With an unbeatable location in the very heart of Barcelona on the prestigious Passeig de Gràcia, Mandarin Oriental Barcelona established itself as the city’s finest luxury hotel and has, since opening 11 years ago, maintained this leading positioning. Passeig de Gracia is not only home to the majority of the top international luxury fashion, jewellery and watches brands, but it also features the city’s most celebrated architectural landmarks such as Casa Batlló by Antonio Gaudi or Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
Passeig de Gracia has recently welcomed new flagship stores of Balenciaga and Rolex, with Loewe and Kenzo undergoing has renovations, both expected to open in June with the latest global retail design concepts. Iconic Spanish luxury brand Loewe (originating in Madrid) is elevating its flagship store in Barcelona to a Casa Loewe, which is only present in a handful of global metropolis. Other major luxury brands with mono-brand stores on Passeig de Gracia include: Chanel, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Max Mara, Gucci, Zegna – but also more sophisticated ultra-luxury brands such as Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana.
Besides international wealthy shoppers, the luxury stores also cater to a most discerning Spanish consumer, hence the exclusive retail approach of Audemars Piguet which operates a lavish ultra-luxury ‘AP House’, an exclusive venue which can only be accessed by invitation, offering a ‘private club’ ambiance and an exclusive selection of its collections too.
The grand avenue which is also famous for its unique ornate benches and unique street lights, used to be a favourite for aristocrats to display their horse riding skills and expensive horse-drawn carriages all through the 19th century. Mandarin Oriental could not have chosen a more prestigious location, steps from the city’s attractions, but also a building which has a superb roof-top with a swimming pool and al fresco dining but also a beautifully manicured garden at the back, providing for a serene outdoor setting.
The hotel was conceived by architects Carlos Ferrater and Joan Trias de Bes (architecture) while the interior design was overseen by Patricia Urquiola (interior design). Spanish by birth, and Italian by choice, Patricia Urquiola was born in Oviedo and studied architecture in Madrid before graduating from the Milan Politecnico. She was mentored by some of the masters of Italian industrial design Achille Castiglioni and Vico Magistretti. She learned her craft in Italy and opened a studio in Milan in 2001.
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona was Urquila’s first hotel project, with a unique blend of timeless contemporary style, subtle Oriental touches and sleek modernism. While at first glance, the look may be perceived as understated, there is a luxurious feel which is predominant, emerging from both style and comfort, as well as the choice of the materials and furnishings, along with flawless finishes. Almost a decade from opening, Urquiola’s more ‘technical’ approach shows the durability in time of her designs, which is evident in how well the product has been maintained.
Plush, soft materials, such as leather and rich textiles but also fine wood, especially the parquet in most suites, instil a residential feel (home-away-from-home). Urquiola almost effortlessly included modern materials especially plexiglass, to create the partition of bathrooms. Similarly to furniture, lighting fixtures, carpets and tiles are all custom made. Accommodations are large, with ample bathrooms, most of which have separate free-standing bathtubs and showers. Ultimate comfort is also ensured by the superb bedding, sound-proofing, most quiet AC (which adjusts in seconds to the desired temperature) and state-of-the-art technology.
In 2014, the hotel added an adjacent building, with an exquisite collection of suites, Urquiola once again excelling with her superb interiors. The variety of accommodations, not only in layout but also in design is yet another unique selling proposition, equally catering to business travellers but also couples and families. Personally, I preferred the back side of the hotel which is not only more serene (no traffic) but also because it offers a authentic look into a typical residential quarter of Barcelona, a glimpse into the lifestyle of locals.
The food & beverage offering also had a strong contribution to the positioning of the luxury hotel, with the main restaurant, Blanc, flooded in natural light with a high glass ceiling and an open kitchen, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a touch of local cuisine in each meal of the day. Guests and local patrons also have the option of the casual Mimosa Garden at the back of the hotel or the spectacular Terrat at the rooftop of the hotel, with magnificent panoramic views of the city, with wide range of drinks and cocktails, served alongside a sublime choice of authentic Peruvian cuisine from Chef Gastón Acurio.
Carme Ruscalleda i Serra is the renowned Catalan Chef of the restaurant Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar, near Barcelona, also owns and manages the restaurant Sant Pau de Tòquio in Japan. In 1991 it obtained its first Michelin Guide star and in 2006 obtained its third Michelin star. Today her restaurants have seven Michelin stars in total: three in her restaurant in Catalonia and two for the Sant Pau in Tokyo, and two for Moments Restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona (opened 2016), making her the world’s only seven-Michelin-starred female Chef.
At the Moments Restaurant, Ruscalleda has had a most innovative approach to her dishes and creations, gathering recognition not only among local connoisseurs in Catalan cuisine, but also internationally. She is now extremely excited to reopen even if it means, her patrons may have to book a package. I would also be confident in affirming that her talent, energy and passion are part of the DNA of the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona.
Another key pillar of the uninterrupted success of Mandarin Oriental Barcelona has been its unique Spa, key features including Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzalez, a12-metre spa lap pool, an Oriental steam room, facials by Linda Meredith as well as hair and body treatments by Miriam Quevedo (local brand). Similarly to other departments, I was pleasantly surprised to be recognised by staff, whom I encountered during my previous stays – my the therapist on this stay told me she remembered me from 10 years ago… And she was not the only one to mention an encounter of 5 or 7 years ago.
Despite the pandemic restrictions (I stayed from March 12th 2021, 2 days after the re-opening of the hotel, which had been closed for a full one year), the primary strength of the hotel has shined through, which is, staff going out of their way to provide the highest personalised service standards. The passion and dedication of the team was impressive – seeing a joy in their eyes with each and every customer returning, whether locals having a meal or simply just a coffee, but also foreign travellers like myself – a FAN of Mandarin Oriental for almost 14 years since my very first stay at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London.
Although the relatively new humble and down to earth General Manager, Jean Philippe Moser, felt obliged to excuse himself, mentioning that the entire team was not yet in place. Nevertheless, I have not felt the smallest compromise to service or to implementing firmly and consistently all the pandemic measures and I have not felt less pampered or taken care of.
The property is not only implementing Mandarin Oriental‘s WE CARE program but also safety and hygiene measures imposed by local authorities. All the measures are meant to protect both staff and guests, providing a safe environment, the key being consistency of the implementation of these protocols.
I have absolutely no doubts, that should the overall health context improve, the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona will be ‘back on its feet’ in a matter of days,
Oliver Petcu in Barcelona
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