We pull up to the magnificent converted palacio that houses this chic layer-cake hotel and breathe a sigh. Once through the doors into the minimalist lobby, we can barely remember being a little bemused on our trip here from the airport. The view alone from Hospes Maricel is enough to go to your head. Cunningly designed to guide you seamlessly through to a series of pool-studded terraces overlooking the sea, this designer retreat makes this Mediterranean destination as alluring as the Balearic gets.
If given truth serum, I'd have to confess that the drive from Palma airport had not inspired confidence. The area surrounding the hotel is far from Magaluf, but it’s not exactly plush Portals Nous. Located in the hinterland of Calvia, west of Palma proper, Hospes is flanked by lacklustre apartment blocks, bars and restaurants. What a contrast: Maricel’s own eatery and spa couldn’t be more inspired. And the sea beyond is a shade of turquoise blue that I thought only Photoshop chicanery known only to a secret inner circle of holiday brochure designers and postcard vendors could achieve.
As we watch our bags disappear from the sleek reception area-cum-cocktail lounge, we stroll through to the alfresco bar. Peripheral vision gives us the chance to take in our surroundings – a combination of beautiful historic architecture and swish leather and wooden contemporary furniture. It’s a striking contrast to the stately 16th-century exterior. ‘Oh…’ is all Mrs Smith can manage as she drags her jaw along the marble-tiled floors. Or perhaps it was ‘Oooh’. I can’t quite be sure as I’m too busy admiring that view again.
Wild parties are said to have taken place here in the Sixties, when it was either a private house, or a disco, depending on who you listen to. It seems it was a bit of both. It’s certainly the sort of place you can imagine befitting high society hijinx. Bianca Jagger riding in on a white horse would fit in perfectly. Or the Spanish equivalent of John Profumo cavorting in the pool with a Continental Christine Keeler.
Did I mention the view? As a waiter brings us glasses of something suitably sparkling, its tempting to just run down the steps to the infinity pool, throw clothes off in our wake before dive-bombing, Peter Kay style, into the briny. But Hospes Maricel nowadays is a civilised affair. We politely sip our cava, soak up yet more of that vista, before tearing ourselves away to our room.
We are staying not in the main historical building, but in the slick recently added newbuild extension across the road. Make that under the road, since the new wing is accessed via a tunnel cunningly created to shield guests from the main drag above. The walls look strangely familiar. Not so much because they are constructed using an age-old drywall technique seen across the countryside of the Balearic islands since the 13th century. But, according to Mrs Smith, because they are just like the walls on the terrace at Space in Ibiza – such is her in-depth knowledge of the ancient Moorish architectural vernacular.
The ground floor of the wing housing our room is pin-drop quiet. One man’s Zen-like calm is another’s zero-atmosphere, but since this is also the entrance that leads you to the spa above, it seems suitably soothing. We are later told this part of the hotel has been earmarked for a Japanese restaurant. And those drystone walls are doing a cracking job of soundproofing – no bad thing since the road above is soundtracked by the moped-whine that is every bit as evocative of the Med as chirruping cicadas or Café del Mar compilations.
The trademark clay-coloured walls continue as a design feature in the bedrooms. Ours has an open-plan layout with an enormous glass-screen-shielded egg-shaped bath on one side, a sumptuous white bed on the other. Beyond that, sliding doors lead to a terrace with a black-tiled plunge pool, shaded from the sun by slatted screens. And – guess what – more of those stunning Med views. ‘Mmm,’ Mrs Smith sighs expressively.
A quick cocktail on the terrace, followed by some tapas down the road complies with a book we find by the bed, called ‘Sleeping, Dreaming and Resting’. The Spanish take their sleep seriously – this was the culture that invented the siesta after all. And Hospes take it more seriously than most. ‘The Sueños Project’ – sueños meaning, poetically, both sleeping and dreaming in Spanish – was put together in cahoots with a leading Spanish medical institute to offer guidance on getting the perfect night’s rest. It advises against heavy food before bedtime. We are saving our appetites anyway, as we’ve heard that breakfast at Hospes is emphatically the most important meal of the day.
It’s nine courses. Yes, you read that right. This gourmet tasting breakfast menu could take up most of your day. We don’t take notes – we’re back on the terrace, still gawping at the view – but we will forever recall a seemingless endless parade of dishes. Shot glasses carrying espumas of this, and spoons of escabeches of that. There are quenelles and quails’ eggs, biscuits and brioche, juices and jamon. Mrs Smith counts five different types of butter. The Madrid Fusion Gastronomic Summit called it the ‘best breakfast in the world’. Who are we to argue? This is certainly fine dining, just earlier in the day than usual.
Mrs Smith has an appointment booked in the Bodyna Spa so we head back to the room. Before the construction of the new spa wing, a series of caves built into the cliffs beneath the main house offered treatments. You can still have massages there. There’s nothing like pampering your inner troglodyte to the sound of crashing waves.
Left to my devices, while she heads to the spa's swimming pool, sauna, steam baths and solarium, I turn on the TV for the first time in days, and tune into Sky Sports. Manchester United has sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80m. I consider sending his agent an email. Well, if he is looking for somewhere glamorous to preen around a pool and polish off his mahogany tan for the rest of the summer, I think I know a place that might just fit the bill.
Anonymously reviewed by Matt Turner (Dance and design fan)
Reviews of Hospes Maricel 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…
I have just returned from a seven-day stay at the Hospes Maricel. I usually stay in Portixol, having tried out several hotels in the old town of Palma, so it was nice to experience a hotel with a different slant. Although at least a €14 taxi ride each way from and to the centre of Palma it is situated in a fairly busy town in its own right. Not exactly what I had been expecting for the surroundings of such an exquisite hotel but a far cry from Magaluf, catering for the party animals of this world. Moreover, you are close to Puerto Portals, probably the most exclusive harbour in Palma, exposing outrageous wealth in among fine restaurants, bars and boutiques, not to mention the expanse of mouth wateringly expensive yachts and motor cruisers. The latter should not be missed on your visit. This is a luxurious stately hotel, boasting 16th and 17th century architecture. The hotel is made up of two separate buildings: one, the original mansion overlooking the Mediterranean, and the other a little more contemporary across the road linked via an underground tunnel, with a variety of views from sea and mountain depending on the room of choice, with zen pools on the terrace included in some. I had booked one of the Dreamers Sea View rooms in the main building and was very pleased with my choice of location. This was a nice room with a full sea view, but I felt I wanted more for my money. I spotted the room below which was the Deluxe room opening onto a terrace presenting the wonderful panoramic views like a picture postcard. Although we had to pay for the upgrade I think it was worth it. A sea view in my opinion is to be enjoyed fully, allowing yourself the luxury of sitting or lounging on the balcony listening to the cacophony of sounds and taking in the breathtaking scenery as the sun glimmers on the water and the ships sail by.
Something to think about when you are booking is that rooms do not necessarily come with the breakfast included in the price. Be warned or be stung! If like us, you have rather a sparrow-like appetite in the morning, sit with a cortado, espresso and a basket of bread and jam on the sofas just beyond the lobby taking in the magnificent views under the blistering morning sun. Of course there is always the option of room service, delivering the complete menu 24 hours a day. Here I do have a top tip – sometimes on holiday it seems rather decadent to sample culinary delights in your room, but at what cost? Here there is an absolutely exorbitant price tag attached for the pure pleasure – with a delivery surcharge of 10 euros for each visit made, even for a coffee. No one minds a little luxury on holiday, but I think this is a little excessive to say the least. Certainly the most expensive I have come across.
Early on in the week we decided to eat dinner at Restaurant Maricel, Senzone, which is littered with white linen and contemporary colours if dining inside. On such a beautiful evening though, with the beauty of the sunset in tranquil surroundings, disturbed only by the sounds of the splashing waves we took our table outside and enjoyed a glass of cava whilst perusing the menu. Keeping with our tradition of sharing flavours we started with the red tomato soup and basil sherbet. This was full of fresh flavours that danced with your tastebuds. A real delight to eat and a refreshing summer taste. With this we sampled the tuna sashimi Pam Oli which was essentially a play on food combining strips of delicately prepared tuna served with deconstructed bread crumbs and diced tomato. For the main courses we had the Seabass with spinach and Iberian ham, served with mushrooms and chips, together with the Sea and Mountain, consisting of rabbit and lobster. Both well constructed dishes maintaining true fresh flavours, with-holding the desire to douse in cream, butter and supposed elegance, allowing each mouthful to characterize its real grounding. This we enjoyed with a rather delicious red Mallorcan wine called Obac. This is a restaurant joyfully bombasting stunning seascapes and wonderful contemporary cooking with unabashed simplicity. The chef has an understanding that quality includes superb, seasonal and local ingredients and truly delivers on flavour. This topped with service laced with genuine affection and kindness meant that we had the perfect evening, simply adding to our overall experience of staying at the Hospes Hotels group.
Glamorous swimwear and designer gear is the name of the game here. Although thought of by some as perhaps a place to be seen, where Hollywood stars would not be out of place, there is no snobbery if you do not like to fit in with fashion culture or are not a big fan of keeping up with the Jones (or the Juans, as it were). You are free to simply go with what you are comfortable with. Prices are definitely not for the faint hearted. If glitz and glamour are what you're looking for, or simply an upmarket hotel showcasing sensational, unassuming, courteous staff alongside outstanding views to relax and listen to the crash of the waves and the squeals of the seagulls, this hotel will not disappoint.
I do think the room service surcharge is way too steep and perhaps needs a rethink. No one minds paying high prices for the high quality service but I think this takes it a little too far.
Lisa, SilverSmith stayed on 15 Sep 2013