Throughout the world, the name Mandarin Oriental Hotel is synymous with quality service, luxurious locations and breath taking ambience. Since The Mandarin Hotel of Hong Kong merged with The Oriental Hotel of Bangkok to form Mandarin Oriental Group, the organisation has gone from strength to strength and continues to be a major source of pride for Hong Kong on whose HKEX Stock Exchange the group are floated.
Mandarin Oriental Hotels are reknown for their great interiors using Feng Shui principles to create harmonious spaces. It’s public knowledge that the group use Feng Shui date selection to open a hotel or make rennovation and their clientelle of celebrities, statesmen and world-leading businessmen means the standards are exacting.
It was therefore a great honour that when Mandarin Oriental Hotels wanted to launch their new ground breaking 5 star boutique hotel and spa in Barcelona, they approached me and asked if I would travel to Spain and bless the opening ceremony. Attended not only by press, VIPs and the Mayor of Barcelona, even the Chief Executive of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group came all the way from Hong Kong. I was delighted to be part of their grand opening and to commemorate the occassion, I’ve put together a photo tour of some of the incredible sights I saw inside this beautiful hotel.
It’s known as Spain’s most prestigious street and is probably it’s most expensive, with several famous pieces of architecture on it and major businesses present. Formerly called Camí de Jesús (“Jesus Road”), Passeig de Gràcia is Barcelona’s Mayfair and home to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s new exclusive boutique hotel and spa.
Aside from the through flow of traffic that’s comparable to it’s peer locations in London, Paris and Rome, Passeig De Gràcia enjoys this beautiful Chi enhancing water feature. The street itself is relatively modern having been designed in 1906 by architect Pere Falqués i Urpí and it’s wide fanfare allows ample room for the energy to pass through.
Previously the location of the Barcelona head office of the Banco Hispanico Americano, this is a strong building with a powerful presence eminating from it’s sturdy architecture. It also has a noticable symmetry which further strengthens it position.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group have consistently won awards worldwide for the highest standards of service. From this level, you can see not only do the staff look inviting, but the doorway itself is magnificent and tall, framed by brickwork depicting scenes of plenty – an auspicious sign of things to come?
To enter the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Barcelona one must cross a catwalk through a central atrium. It’s perhaps at this point on begins to really get a sense of the amount of reworking top Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola put into the rennovation of this elegant building.
Crossing the catwalk to the lobby provides a useful break from the heat of the Spanish sunshine and allows you to…
…leave the hustle and bustle of vibrant Barcelona and it’s many attractions far behind you. If you’re a celebrity, VIP, statesman, high flying businessman or other notary, as are most of Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s clientelle, it’s probably an even bigger relief to leave the outside world and all it’s papparazzi behind! This is the entrance to an oasis in the center of Barcelona
Was that worth the walk? The lobby is designed to help to take the heat off of Mandarin Oriental’s exclusive guests and it’s combination of colour together with suggestive screening provides a welcome break from the entrance. At the same time a reassuring touch of nature is provided in the decor to create immediate ambience.
It’s all quiet whilst I take a moment; I’m looking around the building before it’s open to the public so there’s not the porters, cleaners, waiters and other staff that there would normally be. It made it all the more calming. Do you see how the ceiling is made up of skylights here? Remember that as we’ll come back to it later.
For me, the quiet didn’t last long! We had a grand opening complete with Feng Shui blessing ceremony to do. But whilst the cameras get in position, the press get briefed and the staff take care of all the little details, shall we go for a quick scout around the place? It might be fun to see how the other side live!
This is a junior suite. Even at this end of the spectrum it’s comfortably laid out with tasteful decor and soft furnishings, together with your own balcony so you can enjoy breakfast or a spot of yoga in the morning sun.
This is a terrace room. It’s slightly bigger and the balcony here is bit enough for you to sit out on and enjoy the noise of the city.
This is peeking out of a deluxe room’s bathroom suite. Just look at that tap for the bath – seperate so that when you fill up a nice bubbly bath you can melt into the tub without and uncomfortable brass in the way – oooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
In all fairness, the bathrooms in the junior suites aren’t short of smile raising comforts with the same taps on the tub combining wih a stylish design and look at all that counter space – this place was designed for those that travel with a lot of potions!
Of course if that’s a bit basic for your tastes, maybe the Penthouse Terrace would satisfy your inner diva? It includes two bedrooms, three bathrooms, living area, a private office, two double balconies, kitchen and a bar with a Bang & Olufsen home cinema system and a Mandarin Oriental butler. The view down Passeig de Gràcia is spectacular!
Do you remember how earlier I told you to note the glass ceiling as I was sat in the restaurant? A Feng Shui consultant must have a sharp eye for detail! Here is how that fits together with the bigger picture – looking out from one of the balconies one can see the Mimosa Gardens. It’s a nice place to enjoy a seista. In it you can see the Restaurant Blanc’s glass ceiling.
The Restaurant Blanc, where I was earlier, holds an incredible ambience. Here by day the glass ceiling we just saw makes it bright and roomy beneath the Spanish sunshine. They serve homemade Catalonian jams here for breakfast and bento boxes for lunch.
By night it’s transformed by starlight into a romantic and seductive place to enjoy a la carte by candlelight. What a change the balance of Yin and Yang make, right? The chefs here are amongst Barcelona’s most regarded culinary masters and you can watch them preparing if you care.
Moments is another restaurant in the building and it borders on the landscaped gardens which you can see here in the right. Established and run by Chef Carme Ruscalleda, the only woman in the world to have earned five Michelin stars for her restaurants in Spain and Tokyo, Moments promises to be one of the finest dining experiences in Barcelona. The gilt ceiling decor and floor pattern has a certain map-like quality to it that builds the feeling of this being a special place in the world.
Unlike Great Britain, Spanish bankers got through the credit crunch with their reputation intact and balance sheets strong. In a nod to the building’s heritage and to the growing strength of Spain’s financial sector, the Banker’s Bar features safes embedded across the ceiling and walls.
One of the most important parts of any celebrity get-away has to be the spa and Mandarin Oriental certainly didn’t cut any corners when coming up with their Barcelona experience. There are sumptuously designed treatment rooms for singles and couples, a rainforest experience shower room, an oriental herb steam room, a Thai futon treatment room, a pool and a fitness center. I was particularly impressed by the way some treatments are combined with TCM to diagnose one’s Five Elements and give a personalised experience.
Importantly for a place where this Feng Shui consultant to celebrities was asked to give blessing, there’s an abundance of good Feng Shui! Hulu gourds are a well known Feng Shui enhancer and I’m yet to see a better pair than these near five foot golden ones. Well done Mandarin Oriental Hotel, your Feng Shui consultant approves!
Elsewhere in the design and decor, Feng Shui is seemlessly integrated without compromising standards of aesthetics. This Phoenix, a symbol of good fortune in both Western and Eastern cultures, is a delightful cast iron piece. I think too many people make the mistake of putting tiny cure in and wondering why it doesn’t look good. Sometimes you need to make a feature out of it to give it the power you want visually and energetically. Get out and proud to use Feng Shui!
Of course some types of Feng Shui cure are more powerful than others which is why Mandarian Oriental Hotel Group flew me to Barcelona to get on-site at the hotel and perform a full Feng Shui blessing ritual. Unlike more general Space Clearing ceremonies, this was a particularly specialist ritual. That’s why Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, one of Hong Kong’s prides of the business world, head hunted me personally to perform the ceremony in order that it be carried out by someone who would meet their world leading standards.
I performed my blessing ceremony in front of the Spanish media and press, the high society of Barcelona and under the intense eyes of this man. Not only has he guided Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group to grow from 11 to 41 hotels, he’s also an advisor on Hong Kong to the French Government, it’s Edouard Ettedgui, the Group Chief Executive. I felt very honoured to receive his praise afterwards.
After all the speeches, the blessing and finally the ribbon cutting, the hotel was pronounced open! Together with leading business people, socialites and celebrities, we enjoyed a champagne reception. I think all who know me appreciate I’m a bit of a foodie and I have to say the catering at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona is absolutely exquisite! But don’t just take it from me – check out the reviews everyone from Tatler to Forbes and Zagat have made.
I’d like to just say a quick thanks to the team at Mandarin Oriental Hotels who worked so hard behind the scenes to make everything happen. Just as everyday the company’s staff go the extra mile to ensure a perfect day for all their guests, this lot went not just the extra mile, the went country to country to make everything flawless. Top marks and a well deserved drink for you all! Here’s wishing Mandarin Oriental Hotel Barcelona every success!