Be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions in Barcelona

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - KENDALL HILL

De­pend­ing on your point of view, Abac Ho­tel’s lo­ca­tion is either draw­card or draw­back. It’s an in­con­ve­nient base for vis­it­ing Barcelona hotspots such as Barri Gotic and El Born but if, like me, you’re a fan of whim­si­cal Cata­lan ar­chi­tec­ture and the great out­doors, you’ll have come to the right place.

The heart of the ho­tel is a cen­tury-old man­sion that was built, like much of this elite res­i­den­tial pocket, by the Cata­lan phar­ma­cist Sal­vador An­dreu. Mod­ernist man­sions by avant-garde greats such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Joan Ru­bio i Bel­lver line Tibid­abo Av­enue, a boule­vard in the Parisian style.

The walled es­tate of Abac Ho­tel stands at the head of the av­enue flanked by lofty planes and La Ta­marita park­lands. Be­hind this oa­sis the wild slopes of the Collserola Moun­tains beckon with hik­ing and bik­ing trails and an amuse­ment park, also built by Dr An­dreu.

His film­maker daugh­ter Dona Madronita lived here for many years and her for­mer home theatre now serves up two-star Miche­lin fare to din­ers in Abac’s all-white gar­den restau­rant. Chef Jordi Cruz’s de­gus­ta­tion menus might in­clude oys­ters with white as­para­gus and re­hy­drated tiger nuts, or sweet corn tacos with foie gras and mole ice cream. Guests are welcome to pop in to the kitchen dur­ing ser­vice for ques­tions or pho­tos, which seems only rea­son­able when the cheap­est menu costs €140 ($195).

Also at or be­low ground level are a swish lounge bar with its orig­i­nal arches and chan­de­lier, and a spa with plunge pool, ham­mam and Her­mes body balms.

Abac’s 15 gue­strooms and suites, two with ex­pan­sive ter­races, are clev­erly con­fig­ured across the up­per lev­els of the old man­sion and a starkly con­tem­po­rary an­nexe known as the crys­tal pav­il­ion. In­te­ri­ors are pale, el­e­gant, ethe­real; tex­tures are but­toned leather, mar­ble and minky throws; mini­bar re­fresh­ments are DIY Bil­le­cart and white peach-nec­tar Belli­nis, cof­fee ma­chines, Al­sa­tian beer and Xavier Mor cho­co­lates (also the turn­down treat).

It’s a cliche to rave about ho­tel beds but this time, trust me, it’s true. Climb­ing be­tween Abac’s pure white linen and pil­low-top mat­tress is like sur­ren­der­ing to the soft­est cud­dle.

Tech­nol­ogy is top-notch, from swipe-card se­cu­rity to fault­less, fast Wi-Fi, Bang & Olufsen plasma TVs and, per­haps smartest of all, re­mote-con­trolled cur­tains and blinds. I leave mine open and wake in a sun­lit wood­land of plane trees, crepe myr­tles and pines, my gue­stroom trans­formed into a glam­orous tree­house. It doesn’t feel like Barcelona at all, but that’s not al­ways a bad thing.

Kendall Hill was a guest of Mr & Mrs Smith.

Abac Ho­tel’s al­fresco din­ing area, swish lounge bar and an el­e­gant gue­stroom

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