Hotel review: Mandarin Oriental Barcelona

Mandarin Oriental Review

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.

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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.

Mandarin Oriental Review

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 the property in Hong Kong.

In 1974 the company’s hotel interests expanded further through the acquisition of a 49% 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 found itself with two “flagship”. So 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 in most major cities from Tokyo to New York. Each offers a classic sense of superb luxury, but each also uses its own location its advantage, bringing something unique about the locale to the guest experience.

And so it is with the Mandarin Oriental 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 Gulf 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.

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While there’s ample space outside, the Mandarin’s interior is even more impressive – particularly given it’s a centre-of-town city hotel. Most properties in the area, while pleasant, really do scrimp on room space, simply because of the size of the buidlings. Not so with the Mandarin Oriental, which offers generous room sizes even when compared to a hotel in, say, Dubai. What’s more, the clever use of high-end furniture makes the cosy rooms 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, top-of-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.

Mandarin Oriental Review

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.

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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.

All of this loveliness does come at a price, though. A junior suite for two nights will set you back around AED 11,000. This, then, is not the sort of establishment to visit if you’re on a budget. Instead, it’s the sort of place you might take a loved one for a spectacular anniversary, or else use as a stop-over on a European honeymoon trip.

And despite the expense, there’s no denying that the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s charms, along with its location, make for a very compelling proposition.

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