Seeing elegantly-dressed mannequins in the windows of IBEROSTAR Las Letras Hotel on Madrid’s Grand Via, one might think it a high-quality fashion design center.
With Madrid Fashion Week in full-swing, the hotel – as it does often to complement various city festivals – had risen to the occasion with an impressive display.
Such shows of civic pride are just some of the pleasant surprises that await guests at this 7-floor, 4-star hotel a five-minute stroll from Cibeles Square on the city’s main avenue.
In honor of its literary name, the landings on every floor and walls of rooms feature a tribute to celebrated men and women of letters, with excerpts from their writings inscribed there. Even the central carpet in the lobby has a short poem embellishing its fabric.
Las Letras Gran Vía boasts an impressive history. The building is located on what was once a convent for 300 years until 1833, before later housing the Artists and Writers Association of Spain. Its architectural style is known as ‘neo-plateresque,’ its main facade crowned by small, decorative towers, with slender granite pillars. Brilliantly-colored, hand-made tiles adorn an inner ground-floor staircase, a reminder that a well-known ceramic store once rented space here one hundred years ago. A succession of different hotels occupied the building until 11 years ago when it was closed and completely refurbished following a design by architects Virginia Figueras Costa and Franco Corado. Thus, the IBEROSTAR Las Letras Gran Via emerged, with 109 rooms, a ground-floor bar and adjacent restaurant, a small gym and an open, wood-lined 7th floor terrace offering panoramic views over the Madrid cityscape.
The most dramatic features of our room, 507, were its varnished wood floors, vivid crimson painted walls, one of which had the words of ‘Sereno’ by Italian poet, Giuseppe Ungaretti, etched on it, and clear views across the street to some of the city’s richly designed buildings. A pair of lamps by Santa Cole dangled from the ceiling on metal strings either side of the bed while a soft armchair with footstool made for perfect evening relaxation. The bathroom featured a double sink, a bathtub and a spacious shower.
Downstairs, Al Trapo restaurant emanates casual chic with easy-listening Spanish music playing overhead. Adjacent to the popular Bocablo bar on the ground floor, it occupies a large open space with a complete window surround offering clear street views. Crimson curtains and ‘floating’ lamps above us that seem like illuminated white eggs each having a central eye create an eclectic, cozy atmosphere. The venue was described by hotel manager, Emma Diaz, as “a quiet oasis away from the everyday noise of Gran Via outside, a kind of bubble of quiet.”
Under the watchful eyes of chef Rafael Cordon Funes, our amuse bouche was an innovative variation of Russian salad. Instead of tuna, carrot, potato, lettuce, mayo and pickles mixed in a bowl, the entire combination was captured inside a tiny parcel which, when bitten, felt like a trampoline of taste bursting inside your mouth. Four such parcels, covered with tiny pieces of red pepper and tuna, were presented on a wire cage. Thin coins of delicate roasted scallops followed. Bathed in a smooth refreshing passion fruit vinaigrette with espelette pepper from the Basque region and dollops of lightly-spicy paprika mayo, it generated a satisfyingly sweet and spicy combo.
My main was an innovative dish of sweetbreads with cod and crayfish. Cooked in Alvear sweet wine sauce, this surf-and-turf combo is best eaten with a spoon for a wholesome umami experience. Remaining seaward, roasted monkfish with pil-pil de piparras (a fish, garlic and chili peppers Basque sauce), French onion and spinach is a delicious alternative. Lightly-smoked, the fish comes covered in fresh Japanese mizuna mustard leaves (similar to rucola, but different in taste) and presented on a bed of green sauce with pine nuts sprinkled over it.
As the Madrilenos dine late, there’s plenty of time for dessert. Choices are plentiful – chocolate in different shapes, with sea-salt and olive oil (and they say dreams don’t come true); muscovado sugar and cream ice-cream; junket with caramel-coated almond and crunchy biscuit and Spanish ice-cream.
As attitudes of personnel matter greatly within the hospitality sector, praise must be given to friendly receptionist-cum-historian Alexander Hernández Delgado, who not only enlightened us with his encyclopedic knowledge of Madrid but also penned an English translation of the poem ‘Sereno’ for us.
If you’re seeking a hotel in central Madrid within leisurely walking distance of shopping districts, restaurants, museums and art galleries, IBEROSTAR Las Letras Gran Via is in the premier division, not to mention its impressive architectural style and tributes to world literature.