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Spain’s capital, Madrid is taking its rightful place among Europe’s most exciting city break destinations. Sarah Gordon gives an insider’s guide

Ernest Hemingway summed up the Spanish capital quite accurately when he said: “To go to bed at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer.”

After all, this is a city where dinner doesn’t start until 10pm, where cosy bars are found on every corner and where and fried doughnut-style churros and chocolate are served as breakfast to those returning from a night out at 6am.

Barcelona may be famed for its Gaudi architecture and beach style, but Madrid is known as the true city of Spaniards, where lively locals love nothing more than meeting in plazas for a caña (small beer), where all conversations happen 10 decibels louder than necessary and where, as Hemingway noted: “Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the café.”

Perhaps it was this laid-back love of life that attracted the writers of Spain’s Golden Age to the smoky tapas bars of what is now known as the Barrio de las Letras, or District of Letters. Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Francisco de Quevedo all frequented this neighbourhood, which is still famous as an artistic hub thanks to Madrid’s three spectacular art galleries: The Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia.

Whether it is elegant architecture, a love of art, or culinary prowess that brings you to this city, Madrid won’t disappoint.

And with new boutiques, eateries and ultra-stylish bars opening every week, Spain’s underrated capital is taking its rightful place among Europe’s most exciting city break destinations.

Where to stay


Bless Hotel, Madrid

For a city that never sleeps, Madrid certainly has plenty of hotel options, offering everything from old-world elegance to trend-setting style. The Gran Hotel Inglés is the city’s newest luxury hotel… and also its oldest. It went into business in 1886, welcoming the great and the good from writers to bullfighters, and has just reopened its doors following an extensive revamp. With Art Deco touches, a sleek spa and an oh-so-chic cocktail bar it is once again the place to see and be seen.

Chueca is at the heart of Madrid’s trendy bar and restaurant scene and its most stylish address is the Only You boutique hotel in a 19th century mansion. Set around a glamorous mirrored courtyard, the hotel unfolds to reveal a library, all navy blue tones and Chesterfield sofas, and a low lit lounge bar where you can enjoy a fino nightcap with the city’s fashionable set.

In January, another glamorous hotel opens its doors. Bless Hotel in the refined Salamanca district will have all the requisites of a modern luxury hotel; a rooftop pool, spa and a restaurant by 10 Michelin-star Basque chef Martín Berasategui.

Where to shop

Casa de Diego

Casa de Diego

From the exclusive brands that line the Serrano street in the Salamanca district to the Chueca-based fashion brand Ecoalf, creating fashion pieces from recycled plastic (Queen Sofia is a fan), Madrid promises style at every turn. It is also where you can find those specialised boutiques lost long ago in many other cities.

Casa de Diego has been around for more than 150 years and sells and repairs everything from canes and umbrellas to castanets, but it is most famous for its beautiful handmade fans, while family-run Casa Hernanz has been selling Spain’s iconic espadrille shoes since 1840.

Spanish tailors have often been overlooked in favour of their European counterparts, but they offer great detailing and extremely good value for money, with a tailored suit often starting from 1,800-2,500 euros (£1,600-£2,200). Try three of the leading tailors; Reillo Sastre, Langa and Manuel Calvo de Mora.

Beyond its sartorial credentials, Madrid offers a delightful mix of other speciality shops, from the wine emporium that is Lavinia – complete with its own gastro bar – to the olive oils of Patrimonio Olivarero and cheese specialist Queseria Cultivo.

Dining in style

Manuel Calvo de Mora

Manuel Calvo de Mora

Madrid may be famed for its tapas bars, offering delicious jamon iberico and crispy croquetas, but its food scene has undergone a sea-change in recent years. You can still enjoy tapas dishes at traditional spots such as historic Bodega de la Ardosa and the bustling San Miguel market right by the Plaza Mayor, but you are also spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining.

With 21 Michelin stars in total, Madrid attracts the nation’s greatest chefs. David Muñoz’s DiverXO has three stars for its artistic menu and ambience, which he describes as similar to Cirque du Soleil, while Ramón Freixa’s self-named restaurant has two stars and a tasting menu served in surroundings of pared-down elegance.

Beyond Michelin-star style, there are so many wonderful eateries to choose from. Botin is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest restaurant in the world, having opened in 1725 (and yes, Hemingway had his own table here), and Bodega de los Secretos serves contemporary cuisine to tables set in the alcoves of a 17th century wine cellar.

An artistic hub

The Caixa Forum

The Caixa Forum

Madrid is known as an arts city, helped in no small part by centuries of Spanish royals and aristocrats buying works of art to decorate their many palaces. The grand Prado museum first featured works of art from royal collections and is now home to the Spanish masters Goya and Velázquez, as well as works from all over Europe. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, featuring 20th century masterpieces, and the eclectic Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza complete the city’s spectacular artistic trio.

But Madrid’s artistic pedigree runs deeper still. The Caixa Forum hosts everything from contemporary art exhibitions to poetry readings and festivals, the Museo Sorolla is dedicated to the beautiful Mediterranean light painted by Joaquín Sorolla, and the elegant Real Academia de Bellas Artes is an impressive Old Masters gallery.

Madrid is also an architectural delight, its wide boulevards packed with Baroque grandeur (just take a stroll down Gran Via).

The vast Plaza Mayor is lined with ochre-coloured buildings, the 18th century Palacio Real is well worth a visit and bullring Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is still in use. Add in genteel El Retiro, the landscaped park and gardens in the centre of the city, and the huge Casa de Campo park just beyond the palace, and you can see why Madrid is considered such a liveable city.

The best bars

Viva Madrid

Viva Madrid

One of the cities with the highest density of bars in the world, Madrid will certainly spoil you when it comes to evenings out. And there is something for everyone, from Hemingway’s favourite haunt Cerveceria Alemana, where little has changed since it opened in 1904, to the palatial glamour of 1862 Dry Bar, set in a grand 19th century townhouse.

If it is tradition you want, the city still delights in classic bodega bars, often with a history stretching back more than a century. Dusty bottles line the walls at understated La Venencia (another Hemingway favourite), while Taberna de Angel Sierra is a delight of traditional coloured tiles and wood panelling and is perfect for a pre-dinner vermut (vermouth).

Viva Madrid first opened in 1856 and has been given a new lease of life as a cocktail bar and traditional tavern in one by Argentinian mixologist Diego Cabrera, while the Spanish have their own take on the gin and tonic, serving it in grand goblets, at the aptly named Gin Club.

Don’t miss Madrid’s many rooftop bars, perfect for enjoying great views and the warm evenings from spring to autumn. Gingko Sky Bar has just opened on the roof of the VP Plaza España Hotel, while The Roof at ME, atop the Melia Reina Victoria hotel, is an exclusive spot with signature cocktails and a DJ.

Spain’s capital, Madrid is taking its rightful

Vents in men’s jackets can be traced back to equestrianism and the military, says Robin Dutt

I have to say that when it comes to vents, I am somewhat divided. Much tailoring and many tailoring devices still used today owe their origins to horse riding or the military origins – and frequently both. Vents are no exception. They were, and are, designed to make riding a horse more comfortable, as the skirt of the coat can flare over part of the horse’s back and improve the flow and feel of that garment.

There are three types of vent – unless you find something quirky by some avant-garde designer type, who slices into the coat with whimsy, creating strips which might look more appropriate on a mediaeval tunic.

Vents are a matter of choice (some might say, taste) but also the directive of the garment itself. Personally, I favour, say on a blazer (particularly with wider than usual lapels), a double vent which always looks correct as it forms a balance and rarely a single – associated more with Italian sartoria and so perhaps, perfect for a Vespa.

And in the case of an evening coat, the skirting of that garment must flow seamlessly with the trousers – so no vents here. Just one, solid black, simple form.

A coat without a vent can, especially in a sporting example, look quite elegant and fluid. But in this case, this writer prefers the cloth to be made of woven material and multi-hued. A fine Harris Tweed, perhaps. Images of 1950s American actors sporting coats that were longer in the body spring to mind as mostly vent-less.

On a traditional morning coat, one of those tailoring staples, little has changed since the very beginning. There are no pockets externally and rarely internally, to achieve a cleaner, smoother line. The vent here has a dual purpose. The first, we are already familiar with. This long vent sometimes edges to match the silk lapels, also conceals an internal slit pocket to house cash, cards – and other essentials for a night time’s campaign.

Vents in men’s jackets can be traced

Nowadays the kitchen is no longer just for cooking. For some it has become a kind of status symbol. With fitted kitchens this is difficult to realize. That’s why the Zbären manufacture from Lenk (canton Berne) in Switzerland specializes in handmade designer kitchens

Ever since the kitchen has become more and more a living space, customer requirements have become more individual and sophisticated. Today, the kitchen should harmonize with the rest of the interior, look aesthetically pleasing, and still be functional. It should radiate the personality of the owner. The kitchen decorators have to react to that. That’s why Zbären manufacture specialises in hand-made kitchens made from selected materials.

Tradition and craftmanship: Over three generations, Zbären Kreativküchen AG has developed from a small mountain joinery into a world-renowned kitchen manufacturer whose unique kitchen items can be found not only throughout Switzerland but also around the world. The success is based on the continuous development through new ideas and experimentation with new materials. Constantly motivated by demanding customers who discover the craft and artistic potential of the company and challenge it in a positive way. The result is impressive, exclusive kitchen artwork.


Nowadays the kitchen is no longer just

Savile Row Style’s resident guru, Robin Dutt, praises Anderson & Sheppard for its ineffable sense of English style

Speaking of the soft drape… if you are in conversation with anyone who has any interest in ‘sartoria’, the one tailor possibly to be mentioned will be Anderson & Sheppard. Like a particular hallmark, expressing provenance and maker, the mastery of the shape of the drape has, since 1906, been at the epicentre of the individuality at the heart of this establishment. Its senior directors share over 100 years of experience.

Sir Hardy Amies famously (and often) trumpeted about sharp suiting being a vulgarity; a knife needs to be sharp – a suit does not. “Ease, peace, flow” was his making mantra when it came especially to the male wardrobe and he wrote lists of tips on how to be elegant in his famous ABC of men’s fashion published in the 1960s. And in a way, is not Amies’ tailoring philosophy at the heart of Anderson & Sheppard, too?

Beautiful clothes speak without a voice.

The late A.A. Gill, who was a contributor to my first art exhibition I Criticus in Notting Hill in 1987, spoke highly of Anderson & Sheppard. A sonic writer, he once described a suit made for him here as “a thing of striking beauty” – obviously remembering Keats.

Model turned designer, Tom Ford simply says that, Anderson & Sheppard is the best tailor in the world.

One might reasonably opine that all the above mentioned had no reason to want a soundbite attached to their names. Each Savile Row tailor’s presence on this unique London and internationally renowned street (once a street of doctors) has its own unique identity – easily understood, easily trusted. For, when one finds one’s tailored carapace, it is a matter of lifelong trust. And, whilst it may seem that the tailors are in competition, this is not really so simple. Everyone on the Row can collectively boast over a thousand years – or more – of contributing to a unique identity. A very English affair – the envy of the tailoring world.

There is no enmity in The Row. Perhaps, mutual arch admiration. In the tailoring alphabet, “A” is for Admiration. “J” is not for jealousy. Like an extended family, you can’t love everyone but you acknowledge all who are part of it. There is a reason why those who are there, are there. There is obviously a reason why others, so far from sartoria, crave a Savile Row address.

Anderson & Sheppard was established in 1906 and, like any true tailor on the Row, boasts several loyal staff with especial disciplines from Front of House (very important) to finishing (the outcome). Each element of any great tailoring house seems labyrinthine but it is actually and more importantly, logical.

Fabric to those who love it and understand it has soul. Fabric itself might be said to be the tailor.

I interviewed the great designer Yuki some time ago and he insisted that he cut as little as possible into the material, because for him, cutting cloth was akin to cutting skin. Master tailors know the importance of the performance of cloth.

One would hope to trust a doctor. It is the same with a tailor. One is in their hands. One might come in with an idea of what it is thought might make one a sartorial Adonis. But the masters must prevail. They know what will suit – quite literally.

The English Drape is also known as the London Cut. In 1906, it was a reaction to the constricting tailoring (sharpness again?) of the recently extinguished Victorian era. Dr Jaeger apart, who was passionately advocating the use of only natural fibres next to the skin, might have made a noble bow. Indeed, to emphasise the importance of any indispensable natural material, sourcing remains the central tenet. And what better way to remind all those who choose to care that the Campaign for Wool, which first took place in the autumn of 2010 and again in 2015, drove a flock of sheep down Savile Row? The sheep didn’t know it but they were the stars of the show. Their first skin is our second. Our second becomes our first.

Anderson & Sheppard is a typical old-school tailor. The interior is akin to a gentleman’s club, quiet, peaceful, all at ease with paintings, heritage furniture and leather-bound ledgers. Always so reassuring – even if you don’t know why. Other tailors refer to the company as “the Savile Row cardigan” – a reference to how, on the Row, one never refers to a jacket – that’s only for potatoes.

Naturally, perhaps Anderson & Sheppard’s most famous client is HRH The Prince of Wales. But is a sense, all customers are princes of their own being, princes of discernment. One might ask, what the legacy of this establishment might be? Perhaps the answer is easy enough.

Put simply, it is to be as it always has been. Even time itself can never counter real style.

Savile Row Style’s resident guru, Robin Dutt,

The team at Savile Row Gin were delighted to have received the most votes for the best gin, as voted by attendees at its first consumer gin event, The Gin Lounge held at the Oval Cricket Ground on the 11th & 12th May 2019

The team were joined on their stand by the founders of Savile Row, and the creators of the dinner jacket, Henry Poole & Co, who showcased many different cloths in addition to the original Winston Churchill fabric. Henry Poole were represented by front of house manager Anthony Rowland who gave visitors an insight into the history of Savile Row and the Henry Poole story which dates back to 1806.

Commenting on the award, Stewart Lee, CEO of Savile Row Gin told Savile Row Style: “This was an important test for Savile Row Gin as whilst many thousands of guests have enjoyed The Perfect Serve Savile Row Gin & Tonic at our partner events, this was our first public facing showcase, attended by a loyal, knowledgeable and gin-loving audience who certainly knew their Gins.”

“The overwhelming feedback over the two days was very positive for sure, and I could tell they liked it a lot, as many visitors came back at the end to buy a bottle”, added Lee. The team were joined by head mixologist Maurice Lawrence who gave visitors to the stand an in-depth talk about the gin’s twelve botanicals and what they can expect to experience when tasting this very smooth gin neat, and when served with tonic and a slice of pink grapefruit. “They loved our samples of the Perfect Serve”, Lawrence told SRS – 50ml Savile Row Gin, 150ml classic Indian tonic, a slice of pink grapefruit and a mint leaf. Lee also confirmed at the show that the brand will be exhibiting at this year’s Imbibe Live at Olympia in July.

To find out more, please visit: Savile Row Gin

Savile Row Gin winning at the Oval

The team at Savile Row Gin were