The sounds of John Coltrane waft through the still sleepy Plaza Santa Ana as a grizzled jazz musician performs his own morning soundtrack. Waiters wash last night’s festivities into the gutters, pausing for a cigarette and a friendly wave as we arrive. The Hotel ME Madrid, a fantastical white eight-storey marvel, rises from the square, framing the centrally located plaza in its cool white gaze. Jetlagged from the transatlantic journey, Mrs Smith skips up the stairs holding my hand, through the rush of the spinning door, into the breezy lounge. Our vacation has officially begun.
‘Welcome to the ME Madrid,’ says the olive-skinned receptionist, resplendent in a white flowing dress. ‘Let’s get you right up to your room,’ she says with a mischievous smile. A few steps through the Eames-inspired lobby and we’re in the intimate elevators, heading to the first floor room overlooking the Plaza Santa Ana. The floor-to-ceiling windows open wide to the plaza. A soft wind billows against the gauzy curtains, hinting at a naughty sense of privacy when the thick blackout drapes aren’t pulled. There are six lighting options for the room, including one that’s just called ‘sexy’. The bathroom mirror is etched, ‘Oh, You Pretty Things’ channeling David Bower, circa 1972. We collapse into the bed, eyeing the purple martini bar and soundsystem.
The hotel stands at the precipice of the sights and sounds of Madrid. A short walk down to the Calle del Prado leads to one of the five great museums of the world, sparkling with the works of Velazquez, El Greco, Goya, Bosch, Dali, and Rubens. A short walk in another direction and you’re in Chueca, the backdrop of Pedro Almodovar’s films, a cousin to San Francisco’s Castro District, full of tapas, boutiques and gay culture. Turn another direction and you’re at the Mercado San Miguel, a collective marketplace where individual proprietors peddle their wines and tapas.
Mornings start slowly in Madrid. Most cities are bustling by six or seven, but at eight only the street sweepers and keg merchants are moving. Mercifully the ME’s breakfast stays open until 11am, and most of the guests seem to partake of it on the later end. To talk about any one culinary experience in Madrid is like choosing a favourite child; you might have one but you’d never say it out loud. Nonetheless, the morning breakfast at ME Madrid, a 30-foot-long table of delights beginning with champagne and ending in the perfect egg, would be in anyone’s contention for a favoured son. We give our room number and a carafe of freshly squeezed Spanish orange juice and the perfect cortado arrives. The cortado – a small shot of espresso and warm, rich milk – quickly prepares you for the mind-numbing morning questions that the breakfast provides. Which of the three salts should I choose, pink, blue or white? What is blue salt anyway? With which of the seven oils should I dress the little green salad I make for myself? How can so many different cuts of meat come from a pig? How do Spanish people stay so thin? Which of the 12 types of bread shall I choose to go with the five types of cheese? It is the fresh and tangy burgos cheese for us. Showing a bit of restraint is a challenge; but this is Madrid, and there is always another meal waiting.
And then we are off on our day, walking through the cobblestone streets, from the Sofia Reina museum to see Picasso’s Guernica to the rush of humanity in Puerto del Sol, where street magicians dress as aliens and prance for children as protestors demand higher wages for public service workers. This is Madrid, a city that drips with love, where people look you in the eye as you pass, where the economic predominance of the past is distilled into a tranquil quality of life for today, and there is always another bar, another museum, another corner.
Finally, we retreat to the ME Madrid and indulge in a massage at the Spa Metropolitan in the adjacent Plaza del Angel. We walk past pilates-toned locals, peddling off last night’s patatas bravas. We descend a flight of stairs to a candlelit room. We take a brief respite before our final evening begins.
Locals point us to the private elevator on Plaza Santa Ana that leads to the roof-lounge at the ME. We’re there early, so it’s empty, and we curl up outside on a downy white sofa. Mrs Smith has her Tinto de Verano – red wine with a little bit of soda and fruit – and I drink a Cruzcampos beer and stare out at the city before us. The conversations grow louder; joyful men in skinny jeans and long-haired brunettes in wedge heels begin to fill the roof and the beats start to get louder. The moon rises through the roof’s columns. For centuries others have enjoyed this view of Madrid, and we smile softly at each other, feeling like the luckiest people in the world.
Anonymously reviewed by Adam Werbach (Environmental activist, Saatchi & Saatchi)
Reviews of ME Madrid from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
The hotel is walking distance from the major museums and attractions in the centre of Madrid. It's also a surprisingly peaceful hotel, considering the location and the rooftop bar is a fantastic spot for people watching and gazing out over the city. The staff were particularly good too.
The breakfast is good but we were never offered the hot choices; Mrs Smith ordered an omelette one morning but only after asking if it was possible; a little advice on that would have been nice.
Steve, GoldSmith stayed on 10 Nov 2013
ME Madrid is in a wonderful location: no need for taxis at any time. We had a room on the 6th floor (room 603) that would be amazing in the summer due to a split-level balcony with loungers. The bedroom itself was small, however the bathroom was very nice, and there was a comfy bed. The restaurant and breakfast were good and in a lovely setting, the bar drinks suprisingly reasonably priced (but Madrid felt cheap for food and drink on the whole anyway compared to many European cities). Local restaurants outside the hotel were €10-15 a head, which would see you leaving with a full belly! Staff were friendly and polite. I would highly recommend this hotel (we paid half price through the Times offer) at the price paid. A good find.
Adam, SilverSmith stayed on 2 Nov 2013
It's very stylish and exclusive feeling. The staff was excellent and the ambience relaxed but professional. The rooftop bar has a great view, even if the cocktails are pricey! The barman in the main bar was great at his job, too. The location couldn't be better – it's within easy walking distance of all the main things you'd want to see and literally hundreds of great bars and restaurants.
Even with very good double-glazed windows it was a little noisy, but that's the price you pay for staying in the hippest part of a city which never seems to sleep!
James, BlackSmith stayed on 14 Oct 2013
Excellent central location in old Madrid, within easy walking distance of main tourist attractions. Attentive and friendly service. Good quality restaurant with excellent breakfast buffet (you need to ask for the cooked breakfast menu), also great tapas at a good price for lunch and dinner.
More reception staff would be better, as they double as concierges.
Peter, BlackSmith stayed on 14 Oct 2013
A funky modern hotel in a very convenient location. Not to be missed is a trip to La Terraza del Casino de Madrid, a short 10-minute walk away from the hotel. This top restaurant has a stunning historic location. Book well in advance.
Lawrence, GoldSmith stayed on 9 Jan 2012