Let’s face it, hotel restaurants are often a bit dull. If there’s no alternative and you’re starving or in a hurry, well okay, but we would almost always prefer to eat somewhere else. At the new and rather swish Hotel Urso in Madrid, however, they’ve come up with a cunning plan to make things more interesting – and keep them that way.They enlisted the help of Better, an agency that specialises in creating innovative pop ups, to come up with something to shake up the jaded image of hotel restaurants.
So what have they cooked up between them? The Table By, that’s what. This means that the space is taken over by a different restaurant each month, representing regions from all around Spain. The décor – colours, crockery, everything – is tranformed to reflect the style of the guest restaurant, and part of the kitchen and front-of-house teams transfer to Madrid to complete the recreation of the original place. The concept is running initially for six months and kicked off in November, 2014.
The first restaurant to arrive was Abastos 2.0, based in the main food market in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. In December, it was the turn of chef Jesús Sánchez and his restaurant Cenador de Amós in Cantabria, which has a Michelin star. I happened to be staying at the Urso at the beginning of December and was lucky enough to get a table on a Wednesday luncthtime – the concept has really taken off and you have to book well ahead for dinner. The hake with a traditional green sauce and cockles was just exquisite.
Now, in January, Fernando Canales of Michelin-starred Etxanobe in Bilbao has taken over, and in February it will be Kiko Moya of l’Escaleta in Cocentaina in the province of Alicante, which again has a Michelin star. The restaurants for March and April are yet to be announced and we have also yet to find out whether The Table By will carry on or be replaced by a new idea after that. As it is so successful, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the enterprising people at the Urso decide to stick with it for the rest of the year.