, they do room services and have 'transfers' to take clients to any of their centers in the capital.
The entrance to the Ritz.
A few hours before Christmas Eve, the kitchens of the Ritz are smoking.
Sergio de la Plata, executive chef who left the skewers of Marbella for the bravas of Madrid, is the second of Quique Dacosta, in charge of the entire gastronomic proposal of the Ritz, which is open to the general public.
On average he puts in 15 or 16 hours at work.
"For Christmas Eve we have 130 confirmed people; for brunch on the 25th (225 euros/person), 160; we have had to double. On New Year's Eve, there are already 220 people and on January 1 we hope to reach 120."
Until Saturday they will receive merchandise for the menus, where there will be no shortage of fish and seafood soup with the traditional Ritz recipe, roasted lobster, sea bass and white veal loin from Ávila, with the endorsement of suppliers such as Pescaderías Coruñesas, Discarlux and the group Los Norteños.
"The most difficult thing is to offer the best result and make the team happy."
Going back to the beginning, all the decoration of the common spaces has a reason behind it.
Specifically, a painting: Chinese Porcelain in Flowers, by Jacques Linard, a work from the Thyssen's permanent collection.
Floral arrangements have been inspired by it, but also gastronomic experiences and Christmas events.
Beyond beauty, in its broadest sense, the initiative hides another objective.
"We have organized a 'crowdfunding' to collaborate in the restoration of the painting," explains Liddell.
Customers can buy flowers -from 400 euros- to participate in the initiative.
Luxury is petal-shaped this Christmas...
Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
Pl. of Loyalty, 5.
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