The big trip

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid review: fine-tuning the art of hospitality

New addition to global hospitality group is perfect staging point to explore Spanish capital’s Golden Triangle of Art

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid entrance

“Music and art are the guiding lights of the world,” Pablo Picasso once wrote. Now, visitors to the capital of the Spanish artist’s home country can get a dazzling dose of both by booking into a new hotel just across the road from the home of his antiwar masterpiece Guernica.

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid opened in July on the site of a former car park directly opposite the Reina Sofia, one of the three famous museums that make up the city’s Golden Triangle of Art. Which left me perfectly placed to tune into Madrid’s flourishing arts scene after checking in for a long weekend. 

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid lobby guitar sculpture

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid lobby

The main stage

The Hard Rock Hotel Madrid hits the right note from curtain up, with a life-size Las Meninas sculpture adorned with song lyrics in the entrance hall and a vast hanging guitar sculpture dominating the glass-ceiling lobby. And the lobby bar provides a flavour of local street art, with a specially commissioned mural inspired by the La Movida post-Franco countercultural movement.

GMT+1 lobby bar

GMT+1 lobby bar

Of course, this being a Hard Rock venue, the hotel is also packed with music memorabilia, including a blue denim jeans outfit worn by Elvis Presley and, my personal favourite, platform boots from David Bowie.

Souvenirs from the more contemporary music scene include a jacket worn by Nicki Minaj and a Rihanna dress in the lobby, with further displays of rock and pop goodies adorning walls throughout the seven floors above. 

The rock vibes extend to the hotel’s 161 rooms, where guests can channel their own musical talents with Hard Rock’s Sound of Your Stay experience. Like all of the group’s hotels, the Madrid venue offers free in-room loans of Fender electric guitars and amps, as well as vinyl records and players, plus personalised Spotify playlists for guests who email ahead specifying their preferred genres.

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid’s Rock Star Suite

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid’s Rock Star Suite

The in-room entertainment also includes Rock Om, yoga sessions set to DJ-curated soundtracks available at the click of a button on the Hard Rock TV system. Along with flatscreens, guests get Lavazza coffee machines for pre-workout shots of caffeine, and a pillow menu to up the comfort levels come bedtime.

There’s further relaxation to be had down on the sun loungers beside the pool in the hotel’s Roxy Garden, a mini oasis in the middle of the city that also has a small outdoor fitness area. But while this gym bunny appreciated the workout options, when in Spain, do as Spaniards do – and one thing they do really, really well is tapas.

Catering crew 

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid’s food operations are overseen by Juan Perez, a half-Spanish, half-Venezuelan chef who puts his own spin on the various menus on offer here. 

Most of the eating is done at the hotel’s Sessions restaurant, which serves food all day. The restaurant interior is a stylish, wood-clad space inspired by the inside of a Spanish guitar, but my companions and I opted to enjoy our tapas lunch out on the balcony overlooking the pool. 

As any Brit abroad will testify, everything tastes better under the sun. This menu could hold its own anywhere though, with highlights including artichokes roasted in olive oil with salt flakes, and a Wagyu beef tartare that – whisper it – tempted this non-red meat eater into falling off the wagon. Even more tempting yet was the Sessions Guitar for Two brunch, a vast selection of breads, pastries, cheeses, charcuterie board and more, all served in a guitar case (because why use trays when they have all those Fenders?). 

But the highlight of the hotel’s food line-up sits hidden behind a mirrored door in Sessions. Only six people at a time can step into the concealed Green Room to sample an exclusive nine-course menu based on chef Perez’s life, served and explained by the man himself. 

The Green Room

The Green Room

Our party of Green Roomers enjoyed the show at the sole table in the Twin Peaks-esque space of mirrored walls with a green velvet curtain through which Perez and our lovely hostess Melanie made their entrances and exits. More prosaic guests may find this dining experience a little heavy on the melodrama: think flashing lights and a soundtrack of nature sounds, atmospheric tunes and pre-recorded voiceovers representing Perez as a child.  

Few are likely to criticise the food, however, with standouts including a savoury corn crème brulée, sea bream with bread crust and roast butter sauce, and for pudding, the “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it” creation of flaked bread infused with orange curry. 

Each course is accompanied by fine wines, superb beers and smoking (some, literally) cocktails. Diners who are still standing at the end can enjoy a nightcap out in the GMT+1 lobby bar or up on the RT60 roof bar. The latter is open every day from 7pm until 1am, and features live DJ sets that draw crowds of local people too.

And the presence of these Madrileños provides a great opportunity for guests to get insider tips on their home city.

RT60 rooftop bar

RT60 rooftop bar

Stars of the city

Hard Rock Hotel Madrid is just a five-minute walk from the city’s main train station, and within 20 minutes of the other two museums that complete the Golden Triangle, the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza

To one side of the hotel lies the area known as Barrio de Las Letras (Literary Quarter), which once housed the likes of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes. To the other is Lavapiés (literally, “wash the feet”), a multicultural neighbourhood dotted with cafes and bars that has become a hipster hotspot. 

To fuel up for our explorations, we took a tip from the hotel’s charming marketing manager Albert and headed to Casa Dani. Located in an indoor food market in the swanky Salamanca neighbourhood, this Madrid institution is famed for its tortillas with gorgeously gooey centres that bear no resemblance to the rubbery versions in UK supermarkets. 

Diners can burn off their eggy feasts with a stroll through the nearby Parque del Retiro, a 125-hectare haven of outdoor leisure that like most of the attractions in the compact inner city, is within walking distance of Hard Rock Hotel Madrid. 

For a satisfying serving of culture, the hotel’s guests need venture no further than the Reina Sofia, where Picasso’s Guernica is the centrepiece of an impressive collection of 20th century artworks.

But while the newly extended museum is a must see, it’s also well worth signing up for a street art tour. Our expert guide, Gerardo from Cool Tour Spain, shared fascinating insights into the thriving graffiti art scene and culture of the Lavapiés neighbourhood, which revolves around an abandoned tobacco factory that has become a community cultural hub. 

Our tour also included an opportunity to try out our own spray-painting skills (legally, on canvas bags). Turns out mine are on a par with my guitar-playing abilities – negligible. 

That doesn’t lessen the fun though, and with Hard Rock Hotel Madrid providing direct access to real-deal creative talent, every guest can enjoy the best of all worlds. 

Rooms at Hard Rock Hotel Madrid cost between €145 and €200 per person per night; the Green Room gastronomic experience is €150 per person; hardrockhotels.com

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