By the time we get back to BLESS after a light lunch on the smarty-pants streets of Madrid’s Salamanca district – baby leeks tempura, light, crispy, fresh… thanks for asking – a crowd has gathered in front of the hotel. A quite big, quite young, quite cool one. Both sides of the street. As we push through to the doors like global superstars just trying to go about our business, we ask some of the excitable crowd-members what’s going on. It turns out that Rosalia, the flamenco singer turned global r’n’b princess, is in the house.
And why wouldn’t she be at this early-to-mid-Madonna stage in her career? This place is perfect for her: hip, quirky, elegant, full of surprises… from the cute little bar in the entrance, where the martinis passed our internationally recognised test with flying colours, to the breakfast room where they have hung a full-size mechanical-looking rhinoceros under the skylight. Why not? There’s even a secret nightclub, complete with stripper poles and a full bowling alley in the basement, but you’d never know.
Pass through that bar – we managed it twice without stopping for martinis – through to the light-filled reception, where you get to enjoy a glass of cava while you fill in your name and email address. A circular space at the bottom of a light well, it’s lined with books turned the wrong way round: a strange choice and not handy for selecting reading materials but those yellowed pages give the space a honeyed feel, even if the rain is beating down on the glass ceiling.
The quirky touches continue into the rooms. Our stand-alone bath in the window has been filled with silver balloons to make it look like some sort of cartoon take on a bubble bath while covers of Gay Times have been strung, washing-line-style, across the marble fireplace just to make us feel at home. Bathrooms often look like carriages from the Orient Express that have parked up in rooms while the art throughout the building is original and mostly really good, meaning that what would be a regular corridor in another hotel is more of an art gallery in this.
The building that BLESS finds itself in is Art Deco, which is, of course, great but it does mean it comes with a listed status that prohibits what you can do with it. The marble lined staircase that runs through the building like a chimney, for instance, cannot be touched but you can string up a chic modern light installation all the way through it. And what was basically an alley down the side of the building has been turned into what feels like a covered street cafe, one that leads back to that rhino-filled breakfast room that, after dark, becomes one of the hotel’s big surprises.
Book your dinner early, because Feten by nightclub group Salvaje, is the hottest of hot tickets. Never mind that the Japanese food is some of the best we’ve ever had in Madrid (and we used to live here!), every so often your dinner is interrupted by acrobats, illusionists, dancers with a full-scale conga line breaking out and winding its way through the whole restaurant at one point. Madrid loves a good time – is famous for it – but this is next level.
But don’t think any of this makes BLESS gimmicky. This is proper five-star luxury at its tip-top best, from the artfully tiled spa in the basement to Picos Pardos Sky Lounge, the jumping party space with raised green-glazed pool on the roof. Floors are parquet, bathrooms have a real Deco feel, even the fabrics on the headboards grab your attention.
Who says doing things to the very highest of standards has to be stuffy? BLESS is classy, handsome and fun, a right royal joyero – ‘jewel box’ in lingua franca – in the swishest part of town. That Rosalia has taste!