Set in a former Hispano American bank headquarters on the Passeig de Gràcia, Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona is a five-star hotel with all the trimmings. You couldn’t ask for a better location as the hotel sits along Barcelona’s most exclusive shopping street and across from Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s famous La Pedrera, the famous undulating stone building (circa 1906) that’s now a cultural center. Few Barcelonian hotels offer this refreshing fusion of classic comfort, architectural interest and opulence.
It’s apparent from the moment you cross the outstretched pathway into the lobby, this is not a hotel for the nouveau riche, but neither is it stuffy or snooty. It possesses a Barcelonian flair for mixing the very old with the very new, and further entices with meticulous attention to detail from polite (but not obsequious) bellboys to impeccable maid service and superlative hospitality.
Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola has transmuted the former bank into a contemporary chic 98-room boutique hotel. Urquiola has carefully chosen the layout and furniture design—the soaring ceilings and the stunning hand-woven carpets are reminiscent of the world’s great classical hotels.
All indication of its former banking days are obliterated, with the allowance of the revamped security boxes in the sleek, hip Banker’s Bar where Catalan’s élite comes to imbibe the overpriced cocktails.
Awarded with a Michelin star, Moments is helmed by Carmen Ruscalleda—the only female chef in the world with six Michelin stars. Ruscalleda’s menu appeals to the city’s well-heeled aristocratic with its devoted reappraisal of classic (and healthier) traditional Catalan cuisine such as fricandó, canelons and Cod with brandada, tripe and crispy black butifarra; or deer fillet with demi-glace and parsnip cake. A house favorite arrives as scallops with artichokes from El Maresme. In addition, they offer a tantalizing tasting menu that includes micro-appetizers, a starter, main course, cheese and two desserts.
In summer, snacks are served in the outdoor Mimosa Garden and on the rooftop where you can nosh as you lounge by the plunge pool.
Light oozes down through large skylights positioned over Blanc restaurant and lounge. A vast metallic grid dangles over the restaurant tables, allowing for the perfect amount of privacy, spot-on for a discrete late night dinner with your mistress or paramour. Above this looms a lush “hanging garden.”
Separated into ten sections, the menu consisted of a potpourri of styles including eggs, meats, casseroles, fish, stews and burgers. There was also a section dedicated to the Asian heritage of the Mandarin Oriental. Try the crushed fried eggs with slices of Iberian ham, served on a small frying pan, or the crispy chicken-ham croquettes, golden fried on the outside with a smooth and creamy interior. For dessert, Asian fresh fruit soup, served in a lovely clay pot, consists of fresh cubes of lychee, mango, star fruit and a green tea jelly, smothered in citrus juices.
Rooms and Suites
The hotel’s ninety-eight rooms are breezily decorated with shades of white and subtle oriental touches, which make them feel more spacious. Little expense is spared on the extras, from large Asian-inspired wall screens and lacquered Chinese boxes to swanky aromatherapy toiletries. There is also a lovely gift of macaroons, fresh fruit and exotic chocolates on arrival. The bathrooms, complete with vast walk-in showers, are adorned with Mutina and Bisazza mosaics conceived as boxes of sparkly, tinted glass.
It’s no surprise that this flawless hotel has a jewel of a spa. It pulls off the East-meets-West concept with a relaxing minimalism, which is evident throughout. Dark wood detailing, shadowy ceilings, dazzling white floors and metallic curtains lead guests to each of the eight expansive treatment rooms, where period ornaments contrast with the overall effortlessness of the space. In the pool area, a hefty malachite-green screen obscures the Hammam from sight.
The spa offers a full menu of treatments, including services like unique feet care methods incorporating podiatry; nail care and massage, as well as more indulgent massages and facials. As the emphasis here is on wellness there is much more on offer than just the treatment booked. Try the Barcelona Spring Journey, using indigenous Spanish ingredients to leave the body relaxed and wonderfully balanced. A ticklish Foot Ritual, using garden-fresh local mint and sage is followed by a invigorating Spanish olive oil, wild mint and salt scrub and aromatic massage with hot stones.
Catch the sunset and breathtaking views from the rooftop terrace and relaxing splash pool. The piece de la resistance is access to one of the Eixample neighborhood’s famous patios, dotted with fragrant mimosa trees.
A beacon on the Barcelona landscape, The Gaudi-inspired spirit of the Mandarin Oriental peers with a certain self-confidence down Paseo de Gracia. A fine hotel should leave an impression. This one certainly does.
Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
Passeig de Gràcia
38 08007 Barcelona, Spain
+34 931 51 88 88
(Small pets are welcome — they even have exceptional treats for dog.)
By Robert Ellsworth