At the top of the exquisite Four Seasons, above the gilded lounges and opulent 'suites', a green rooftop hovers over Madrid. Several clients enjoy breakfast at small wooden tables; coffee, fruit, eggs, muesli, a honeycomb dripping with honey awaits at the bar. At ten in the morning, at lunchtime and at sunset, Dani's terrace is crowded. It is one of the most coveted high points of the capital. There are some with secret gardens, with privileged views, with ball cups and posture. There are those who charge to climb to the top, who play music and who sell unique books. There are for all likes. The limit is the sky, the very blue dome of Madrid.
Last summer, still constrained by anti-Covid restrictions, the city's rooftops experienced their particular golden age as open-air shelters from the virus. But the tourists were missing. "The number of clients has doubled from one year to the next," says Dani's CEO, Alejandro López. Chef Dani García's restaurant opened in the midst of a pandemic, on September 21, 2021, and now it is on everyone's lips. "We began to have more and more demand in advance, before it was all last minute," says López. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, better to book. "There is a lot of demand."
The combinations between the petrified gods that watch over the Gran Vía from their chariots range between 16 and 20 euros. Dani has exotic distillates, Japanese gins, world-renowned and hard-to-find wines. "We have brands that you don't see very often," says López, who is also deputy director of food and beverages. Ice is literally perfect. At the ideal temperature, carved to fit the glass and filtered, completely transparent, so that it melts slowly. The menu has a star dish: the nitro tomato, the emblem of the three Michelin stars in Marbella that Dani García closed three years ago. "We have marked a before and after in Madrid, we have the best products," says López.
The eternal complex of Madrid is thus compensated several meters above the ground. There are charming rooftops, packed with plants, such as El Jardín de Diana (Gran Vía, 31) —the goddess presides over the place with her arch—, with tropical airs such as Doña Luz (calle de la Montera, 10) or in a marine style such as Le Tabernier (calle de Mesonero Romanos, 13). On The Mint Roof, in the dome of the Vincci The Mint hotel, they have parked an old French van that was lifted with a crane in 2016, the year the accommodation was opened. The terrace presents a new menu and a range of workshops for the season. "We are quite optimistic, we have come from a somewhat turbulent time with Covid-19 and I think that now we all want to enjoy ourselves with friends, partner or family again more than ever," says the hotel's director, Laura Martín.
A few meters further up, there is always a queue to go up Picalagartos. Its panoramic view of Madrid was opened to the public in 2018 and has always been one of the most desirable rooftops. "This spring is super lively and we have a great atmosphere every day," says the communication director of Grupo Azotea (owner of Picalagartos), María Fernández. The celebrities who visit it, from Antonio Banderas to Mario Casas, and the "artisteo", in the words of Fernández, make it another essential corner with 'gin and tonics' from 15 euros.
One of the most special belongs to the only restaurant declared cultural heritage in Madrid, El Viajero, a 19th-century mansion in La Latina that until 1995 occupied the old Musel bar. Alejandro Sanz gave his first concert there, when he was still called Alexander the Great. The rooftop is a shop and tasting bar. Atlases of the entire globe, original travel guides and t-shirts that declare their love for Madrid adorn the entrance of a terrace lined with weeds and little lights that is full of customers. "Now we are recovering, in 2021 it cost a lot, but since March it has begun to be noticed," acknowledges its director, Aísa Capuzzo. The tourist, who accounts for 35% of his clientele, has returned: "It shows because much more ham is ordered than before."
The loyalty of the local client and the return of the international make the terraces in height a buoyant business model. "Turning rooftops into modern drinking areas and restaurant spaces is a trend in 'retail'," say sources from the Colliers real estate consultancy. They are exploited by large restaurant groups, hotels and event companies. Most rooftops in Madrid belong to hotels and it is common for the owner to sell the asset to an operator. And hotel investment is at its highest in recent years. In 2021 the city attracted 468 million euros and in the first quarter of 2022 the figure for the sector already amounts to 230 million. Rooftops, on their summits, are still in fashion.