Photography by Eric Isaac

Alejandra Alonso Rojas

Designer

| Madrid

When Alejandra Alonso Rojas tells us she’s in the midst of furnishing a place out East, of course we had to know more about what the end result would look like. “Everything is going to be vintage— that’s the rule,” Rojas explains emphatically. “The couch, the light fixtures, even [pieces in] the bathroom. Look at this vintage vanity I just found!” As an image of the sweet, ‘60s-leaning set promptly appears on her phone, we get the sense that the shoreside home, in fact, isn’t going to be too different from her namesake womenswear line— AKA a poetic celebration of heritage, artistry and design. Launched last September, the brand is akin to the older, more sophisticated sister of Rojas’ previous label, A Moi— whereas A Moi was youthful and light, Alejandra Alonso Rojas is luxe, tailored, even quietly regal. The designer, who was born and raised in Madrid, credits her family of pioneering women as her inspiration, often turning to old albums for color palettes, aesthetic and mood. In addition to dexterous knitwear and velvety leather, the collection is already known for its original painterly prints (much of which Rojas personally sketches by hand). Though she now calls SoHo “home,”— she lives in a downtown loft with her husband, Alejandro, and their dachshund, Latte— we tapped into her Spanish roots for a truly special local’s guide. Here, Rojas sits down with CITIPHILE to reveal her little black book on Madrid.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: My favorite spot for a good meal is Viavélez (MAP IT), a restaurant located in Chamberí, the neighborhood where I grew up. Through the years, its chef, Paco Ron, has become a dear family friend and the restaurant really feels like home. Every time I travel to Madrid, I make sure to stop there for lunch. His serrano ham croquetas, carrillera and patatas a la importancia are divine so that’s what I order without fail (and always a glass of wine; the selection is great)! The spot has a little outdoor terrace, a tapas bar on the street level, and downstairs, one of the best restaurants in town— it’s not to be missed!

COFFEE OR TEA: Tea at Salón des Fleurs (MAP IT). It’s an incredibly unique place situated in the middle of Madrid. Beyond its pink door, you can buy flowers and enjoy a cup of tea and homemade cakes. The shop/café has a nostalgic and detailed feel thanks to its vintage furniture and beautiful, vertical gardens.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: I have to say Viridiana (MAP IT), which happens to be the favorite of my grandma and mother, too. It’s one of those restaurants that’s been in Madrid for a long time (forty years), but neither the quality of the experience nor the décor of the space has changed a bit (you’ll find a silver hat on the table covering each plate when you arrive). The owner and chef, Abraham Garcia, is one of my favorite chefs— he’s always there telling you, as if reciting a poem, what’s new on the menu for the day. Everything is fresh and cooked with such delicacy and the flavors are so unique. It’s hard to recommend a dish, but I would ask him for a recommendation!

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: A good Kir Royale made with champagne rosé from the oldest cocktail bar in Madrid, Bar Cock (MAP IT). In 1921, the founders, Emilio Saracho and Perico Chicote, traveled from Madrid to London to gather inspiration from England’s best bars and they brought back original pieces to decorate the space, all of which are still there. At the time, you could see writers and artists there like Mihura, Buñuel or Dalí. Since its location is quite unique and it can be a bit hard to find, it’s still a bit of a hidden treasure, but this place absolutely has the best cocktails in all of Madrid.

WHERE TO BRING OUT-OF-TOWNERS: Rue Vintage 74 (MAP IT) is a must if you’re looking to find furniture— it’s a very unique place and you have to make an appointment to visit and check out its wares. I would also recommend visiting El Rastro (MAP IT), one of the oldest flea markets in the city, for antiques and special pieces. It’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays so I love to get up early, have breakfast in one of the old cafés, and make a morning of it. Streets like Pez, Almirante, Jorge Juan and Claudio Couello are excellent for exploration and just getting lost amongst all the stores and restaurants— there are so many gems worth checking out. Then, in Malasaña, I would recommend Maricastaña (MAP IT) for lunch and Kikekeller (MAP IT) for drinks. Also, Quintín (MAP IT) is a new restaurant with unbelievable food and drinks.

HEALTHY STAPLE: Olivia te Cuida (MAP IT)— fresh food in a cozy, relaxed atmosphere.

GUILTY PLEASURE: Spending long nights with my friends, staying out until the morning and grabbing churros with hot chocolate on our way home.

DATE NIGHT STANDBY: For a date, I love El Viejo León (MAP IT), a fresh bistro with just six tables. It’s very romantic.

MADRID’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: Madrid is a very special city with many hidden secrets: La Neomudéjar (MAP IT) is very representative of Madrid’s XIX century industrial archeology; El Capricho Park, one of my favorites, has amazing art, as does the Real Fábrica de Tapices (MAP IT), the royal tapestry factory where they still produce incredible art. Inside the Sorolla Museum (MAP IT), there’s a beautiful garden that feels like an oasis in the middle of the city. The Liria Palace (MAP IT) is one of the most exclusive places to visit so you need to book a tour well in advance (there is a waiting list!), but it’s well worth the time to see the Alba residence and their private art collection. There’s also the Príncipe de Anglona Gardens (MAP IT), ICO Museum (MAP IT) and the Hellscraper or “Cave House”— “Rascainfiernos” in Spanish– which is the famous below-ground home of architect Fernando Higueras. The Convento de las Descalzas (MAP IT), located in the middle of the city, is an incredible place where cloistered nuns still live; its orange tree garden is so beautiful— it’s a must-visit! Last, but not least, there is a new restaurant called Arzábal inside the Reina Sofía Museum (MAP IT), another one of my favorite places in the city. Through the restaurant, you can book a private visit through the exhibits when the museum is otherwise closed, then enjoy a 13-course menu inspired by the works of Picasso; it’s a fabulous new concept and very unique!

TO SEE AND BE SEEN: Right now, Amazónico (MAP IT) is the spot to be seen.

TO RELAX AND UNWIND: I like to take a walk through Retiro Park (MAP IT)— especially around La Rosaleda, its rose garden, and the lake.

CLOSET CHECK: I would describe my style as feminine, sophisticated and nonchalant. For shopping, Ekseption (MAP IT) has a wonderful selection of clothing from designers from all over the world. I love walking along my favorite city streets (all mentioned above) and wandering into those stores, too. If I want to find rare or vintage pieces, I would go to El Rastro where I inevitably find some fantastic treasure.

BEST GIFTS: El Rastro.

ULTIMATE MADRID MOMENT: My husband, Alex (who I’ve known since we were children), and I got married in Madrid. We decided the ceremony and reception had to be in a very special place in the city, so we chose a beautiful rooftop downtown in the most historic part of the city. The views were incredible and you could see, what felt like, the whole of the city. By that time in our lives, we had already moved to New York, but both of us missed Madrid terribly. Sometimes, when you live in a place for so long, you take its beauty and its unique offerings for granted. When you leave, you begin to reflect on all you’ve left behind and yearn. I yearn for Madrid often. Needless to say, this night was one of the most memorable and special evenings in my life (and our families and friends were all there to soak it all in). The reception ended around 3 am, but we went back to a friend’s to continue the celebrations. In the morning, Alex and I walked back to the hotel with the sun rising and my wedding gown still on. We weren’t even tired. Madrid has such a palpable energy — an  energy that’s enduring and contagious. CP

Alejandra’s Madrid

From L to R: First Row: Amazónico; Décor at Rue Vintage 74; Vintage womenswear from Ekseption; Small bites at Quintín. Second Row: Olivia te Cuida; Retiro Park; Hat place setting at Viridiana; High tea at Salón des Fleurs. 

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