Bursting from the former garage space of a 40s-era Luis Gutiérrez Soto building in Madrid, Romola Restaurant immediately reminds me of the jade powder room in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz. Its futurist aesthetic and jaw-dropping polished marble is a little Metropolis too – do we sit and eat and drink here, or is this an elaborate film set for a movie about beautiful robots and magical people with a penchant for green?
The opulent interior is the work of Andres Jaque. The Spanish architect was keen to create a café for Madrid that looked towards a positive, prosperous future, and one that moved on at last from more conservative materials used since the devastating GFC (hydraulic tiles or red ceramic bricks, for example). It seems marble – and lots of it – was Andres’ retort.
It’s described as a ‘marble-made tent in the galaxy’ – poetic, sure, but kind of true: a free-standing enclave of rare Novelda marble drawn from dormant marble caves in Valencia hovers above and underneath the dining room and kitchen within the towering 5 metre high ceilings. Andres worked alongside seasoned masons to piece together and render the slabs of his marble future-vision and pushed the possibility of the material to the limit with new cutting-edge tech and extreme engineering. Fiberglass and resin reinforcements attached to each marble plate create an anchoring system, which allows the hefty stone to be capable of resisting both compression and traction. This is marble for the future.
Lashings of marble aside, it’s hard to overlook all that mint and jade and chrome. Lush ferns leak through the tent’s canopy, while geometric slithers of iridescent pink dichroic glass offset all the marble. To create his Emerald City seating, Andres worked with artisan leather upholsterers, metal benders and chrome-platers. The sumptuous, visionary concept references the Golden Age of cafeterias and cantinas in Madrid in the early 20th century – and as for what’s to eat, the menu has been designed to include all the pleasures, without the guilt. Dreamy.