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.
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.