Modern minimalist Barcelona boutique stay ABaC Restaurant & Hotel undeniably has an impressive address. Situated on the edge of Plaza John F Kennedy, where both Calle Balmes and the L7 metro begin their journeys across the Catalan capital, and from where the old, wooden Tram Blau (blue tram) starts its climb up to the best views of the city, it sits in seriously uptown Barcelona. This is the part of town furthest from the sea, where the haute bourgeoisie built their edge-of-town palaces, and where the heroes of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel The Shadow of the Wind first made love. The ideal setting, then, for a Mr & Mrs Smith weekend.
ABaC itself is a turn-of-the-millennium modern masterpiece. Even though one of its two buildings was built at the end of the 19th century, there’s not a trace of historical quaintness to be found. From the moment that we enter the outer gate from the street, cross over the large paving stones in the carefully manicured garden and descend in the glass elevator to its subterranean reception, we’re struck by how up-to-the-minute everything is. Amazing, considering that the hotel was a bit of an afterthought. Its sole reason for existence is to provide 15 well-appointed bedrooms to accompany a two Michelin-star restaurant.
When we check in, the staff are polite and welcoming; they ask us how our journey was, and whether we’re going to need any maps or information on the city. Mrs Smith and I, Barcelona dwellers both, smile sheepishly. There is something particularly wonderful about staying at a hotel in your own city; it represents the ultimate escapism. Just half an hour earlier, we’d been baking birthday cakes at home with our three young children, my wife oblivious of the real treat to come. Now, we’re thoroughly cocooned in a bubble of modern comfort and luxury, thick double-glazed windows cutting out all trace of the Friday-night city din, and there’s not a child in sight.
We are shown swiftly around the hotel – the spa, the restaurant where we are to dine later and the cool lounge bar – before taking the lift up to our room. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Continental designer cool – my preferred interiors style design is probably best described as Anglo-Irish shabby chic – but I’ve been to enough hotels in the Mr & Mrs Smith collection to vouch for the fact that the ABaC bedrooms are as good as you can get if you like that kind of thing. There’s an enormous Bang & Olufsen TV and remote-control curtains to fulfil all techy fantasies, and the bed comes with huge puffy pillows, crisp linen sheets and a super-comfy mattress from Treca de Paris. Before you can say ‘hot bubbles’, Mrs Smith has taken her glass of white Rueda wine into the in-room Jacuzzi, and spends the next 20 minutes or so giggling hysterically as the water changes from green to red to blue.
Refreshed, we head down to dinner and take our place among the other well-dressed couples in the restaurant. At this point, I must hold my hands up and say that my favourite Spanish restaurants are the ones that only the locals know about; the kind of places with questionable 1970s décor that serve simply grilled prawns and langoustines on a bed of fresh salad. I am a little sceptical, then of a restaurant with two Michelin stars and a famous penchant for El Bullí-style experimental cooking.
However, Mrs Smith (who, having grown up on fantastic Spanish food, can be incredibly fussy) and I are completely seduced. From the first mouthful of fabulous, nutty Languedoc olives to the final fork of exquisite mushroom, avocado and crab tartare, the food never stops delighting our tastebuds. In retrospect, my only regret is not getting up in between one of the many light but delicious courses to watch the chef and his team at work. But by the time we drifted contentedly past the kitchen on our way up to bed, there were just a handful of the team left doing the wash down.
Back in our room, my wife soon succumbs to the comfort of the enormous bed; so I choose to stay up a little while longer and lie on the sofa by the window, drinking the last of the Rueda and gazing up at the flickering lights of the ancient amusement park atop Tibidabo. After a while, tiredness starting to swamp me, I get up and attempt to close the curtains with the remote control. But, try as I might, I can’t manage it, so, putting it down to drunkenness, I give up and go to bed.
When we wake up, I’m glad all my curtain-closing efforts came to nothing. Bright sunshine streams through the windows, alerting us to the deep-blue sky and glorious Mediterranean morning outside. We lounge in bed for an hour or two, putting off the inevitable return to our three little darlings at home for as long as we possibly can. If we’d have been better organised, we decide, we would have made sure we’d had the time (and the swimwear) to visit the Elemis spa, and we’d have treated ourselves to one of the many treatments on offer. Another day, perhaps…
On checking out, we confess to the receptionist that neither of us could make the curtains close. She apologises, and politely suggests that it was probably a mechanical fault. Only a day ago, I’d have scoffed at this, and no doubt launched into a searing condemnation of modern technology and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But now I just smile and tell her it doesn’t matter. I have been thoroughly seduced by ABaC Restaurant & Hotel, and she’s not going to hear any complaints from me.
Anonymously reviewed by Mr & Mrs Smith
Reviews of ABaC Restaurant & Hotel from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
While no superlatives are sufficient to describe the restaurant at the hotel (the chef Jordi Cruz, fully meriting his two Michelin stars, will definitely go on to become a huge phenomenon in the near future), we had a slightly mixed feeling about the restaurant Gaig, which has one Michelin star and was recommended for a Saturday-night dinner. Though the traditional Catalan cuisine is good, it still does not beat an excellent-quality restaurant called Petit Comite at 13 passeig de Conceptio for its innovative take on traditional Catalan dishes. Just next to this restaurant are also two brilliant places which we sampled: El Japones at number 5 on the same passage if you want to eat light vibrant and authentic food whilst taking a break from shopping at Passeig de Gracia and its boutiques, and Murmuri which is Thai cuisine at its best just around the corner. As Sunday was bright and sunny, we decided to walk around the port area which was full of tourists but stopped at the terrace of La Gavina at 1 palau de Mar to sample black rice arroz negre and a seafood paella, washed down with a Martin Codax Albarino white wine. What a treat this is – a simple and standard place but the ambience and being outside in the sun on the waterfront and taking in the hubbub is worth a go. Also, around the hotel (while its difficult to extract oneself from the spa and the massages there) is a very nice covered market – St Gervasi – which is worth the round-the-corner trip to stock up on ham, cheeses and other goodies. All in all, this is one bright spot to unwind and relax in the firmament of Barcelona.
Sachin, GoldSmith stayed on 23 Mar 2012
Possibly one of the best hotels I have stayed in across Europe. Do not leave without a trip to the spa downstairs and dinner at the hotel restaurant. For the brave, a trip to Bar Marsella featured in the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a must.
Lawrence, GoldSmith stayed on 11 Jan 2012