Leña Madrid, an ode to embers in a lovely space designed by Astet Studio

To eat well and to do so in a beautiful space makes the experience unforgettable. The curious thing is that although it’s irresistible, it’s not always accomplished. That’s why on many occasions we have the feeling that we need to choose between eating well or opting for the atmosphere in a designer spot. We prefer both things to go hand in hand and not to have to forsake either. A good example of concept and a surrounding gastronomical experience is Leña Madrid by Dani Garcia, designed by Astet Studio. A place where both aspects are brought together very well and are equally important, and it all works in favour of the diners’ enjoyment.

Address: Hotel Hyatt Regency Hesperia. Pº de la Castellana, 57 (Madrid)

Leña Madrid is a modern steakhouse by chef Dani Garcia (5 Michelin stars), located at the Hotel Hyatt Regency Hesperia.

The atmosphere engulfs you as soon as you walk in thanks to the carefully designed interior, where wood, stone, the organic shapes, a very specific and accurate colour palette, as well as exquisite lighting command the experience. In fact, its aesthetic that was conceived and executed by Astet Studio at its first location in Marbella, earned it the award as “the most beautiful restaurant in the world” in the most recent “Restaurant&Bar Design Awards 2021”. In addition, it is the first time that the prize was awarded to a Spanish studio.

That’s why, we took the opportunity to chat with Ala Zreigat and Oscar Engroba, the creators of the concept and the interior design of Leña Marbella and Leña Madrid.

How did a concept as personal as this arise with wood, the colour black, ashes, stone, smoke and fire as the main focus?

The client gave us the name Leña (firewood) and the whole ideology emerged from there. Cut logs, the knots and its winding shapes.

“The use of wood to create fire and its interaction with the embers. The natural materials, such as stone and wood, are essential throughout the project, as they have a direct connection with the whole context.”

Other elements such as burnt wood and its Japanese technique “yakisugi” relate to Leña’s Japanese meat specialties. It all comes together to give the project consistency and cohesion.

What are the main design elements that define Leña Madrid?

The sculptural and luminous structure of the ceiling. The central bench and how it is the backbone of the whole space of the restaurant. The display case of meats and knives that exhibits the products.

“Black, that surrounds everything, shows that it is a colour that can have infinite nuances.”

The bathroom is another element that breaks with the theme and creates a new universe within the restaurant.

What type of work process do you follow when it comes to, first of all, conceptualizing and then to executing your interior design proposal?

We always analyse the project from the perspective of a concept that is powerful and that allows us to develop the rest of the elements that make up the project from there.

What is the difference between Leña Madrid and Leña Marbella?

They are similar to each other because there is a desire to maintain a consistency in concept and style. Madrid has the distinctive feature of the Smoked Room, another restaurant within itself, which has allowed us to explore new possibilities and to propose something with its own identity.

How did you feel on receiving the incredible Best Overall Restaurant Award at the Restaurant&Bar Design Awards 2021 for Leña Marbella? Did you expect something like that? What has the repercussion been for the studio?

Well, we really didn’t expect to win the best overall restaurant for Europe, let alone be the best in 2021. It has given the studio credibility. We are a young studio, but this prize proves that we do things right and that we are capable of taking on all kinds of projects. After this prize, there has been an increase in international project proposals.

Coming back to Leña Madrid, did you analyse the menu in order to come up with the interior design? And how do you achieve the dialogue between the space and the gastronomical concept in order to offer the complete experience?

“The design of the gastro space must be done from a holistic perspective.”

This means that all the elements involved have to be taken into account. From the menu to the tableware, the uniforms, etc.. If all those elements follow a line, you achieve consistency, and therefore a true gastronomical experience that invites you back.

In the case of Leña, the menu, the meats, the way they cook… develops the project. For example, the meat stands out on a black background, the embers give us the discourse for the smoke, the stones and the fire.

You specialize in projects for gastronomical spaces belonging to renowned chefs but also for hotels and private homes. What can you tell us about next projects of yours that will see the light?

We are working on many projects, but we could say that we are working on different Leñas around the world, we have started several projects for Albert Adrià and we also have projects in the Dominican Republic and Bucharest.

Leña Madrid: returning to the essence of the primitive through embers

As well as speaking to Astet Studio, we would like to delve deeper into this great project. Both in its aesthetics and its gastronomy.

As you will see for yourselves, the colour of the embers and the smoke create a completely immersive and different atmosphere in this project. A project which is also very welcoming and brings you that feeling of the hearth, in which fire is pivotal and present at all times. They achieve all this with a spectacular sculptural tinted ash wood ceiling that is reminiscent of the rings on a felled trunk, with the black granite floor, the comfortable seats in black and brown leather, the bar made from the trunk of a five metre tree, and in short, all the furniture and many details.

Other interesting aspects are the different textures of the space, that provide very interesting depths and curious plays of light and colour, that again work in favour of the gastronomical experience. You can tell Astet Studio are not only interior designers, but that their work and their differential value is in creating concepts that favour the gastronomical project. It shows that Astet Studio and Dani García are totally in sync.

“Leña Madrid follows the same standard as the first restaurant, in which the main discourse is the cut of the wood, the black of the ashes, the stones, the smoke and the fire that create the space.”

In fact, they have achieved a multi-sensorial experience that begins from the tunnel access to the restaurant and that goes right up to the bathroom, a domed area, with taproot mirrors and that seems enamelled in golden brass surfaces.

Meat is the queen of the party

The menu at Leña Madrid is diverse and there are delicious dishes to suit all tastes. But it is important to know that the indisputable ingredient is meat.

Fusion is also very present at Leña, and nothing is like anything you have ever tried before. Of course, there are famous bites “made by Dani García” but we mean that most of them have a welcomed uniqueness. A good example is the roast Málaga avocado; the chargrilled leek with Iberian Pork and truffle mortadella; the charcoal grilled Burgos blood pudding with apple purée or even their side dishes, very elaborate and surprising to the palette. And of course, their excellent quality meats and desserts.

With regards to their star ingredient…

“We warn you that you cannot leave without trying their incredible burgers made with aged beef, minced on the spot before your eyes, and that they serve on pretzel bread with bull sauce and Havarti.”

Absolutely mindblowing! The grilled poultry and Iberian game are also amazing, and as their menu is extensive, the best thing to do is to choose the type of meat that you prefer according to your taste, for example sirloin beef, roast baby lamb, aged ox sirloin steak or the A5 Wagyu beef sirloin (the maximum quality for this kind of meat), among others.

Desserts to crown the experience

As we said before, it’s important to leave some space for dessert or desserts. The options aren’t excessive but the ones they have are top quality. Our favourite is Tarta di Rose with toasted butter ice cream that is a festival of flavours. The presentation is beautiful and the flavours are marvellous. And a fantasy. Because the combination of brioches in the shape of a flower with the sweet and salted ice cream is a fantasy. We also recommend the stewed strawberries with pepper and ice cream. The sweet and sour combination deserves a slow clap.

Cocktails and drinks

As well as having a wine menu with some three hundred references of both national and international origin, they also have a very interesting cocktail menu where the caramel Old Fashioned, the smoked pumpkin Whisky Sour or Little Bit of Heaven stand out. But we recommend you allow yourselves to receive advice from the experts.

Smoked Room Fire Omakase

As if this weren’t enough, Leña Marbella’s counterpart has an added incentive: the Smoked Room: a haute cuisine clandestine restaurant for only 14 diners, that already has 2 Michelin stars. This restaurant offers a Fire Omakase, a 15-course tasting menu with smoke being the guiding theme. Highly recommendable for special occasions.

Without further ado, and as we always say, the best thing is to try it for yourselves. We had an incredible experience and can’t wait to go back.

(*) Photos by Salva López.