If high-end shopping and Gaudí are your holiday priorities, you'll be in heaven - the MO is halfway up the elegant Passeig de Gràcia and just across from the Casa Batlló. The Old City is a ten-minute walk away.
In shades of cream, with oriental graphics across one wall, orchids, splayed style mags and wide, comfortable beds, the rooms would be just about perfect if they were just a tad bigger (the standards, that is - the suites are a whole other story and twice the size of the average Barcelona flat). Ritzy little touches include a box of chocolate truffles, leatherbound notebooks and calendars, and upmarket toiletries: La Prairie in the suites, Aromatherapy Essentials in the standard rooms. The high-powered showers feel wonderful, but keep an eye out for bathroom floods if you have them on full blast. Rooms face either the Passeig de Gràcia or the garden restaurant to the rear (be warned there is a schoolyard alongside, which can get noisy during the afternoons).
Where the hotel falls short, perhaps, is the lobby. Don't get me wrong - it's as designer tasteful as the rest of the hotel, with cream leather sofas, oversized oriental flower prints in the carpets and a shimmering, reflective ceiling like a gravity-defying pool - but it is small. Essentially it's just a space between the concierge and reception, which is fine if you're passing through, but not if you're hanging out and using the free WiFi (WiFi in the rooms is a princely 13 euros a day).
Eating and drinking
Where to start? The MOments (see what they did there?) restaurant is overseen by triple-Michelin-starred Carme Ruscalleda (her son Raul is the chef) and specialises in top-quality Catalan cuisine, while Blanc, on the ground floor, goes for an Asian-Med blend. At Mimosa, the pretty garden-terrace, fragrant with lavender bushes and staffed by cutie-pies in natty trilbies and Converse sneakers, you can order lighter snacks all day, or simply have a drink. Next to reception is the Bankers' Bar, one wall and the ceiling lined with the safety deposit boxes from the former bank. The head barman has won awards for his meticulously prepared, old-school cocktails and the look is latter-day gentlemen's club, with tartan carpets and sombre tones.
As well as a guest-only dipping pool on the roof, there is a small and relaxing indoor pool next to the spa in the basement. The spa itself is probably the most atmospheric I've seen in a hotel and a haven of tranquility. There is even a his-and-hers treatment room with twin massage beds and an adjoining room with double futon and bathtub for chilling out afterwards. If, that is, you have 970 euros to spare. The gym is well equipped, not only with machines but exercise balls and so on. Headphones are provided for the individual TV screens.
The Mandarin prides itself on its service, which is certainly charming. When I was in the Blanc bar/restaurant a family brought in provisions from McDonald's to have with their cocktails - despite some almost imperceptible eye-rolling, nothing was said. Which is just how it should be.
Who stays there
Tourists of all nationalities make up about 70 per cent of the clientele, but I was struck by how many locals (particularly wealthy middle-aged women) use the hotel as a pitstop while shopping; relaxing in the spa, having Afternoon Tea in Blanc or a cocktail in the sunshine at Mimosa.
The usual rules apply - avoid August, trade fairs and major sporting events or risk a mighty rack rate. Breakfast is 43 euros extra.
- Business Centre
- Fitness Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Pets Allowed
- Room Service
- Swimming Pool
- Business travellers
- Culture vultures
Pros & Cons
- Attentive service
- Beautifully designed
- Excellent facilities
- Rooms not huge