Right across the street from the Prado, the Mandarin Oriental Ritz opened its doors last year after a three-year transformation of the original Ritz. The project involved restoring the Palm Court’s glass dome, which hadn’t been seen for 80 years. Then, in October, a little north of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, in Salamanca, the Villa Magna reopened. Launched in 1972, this modernist granite hotel has re-emerged as Rosewood Villa Magna, dramatically transformed into a temple to mid-century glamour. The arrival of charismatic Spanish chef Jesús Sánchez, known as the King of the Anchovy, will add to the buzz. All this is no mean feat considering the absolute battering Spain took – and in particular Madrid, where the local government resisted a second lockdown despite the region suffering the highest infection rates in Europe. The capital has had higher Covid-19 death rates per capita than London, Paris, Rome or Berlin.
But the figures are finally going in the right direction and business is booming. Even multi-billionaire Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster, who owns more land in the UK than the Queen, is currently investing in four substantial residential developments in the grand Chamberí and Salamanca areas of Madrid.
Certainly for those attending Europe’s first significant society wedding a few days after restrictions were lifted in Madrid last May, it was business as usual. Spain’s aristocratic elite gathered for the event, held in the gardens at Liria Palace in central Madrid, official residence of the House of Alba, to witness the late Duchess of Alba’s grandson Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Solís, the Count of Osorno, marry real estate heiress Belén Corsini, joining two of Spain’s most powerful families. A taste of more glories to come in the Spanish capital.
The day I interview Schrager, I hear the opening date has been pushed back a tiny bit. I ask him what the hold-up is. Clue: he is famous for his laser-sharp attention to detail, with Anna Wintour once calling him ‘a perfectionist and a control freak’ (meant as a compliment).
‘We need a couple more weeks until it passes the Schrager test. It’s not done until it’s 100 per cent done. It’s like opening a play before the final act is finished. I don’t do that,’ he says, sounding more GoodFellas than ever.