Panoramic Views, Lush Gardens, and Michelin Stars at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona
Barcelona is a fascinating, bustling metropolis on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Settled in Roman times, it became a major international tourist destination after hosting the 1992 Olympic Games. Recognized as a center for culture and arts with numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, it has also earned a reputation in recent years as a major European hub for gastronomy. As in any large city, there is an array of lodging options at every price point. However, location is a primary consideration for most tourists to be able to conveniently explore the busy city. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in a mid-20th century building, is conveniently located on the chic Passeig de Garcia. Set back from the street, a ramp leads into the sleek interior reception area. The public spaces and 120 rooms designed by Spanish Patricia Urquiola in contemporary style with oriental nuances are a study in refined elegance.
Set right in the heart of the bustling city, it's an ideal place to spend a night (or a few) and be pampered by the excellent service and amenities. The opulent yet minimalistic decor in soothing tones, the stellar spa in the basement, the shopping just out the door, and (best of all) the 360-degree view from the rooftop bar are some of the reasons it's a no brainer for my annual pilgrimage to the food-centric city. For architecture and history buffs, Antonio Gaudi's Casa Battlio is just a short hop across the street while the Plaza Mayor and the bustling Las Ramblas leading into the Gothic quarter and the La Boqueria Market are all within walking distance. When exhausted guests head back to the hotel, what could be more welcome than bottle of cold water that the street level staff are so prompt to offer. Such touches are typical of the hospitality of the Mandarin Oriental brand.
The cruise season usually brings in tourists before or after embarking on the mega cruise ships at the Port de Barcelona. For such short visits, the concierge seamlessly organizes and arranges for city tours while the most-visited attractions like the Sagrada Familia church or Gaudi's Park Guell are just a short taxi ride away.
As a foodaholic, my trips to Barcelona (with its internationally recognized restaurants, bars, and patisseries) are all about dining. Other temples of haute cuisine outside the city are ideal for a day trip by train or taxi if the concierges can wangle an elusive reservation. Some of them require a few months of preplanning, but if not there are other options. The hotel itself has a well-curated selection of restaurants within its premises, and in-house guests can be assured of a reservation, especially at the two Michelin-starred MOments by chef Carme Ruscalleda. The acclaimed Spanish chef holds seven Michelin stars across her three restaurants in Barcelona and Tokyo. This chic restaurant, with its soothing colors, is helmed by her son, chef Raul Balam Ruscalleda and has become one of the main attractions of the hotel for food lovers. The tasting menu, appropriately named “The Tour,” presents guests with a personalized passport for their journey of international flavors.
Since 2016 acclaimed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio has presented his Latin American flavors at Terrat bar on the rooftop in the evening and al fresco dining spot Mimosa Garden during the day, where the smell of the grill wafts around the secluded gardens. The landscaped gardens are a secluded oasis surrounded by tall buildings, and are unbelievably serene just a few hundred meters off the busy Passeig de Garcia. The fashionable avenue is comparable to Champs-Elysees in Paris or Fifth Avenue in New York and is lined with stores representing every major luxury brand.
Spanish chef Angel Leon, famous for his avant-garde seafood at two Michelin starred Aponiente at the Cadiz , Spain Mandarin Oriental property, showcases his signature dishes at BistrEau. The restaurant is in the main dining room, which does double duty with a spectacular breakfast spread in the mornings (visions of plates of Serrano ham), and transforms at night into the candle-lit snazzy restaurant with dishes like seafood risotto complemented by wines from Jerez.
The culinary hot spot is also home to the glamorous Bankers Bar, where the glamorati of the city flock to, especially when the seasonal Terrat is not operational. A stay at the hotel can coincide with special events like PDT (Please Don't Tell), a pop up bar from New York serving haute cuisine hot dogs created by top chefs such as Albert Adria, Joan Roca, Carme Ruscalleda, Gaston Acurio, and Angel Leon. Guests then easily earn bragging rights to have tasted the cuisine of these top Spanish and international chefs!
This unique property (where from some rooms the balcony opens to vistas of the lavender-scented gardens for a quiet moment sipping green tea) is my favorite home away from home.