Jerez is once more reclaiming its place as a city of sophistication. Michelin-star quality dining; gourmet tapas and restored architectural treasures are helping reimagine this historic capital of Sherry wines for the 21st century. Exclusive-city centre hotel, Casa Palacio Maria Luisa is very much part of the city’s renaissance, writes Andrew Forbes.
A notable palatial mansion, this boutique property has been meticulously and exquisitely restored as a unique hotel, with characterful guest suites, a roof-top plunge pool, elegant bar; and fine-dining restaurant.
Destination: Cadiz Province, Andalucia
Western Andalucia, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic is without doubt one of Spain’s most beautiful regions. Unspoilt countryside of rolling pastures, pine forests and some of the best beaches in Europe.
Yet surprisingly the province of Cadiz has been a very well-kept secret for decades. With the decline in the sherry wine industry, and the emergence of purpose-built golf and beach resorts on the nearby Costa del Col, western Andalusia was forgotten.
Jerez de la Frontera is Spain’s new hot city-break destination
Yet in recent years this fabulous region, (which includes the port cities of Cadiz capital, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and San Luca de Barrameda, made rich by the trade with the Americas following Columbus’ voyages, and from the wealth from the wine industry) has emerged as the chic yet authentic destination in Southern Spain.
Jerez de la Frontera is an elegant and aristocratic city, found inland from the coast. It is surrounded by vineyards of palomino grapes that are widely used in the production of sherry wines, together with Pedro Jimenez, that makes some of the world’s finest sweet wines, and also Moscatel.
Here in the heart of the old quarter one finds the classic mansion that is now Casa Palacio Maria Luisa.
This 21-room hotel was once the city’s Casino. Yet don’t think roulette wheels and gaming tables. A century or more ago in Spain, casinos were private clubs for high society; places to meet & converse – maybe play cards. The city’s casino was a place for the elite. Unsurprisingly these clubs were grand buildings – and Casa Palacio Maria Luisa Jerez is no exception.
The hotel has not only restored the impressive architecture, but the spirit and glamour of this golden age too. Even before you cross the threshold, one enters a rarefied world of elite service. One is greeted at the entrance by a ‘booted-and-suited’ doorman in hat and tails.
The architecture of Casa Palacio Maria Luisa echoes the classic style of the period with a light filled atrium. This central patio courtyard is filled with sunshine that penetrates the new glass roof above.
The furniture and fixtures maybe be classical, yet there are subtle yet distinctive touches from the 21st century.
For example, set upon the highly polished grand piano, that sits by the sweeping staircase, are contemporary mini ‘Meninas’ in bold colours. The palm in the centre of the space is actually a contemporary sculpture of steel, crafted by artist Fernando Oriol.
In fact, there are many pieces of art from Maria Luisa’s private family collection, including works by Rafael Macarron. General Manager Enrique Tiscar is happy to share more information about the works with guests.
The formal, yet friendly greeting at the hotel’s entrance sets the scene for an old-school style glamorous hotel stay. It feels right though in this chic setting, in a city that is traditional and historic. It’s a flavour of sophisticated Andalucía.
Check-in is at the front desk, an intimate space off the central atrium, beautifully decorated with art. Drinks and refreshing hand towels are offered – and thanks to the friendly efficiency of Front Desk pro Ismael Ramirez, before you know it, one is being escorted to your suite.
The hotel has 8 premium rooms, 10 deluxe rooms, 1 junior suite.
There are also 2 suites – the impressive Maria Luisa Suite, with its bathtub in the old chapel; and the charming Suite Jerez.
Guest suites overlook the street and square; or the back garden, which is a real surprise. A green, tranquil space in the city – a real delight!
I stayed in a deluxe room, over-looking the traditional square in front of the hotel.
It’s a chic and well-designed room – a mix of contemporary elements, like the blond cedar wood furniture, and modern fittings like USB ports by the bed.
Yet the style is classic; think four-poster bed, period details and mouldings on the walls and ceilings, with accents like designer lighting.
I slept so well! The bed is fabulous – wonderful Egyptian lines and indulgent mattress topper.
Thoughtful touches include novels and hardback coffee-table books, ornaments and decorations that all combine to make the room feel like a guest room in a luxury mansion rather than a city hotel.
- Nespresso coffee machine
- Tea Service
- Butler Service
- Smart TV
- Desk/Work space
The bathroom is truly luxurious – stunning marble, plush towels and generous amenities. I wasn’t contacted before my stay to personalise my room, but I understand that it is possible to personalise elements of your stay including the amenities in your room. You can choose Molton Brown toiletries, or a Spanish brand from Seville.
- High-powered hair dryer
- Hair Straighteners
- Personalised amenities
Turndown comes with a treat – home-made cake and a chilled bottle of ‘La Guita’ manzanilla Jerez wine from the family’s sherry winery. What a great gesture – sipping a fine, crisp wine is the best way to start the evening in Jerez!
The rooms each have their own character – cosy spaces as well as grand suites with high ceiling. The garden view rooms look special.
The Hotel’s boasts its own restaurant, the ‘Restaurante 22’, with direct street access for non-resident guests. The name reflects the hotel’s location at number 22 on Tornería street. Here chef, Ángel Taboada promises menus that to celebrate seasonal Jerez produce.
Unfortunately, I didn’t eat at the restaurant as it wasn’t open – so instead I dined at the nearby Michelin-star restaurant LÚ Cocina y Alma by acclaimed chef Juanlu Fernández.
You can read my article about Jerez fine-dining restaurant LÚ Cocina y Alma here.
The La Terraza bar-restaurant on the garden terrace has a menu of light meals and is a lovely place to sit and relax, listening to the garden fountain and the birds in the trees. Really a special city oasis.
In the evening it’s an elegant place to enjoy a cocktail.
Breakfast is an optional extra at Casa Palacio Maria Luisa, served until 11.30 am. For 28-euro one can order their classic Mediterranean breakfast of juices, breadbasket, jams, a lovely fresh fruit salad, and coffee.
It’s a sophisticated affair. if you want to have a cooked meal to start the day you need to order the more expensive breakfast.
My recommendation is to enjoy a coffee in bed and then head out and experience an authentic Spanish breakfast on a sunny terrace in Jerez.
There’s a small rooftop plunge pool and terrace but no gym or spa.
There are function rooms and also a welcoming guest salon with contemporary feature fireplace.
The bar is very elegant – ambiance of a private member’s club. Great selection of Jerez brandies and Jerez wines/sherries.
The team, in my experience, were great. Friendly, warm and helpful. Even when I check-out they had prepared a ‘Buen Viaje’ care package of bottled water, healthy snacks and moist face towels to take with me in a Casa Palacio Maria Luisa – so thoughtful!
Jerez de la Frontera
The capital of sherry wines is working hard to shake off its image as a day-trip destination; where visitors would typically tour a bodega winery and take in a show at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art before heading back to a hotel in Sevilla, or a golf and beach resort on the Costa de la Luz or Sol.
Now, Jerez is definitely worthy of a longer stay. It is well served by transport links, including an airport and motorway.
With the opening of this upscale Casa Palacio Maria Luisa hotel; and the success of the Michelin star restaurant ‘LÚ, Cocina y Alma’, I can imagine that Jerez is once again set to be the elegant destination in Andalucia.
Address: Casa Palacio Maria Luisa C/ Tornería, 22, Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz