HISTORY OF LHARDY

In the year in which Lhardy was inaugurated, Cúchares was still bullfighting, there were water carriers in the streets and zarzuela music had just been born. The history of Lhardy is the history of Madrid.
With the decoration of this beautiful facade defined by the taste of the Second Empire that now captivates us again, Lhardy has managed to jealously preserve the courtly and aristocratic atmosphere of Madrid in the 19th century, at the same time as the best formulas of European cuisine.

A meal at the Lhardy allows you to evoke the stately world while enjoying the best gastronomy.

The time that passes and returns through the mirror of the Lhardy.

The famous Lhardy restaurant enters its 3rd century of existence in the same emplacement on Carrera de San Jerónimo where it opened its doors in 1839, when Madrid was the Court of the Queen Governor and Vergara had just embraced, between Espartero and Maroto.

Much of the history of Spain has been plotted between the elegance of these walls, under its lamps that evoke the etiquette and solemnity of romanticism, and around its tablecloths that continue to underline the most delicate gastronomic refinements.

In this unalterable environment, with the stimulation of delicacies and libations, overthrows of kings and politicians, republics, introduction of new dynasties, restorations, regencies and dictatorships have been decided. The time that passes and returns, always goes back to the dining rooms of Lhardy, to the intimacy of the White Room and to the oriental fantasy, colonial dreams of the Japanese Dining Room, to continue weaving the secret history of Spain. However, above all, past and future merge in the indecisive light of the famous mirror, where our images coexist with the shadows of characters that were reflected here and we meet again with so many friends from the aristocracy, art and letters, already disappeared.

In the Lhardy mirror, as Azorín said, “we vanish into eternity”, we enter and leave the afterlife. To the highest levels.
Two simultaneous flashes: Lhardy and romanticism.
Emilio Huguenin, born in Montbéliard, of Swiss parents, had been a reporter in Bésançon, a cook in Paris and a “restaurateur”, with his own establishment in Bordeaux, the center of exiled Spaniards. Emilio Huguenin, nacido en Montbéliard, de padres suizos, había sido reportero en Bésançon, cocinero en París y “restaurateur”, con establecimiento propio en Burdeos, el centro de los desterrados españoles. There the supporters of José Bonaparte had coincided with their old adversaries, the Liberals, persecuted by Fernando VII. When Emilio Huguenin decided to open his house in Madrid, with the absolute monarch having disappeared, the exiles from Bordeaux returned to Spain. Isabel II was nine years old and the ideological and aesthetic commotion of romanticism was about to begin. José Altabella believes, in his magnificent book entitled “Historical panorama of a romantic restaurant”, that the name of the establishment would be suggested by that of the famous Hardy Café, on the Boulevard des Italianos, in Paris, which would later become the Maison Dorée. The owner, Emilio Huguenin, took the name of his business and became Emilio Lhardy.
The Carrera de San Jerónimo thus acquires the packaging of a fashionable street, in the style of the Rue de la Paix, a physiognomy to which the Mellerio jewelry shop windows, goldsmiths of the first and second Empires, contributed some years later. Like a firework, in 1837, the pistol shot with which Larra put an end to his own life, and Zorrilla’s speech at his funeral, thunderously announce the great solemnity of romanticism, confirmed by the appearance of Espronceda’s main works and the premieres of “The Conjuration of Venice”, by Martínez de la Rosa; “Don Álvaro”, by the Duke of Rivas; “El trovador”, by García Gutiérrez, and “Don Juan Tenorio”, by Zorrilla, all held very close to the opening of Lhardy.A banker transforms the stock market and builds the railways; It is Salamanca, a regular client of Lhardy, who celebrated there, in 1841, the baptism of his eldest son, Fernando Salamanca Livermore.What a miracle! The gas light is turned on to make Lhardy’s environment more luxurious. In the middle of the 19th century, only Lhardy was spoken of in Madrid as an unavoidable place for luxury meals, and Pascual Madoz included it in his geographical dictionary. Elizabeth II made breaks from the Palace to eat at Lhardy, as would also happen with Alfonso XII after the Restoration, who was accompanied by the Duke of Sesto, Benalúa, Tamames and Bertrán de Lis.All the paintings that are presented in these new rooms, except for two by the master Palmero, are originals by Agustín Lhardy, the excellent impressionist owner of this house, a disciple of Haes and as notable a landscape painter as his friends Beruete and Regoyos. With very good judgment, these dining rooms have been designated with names that recall the musical fondness of Emilio and Agustín Lhardy, consecrating them to Sarasate, Gayarre and Tamberlick, regular patrons of the Romanesque restaurant.
Around 1880, the notable decorator Rafael Guerrero established the new face of Lhardy.

Among the historical suggestions that Lhardy offers, it is very interesting to know the personality of its decorator, Rafael Guerrero, father of the famous actress María Guerrero. This forerunner of a profession that would acquire such aesthetic and functional significance in our time, had emigrated to Paris in his teens, and there he had the fortune to learn the arts of furniture and decorative setting, until his good fame reached the ears of Empress Eugénie, who placed him in her service at the Tuileries. Upon his return to Madrid, Guerrero opened a furniture store on Calle Caballero de Gracia, but his prestige was essentially centered on his talent as a decorator.

The taste of the Second Empire, endowed with that high-bourgeois elegance that now captivates us again, was outlined in the design of the Lhardy façade, built with magnificent mahogany wood from Cuba, as a symbol of what were our overseas provinces. The interior decoration of the store, with its two facing counters and the mirror in the background, on the opulent console that holds the “bouilloire” and the fine liquor store, remains intact, as it was designed and carried out by Rafael Guerrero. The dining rooms, conceived as the Elizabethan Room, the White Room and the Japanese Room, retain the wallpaper coverings of the time; the chimneys, garrisons and ornaments, mentioned in the works of Galdós, Mariano de Cavia, Azorín or Ramón Gómez de la Serna. Shortly after the decoration was renewed, in 1885, the famous dinners were established, so praised by gastronomy specialists such as Doctor Thebussen.

The “Lhardy diner” was always exquisite, with Orly sole fillets, duck hams, turkey poult with watercress and other delicacies that were new at the court. We must not forget the magnificent French wines that graced the table. When Emilio Lhardy died, the dynasty continued with his son Agustín, a very outstanding painter and engraver, who knew how to admirably combine artistic activity and the social presence of a true gentleman with the constant improvement of his business. Among his artist friends, the closest one was Mariano Benlliure, who spent time living in Lhardy and inviting personalities from politics, the aristocracy, journalism and art.

The secrets of Japanese Hall
Among the Lhardy dining rooms, the one that keeps the most secrets in the history of Spain is the Japanese Room, where all sorts of conspiracies and cabals took place. It was the favorite corner of General Primo de Rivera for reserved meetings of ministers and personalities of the Dictatorship and, by contrast, it was here that the appointment of Don Niceto Alcalá Zamora as President of the Republic was decided. But the atmosphere of this exotic room preserves other more frivolous memories, such as that of the seductive cuplet singer Consuelo Bello “La Fornarina”, who came to represent the culminating attraction in Madrid in the first quarter of the 20th century, in whose firmament shone stars so dazzling of the lowest genre such as La Goya and La Chelito. La Fornarina, who had triumphed in a little theater that was also called The Japanese Hall, liked to gather in this dining room in Lhardy with some friends to celebrate her successes.
The admirable Pleiad of the last half century

When the Civil War ended, Lhardy’s mirror again collected the images of illustrious figures of the Spanish intelligentsia, some of them marginalized by political circumstance and others attracted by the desire to share their prestige and the exchange of ideas. The “consommé” that had once brought together the elegant ladies, accompanied by a glass of tokay, that illustrated the evening gathering, of which the eminent psychiatrist and writer José Miguel Sacristán was an essential presence, impeccable in his attire, insightful in the look and ironic in the word, wielding pressing dialogues at the height of the ingenuity of his great friend Julio Camba. The painter Ignacio Zuloaga, the sculptor Juan Cristóbal, the skilled Domingo Ortega, the writer Antonio Díaz-Cañabete, the architect Chueca-Goitia, the counts of Villagonzalo, the García San Miguel couple, the actor Enrique Chicote and other gatherings made up those evening meetings to which the stupendous half combinations served as a sting, whose secret flavor no one could imitate outside of Lhardy.

Almost all of them have vanished through the last planes of Lhardy’s mirror into eternity, like so many others from previous generations in the long journey of two centuries. Also, we and our children and our grandchildren… will pass to the most abstract dimension through the mirror but, as in a sentimental bolero, our mouths will carry the sweet and bitter taste of the half combinations and, in the heart, the memory of the admirable Pleiad that we have known in Lhardy.LHARDY has jealously preserved its aristocratic and intellectual atmosphere for a century and a half. Contributing to this tenacious work, after Emilio, Agustín Lhardy and his grandson-in-law Adolfo Temes, are the collaborators who became owners of the house: Ambrosio Aguado Omaña, head pastry chef, Antonio Feito, head chef, as well as his descendants and inheritors. The dedication and courtesy of Gabriel Novo, José María García Salomón and Ambrosio Aguado, as well as the chef, also co-owner, Frutos Feito Peláez, have defined very difficult decades, in which they knew how to behave many times with the most generous liberality towards some of its clients, very prominent personalities of culture and science, who faced adverse circumstances in the ups and downs of the postwar period. That generosity, which we have witnessed, must be added to the Lhardy tradition with permanent memory. Since the end of the 20th century, a new enthusiasm has unfolded in Lhardy, led by the impetus of Milagros Novo and Javier Pagola Aguado, who are imposing the updating of the infrastructure, the perfect care of detail and the elevation of gastronomy to the highest levels that had this house in its long history.

The Europeanism that characterized Lhardy’s cuisine when distances and borders were less accessible, is now present on his table, with the dignity of the great French “château” wines together with the eminent Rioja or Duero reserves. It also brought back the prestige of the best Alsace “foie-gras” and the discipline of game cooking in unsurpassed creations such as the Austrian-style fallow deer or the pheasant with grapes. Lhardy’s historical recipes, such as the stuffed poularda or the Prince Orloff veal, have been recovered with all their refinement, while in fish, the new creation of hake stuffed with shellfish with Cumberland sauce, Russian- style lobster and splendid symphony of sea bass with king prawns and sole in champagne, according to the house tradition. Let’s raise our glasses to heart level and then toast to the future of Lhardy, from a joyful past of love and luxury.