A taste of the orient


Virtuozity - - Destination -

BARCELONA HASN’T EARNED ITS stripes a cul­tural cap­i­tal for noth­ing. As with any ma­jor Euro­pean city, a quick glance down any street will of­fer a view steeped in his­tory. But whereas most Euro­pean cities speak to a grand im­pe­rial tra­di­tion with their mon­u­ments and museums, Barcelona evokes a more con­sid­ered glimpse into the his­tory of cul­ture it­self, with ev­ery road, ev­ery cor­ner and ev­ery stone cap­tur­ing the magic of the Re­nais­sance and ev­ery­thing since.

A fit­ting place, then, for one of the most well-con­sid­ered yet unique ho­tel chains in the world to open up shop. The Man­darin Ori­en­tal Barcelona opened its doors in 2009, risen from the ashes of a beau­ti­fully re­de­vel­oped mid 20th-cen­tury build­ing that used to be the Barcelona head­quar­ters of Banco His­pano Amer­i­cano.

Though its location is cer­tainly in the higher end of town, the Man­darin Ori­en­tal serves up the artis­tic and cul­tural charm that is ev­i­dent across most of the city. With a prime location at the fa­mous shop­ping district Pas­seig de Grà­cia, guests can stroll amongst the city’s cel­e­brated prom­e­nades, ar­chi­tec­ture and his­tor­i­cal at­trac­tions. Two land­mark build­ings by ac­claimed ar­chi­tect Gaudi are just a stone’s throw away.

Now, if you’ve not trav­elled much out­side the Mid­dle East, you might not be aware of the Man­darin Ori­en­tal chain— af­ter all, there’s no Man­darin Ori­en­tal in this re­gion. The group be­gan with the open­ing of its flag­ship prop­erty, The Man­darin, in Hong Kong in 1963, which soon built up an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion for lux­u­ri­ous ser­vice. In 1974, Man­darin In­ter­na­tional Ho­tels Limited

was formed as a ho­tel man­age­ment com­pany. The group’s in­ten­tion was to ex­pand into Asia and op­er­ate ho­tels that would re­flect the stan­dard of ser­vice syn­ony­mous with their prop­erty in Hong Kong.

In 1974 the com­pany’s ho­tel in­ter­ests ex­panded fur­ther through the ac­qui­si­tion of a 49 per cent in­ter­est in The Ori­en­tal, Bangkok. The Ori­en­tal was al­ready a leg­endary prop­erty and ac­knowl­edged as one of the world’s great ho­tels. Through the man­age­ment of both The Man­darin in Hong Kong and The Ori­en­tal, Bangkok, the group was in the un­usual po­si­tion of hav­ing two “flag­ship” ho­tels whose names rep­re­sented the best in hos­pi­tal­ity. Thus it made sense to com­bine the two brands into a sin­gle one that brought to mind the best of both. Fast-for­ward to to­day and the Man­darin Ori­en­tal Group has ho­tels Barcelona—a small tour would con­firm that. For ex­am­ple, the Banker’s Bar pays trib­ute to the build­ing’s his­tory by us­ing the Banco’s old safes in the bar’s de­sign, cre­at­ing an em­blem­atic and original venue in which to while away an evening. The ho­tel also uses the tall­ness of the struc­ture to its ad­van­tage, us­ing the rooftop to house an out­door swim­ming pool and the Ter­rat ter­race bar. At around eight storeys high (not huge by Dubai stan­dards, but tall for Barcelona), you can lounge at these spots drink­ing in 360-de­gree views of the city, its fa­mous land­marks and the neigh­bour­ing Mount Tibid­abo.

While there’s am­ple space out­side, the Man­darin’s space in­side is even more im­pres­sive—par­tic­u­larly given it’s a cen­treof-town city ho­tel. Most prop­er­ties in the area, while pleas­ant, re­ally do scrimp on

feel even more spa­cious, and the lay­out of the bath­room means you es­sen­tially have a dress­ing room nes­tled be­tween it and the sump­tu­ous en-suite. Ma­te­ri­als, fur­nish­ings and in-room ameni­ties are, nat­u­rally, topof-the-line—the ho­tel’s in­te­rior was penned by renowned Span­ish in­te­rior de­signer Pa­tri­cia Urquiola.

Opt for the deluxe room, and you’ll have even more space to play with, in the form of a stun­ning bal­cony that over­looks the ‘Mi­mosa Gar­den’, a re­lax­ing oa­sis of green nes­tled be­tween the tall, kitsch struc­tures sur­round­ing the ho­tel. Dur­ing the sum­mer months, there re­ally couldn’t be a bet­ter place in which to sip a morn­ing cof­fee.

That said, with so many culi­nary de­lights on of­fer at the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, it’s un­likely that you’ll be spend­ing much time in the room. The ho­tel’s sig­na­ture res­tau­rant, Mo­ments, has earned two Miche­lin stars, and was set up by Chef Carme Rus­calleda, the most starred fe­male chef in the world with seven Miche­lin stars to her name. The set­ting may be low-key and busi­ness-like, but ev­ery per­fectly pre­pared dish screams with ex­cite­ment.

It’s the same story with the two al fresco venues, the afore­men­tioned Mi­mosa Gar­den and Ter­rat. Both fea­ture vi­brant Peru­vian menus cre­ated by celebrity chef Gas­ton Acu­rio, known in many cir­cles as the am­bas­sador of Peru­vian cui­sine. In keep­ing with the fresh­ness of the venues, the food is light and tapas-like, but ev­ery mouth­ful sim­ply bursts with flavour.

Fi­nally, the house res­tau­rant, Bistreau, is where break­fast is served. But given this is a Man­darin Ori­en­tal, break­fast is a lit­tle more ex­trav­a­gant than you’d ex­pect at a less il­lus­tri­ous estab­lish­ment. Sparkling wine and or­ange juice is freely avail­able, as is a stun­ning col­lec­tion of cold cuts, freshly pre­pared light bites, bread and cheese. A bor­ing con­ti­nen­tal break­fast this is not.

Nat­u­rally, the ho­tel has all of the ameni­ties you’d ex­pect of a five-star prop­erty – the spa is a so­phis­ti­cated ur­ban oa­sis, a lux­u­ri­ous sanc­tu­ary in an in­ti­mate and min­i­mal­ist space, markedly mod­ern in style with Ori­en­tal touches. The spa fea­tures eight treat­ment rooms, in­clud­ing two lux­ury cou­ples’ spa suites, two ori­en­tal suites, com­plete with in­di­vid­ual spa vi­tal­ity pools and fu­tons for tra­di­tional Thai mas­sages, and four lux­u­ri­ous treat­ment rooms, each with their own aro­mather­apy ex­pe­ri­ence shower. A 12-me­tre in­door swim­ming pool, heat and wa­ter ar­eas, and a state-of-the-art fit­ness cen­tre com­plete the ho­tel’s fa­cil­i­ties.

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