For a generation, a corner of Madrid adjacent to the Parque del Retiro has styled itself as the Golden Triangle of Art, home to the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. Now, a new addition is turning that triangle into a Golden Diamond—but this gallery is one where the art is served on plates instead of hung on walls.
“My way of understanding gastronomy is close to art,” says chef Quique Dacosta, the gastronomic director at the new Mandarin Oriental Ritz hotel, where he oversees five bars and restaurants, including the flagship, Deessa. “Surely my kitchen meets the parameters of any other artistic discipline.”
Many regard Dacosta—who made his name at his eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Denia, on Spain’s southeastern coast—as the heir to Ferran Adrià, the famed chef of Catalonia’s near-mythic, now-shuttered El Bulli. Adrià, in fact, has already visited Deessa, as has Dominique Crenn, the first female chef in the U.S. to earn three stars.
Spoilers ahead, but diners at Deessa are first treated to one of the world’s most amusing amuse-bouches: deep red apple slices stained with beetroot are camouflaged within the petals of a single-stem rose. Another clever dish is listed only as “hard-boiled egg” but is actually an illusory skin of asparagus holding a bounty of golden runny egg yolks, bacon fat, and chicken broth. It’s hard for any gastronaut to return to Earth after such umami heaven.
Yet Dacosta himself can be quite grounded. “Sometimes I think it’s a classic way of ordering,” he says of Deessa’s tasting menu, “because I start with cold starters, vegetables, fish, rice and seafood, meats, and we finish with desserts.” Not that he could be accused of false humility: “Without a doubt, this setting, this restaurant, the moment that Madrid and Spain are living, could make Deessa one of the gastronomic revolutions in the world.”
Those not in the market for a $200-plus tasting menu can still take in Dacosta’s art at the hotel, which opened last year after a merger-renovation of the famed 112-year-old Ritz Hotel. Lunch at El Jardín del Ritz includes a red carpet and velvet rope for outsiders, but hotel guests are recognized as VIPs (Very Important Palates) as they nibble red curry croquettes or beef tartare with caviar. For a midday recharge, there’s high-tea service under the Palm
Court’s exquisite glass canopy, with a proprietary blend of teas and a tower of sumptuous sandwiches and pastries. For drinks, enjoy surrealistic cocktails (such as El Diamante, made with green apple pisco, aloe vera, and kaffir lime foam) while surrounded by elegant portraits of Spanish cultural icons at Pictura, or toast to an intimate night out in the Champagne Bar, an eight-seat nook where bottles of bubbly swing from $100 to more than $7,000.
If the convergence of ambition, creativity, and indulgence seems overwhelming, that’s the point. “Madrid is experiencing an extraordinary moment,” Dacosta says. “The hotel is a unique space in the world.”