I have to start with a confession. This Mr and Mrs Smith live in Barcelona, so a visit to a boutique hotel on our home turf was going to have to be pretty special to make it a weekend we’d never forget. When I discovered we were to be staying at Hotel Omm, the sister to my favourite restaurant, Acontraluz, I decided it wasn’t going to be a problem…
We hopped in the car, waved goodbye to thirtysomething domesticity, and made our journey across town. Finding Hotel Omm, just off Paseo de Grácia, the main avenue in the middle of Barcelona’s art nouveau grid, isn’t hard. In keeping with its neighbours, it’s a seven-storey building with a flat front. However, this being a city touched by the hand of Gaudí, and with his apartment block La Pedrera around the corner, clearly Hotel Omm felt obliged to do something quirky. The façade of small, white rectangular slabs is tautly pulled back like a sheet of white metal and repeatedly slashed, creating slits for thin windows and small balconies protected from the full glare of the Mediterranean sun.
We’d packed light, but though the revolving door is big enough for most visitors’ accessories, it was a little too small for ours. Then again, not all lovers take a pram with them on a romantic break – let alone its contents. Fortunately one of the adjacent sheets of glass slid back, to reveal a sleek minimalist reception area. No fake oil paintings or the prints of landscapes from yesteryear so popular in lobbies of swanky hotels across the world. In fact, there aren’t any pictures at all. This is Omm’s design and decor in a nutshell: the straight lines and plain materials are in themselves the art.
Even with a 16-month-old ankle-biter in tow, we found ourselves treated kindly from the start, and a sweet receptionist took us straight up to our room. Some couples request oysters and champagne on ice waiting for them in their room… We’d ordered a cot. It wasn’t there yet but soon arrived, and managed to fit into the room’s perfectly integrated minimalist wood-and-metal decor. (Something a grabbing-hands-everywhere Master Smith was having a little trouble doing.)
Everything looked crisp, yet felt comfy, and the walls, bathroom fixtures, sheets and towels were all a pristine white – a particular treat for parents of a toddler. We had an interior room, so our balcony overlooked the internal courtyard; the contrast of the scruffy rears of the buildings opposite and the elegant, modern perfection of the hotel framing them is a sight to behold. And for those who want to revel only in design-conscious bliss, there’s a gauze blind, transparent enough for light to penetrate but sufficiently opaque to keep out the imperfections of the outside world.
Resisting the temptation to collapse on the bed for a siesta, we headed up to the pool bar. Wow. The pinnacle of urban living must be an elegant rooftop terrace with a swimming pool, and this was an immaculate, wood-lined haven. Looking out across the jumbled horizon of Barcelona and the gorgeous Mediterranean sky, we ordered two Spanish-strength gin and tonics to sip as we soaked up the view. As well as nuns scurrying around the convent across the road, we could see the eccentric swirls of La Pedrera’s fantastical roof, one block away. To our left, the spires of Barcelona’s most emblematic building, Gaudí’s unfinished church La Sagrada Família, were visible in the distance. Armchair sightseers can delight in two checks in their tourist tick boxes without having to leave the comfort of their sunlounger. Perfect.
We could have happily stayed put there all day, but we mustered the energy to stumble out for a late lunch. Our lucky choice was just the ticket: a popular tapas bar called Commerç 24 on Carrer Commerç, where we snapped up an outside table. It’s a colourful, retail-rich area. With our blood-sugar levels back up, Mrs Smith managed to coax me into a little shopping. But humidity and tourist levels were also up, so Omm soon lured us back, an oasis of freshness, calm and hush. We had a table (and a babysitter) booked for 21h30.
The hotel restaurant is called, curiously, Moo. (Perhaps because it’s so delicious, the temptation is to milk the menu for all you’re worth.) It is the creation of the Roca brothers, world-famous for their creative combinations of ingredients and flavours. Their disdain for convention is, perhaps, most apparent in the spindly chocolate mixed with salt that arrived with the coffee. With each dish a half portion, we could try twice as many things. Each serving comes with a carefully selected wine: another incentive (as if you needed one) to have as many plates as possible. You find yourself ordering not just to sample the mouthwatering French-influenced food, but also for the wine that comes with it: foie gras and figs with a Pedro Ximénez, entrecôte with an Haut Medoc… We may not have left town, but our tastebuds went all over Europe.
Though we only had five floors to ascend to get to our room, the corridors were an experience in themselves. With no natural light,the charcoal-grey carpet and walls are illuminated only by a purplish glow and two phosphorescent white lines that run either side of the floor, the length of the corridor. The runway effect proved fortunate after six different wines over dinner.
Master Smith awoke a little earlier than usual, and our room was quickly transformed from a temple of calculated style to the chaos of a child’s playpen. We all went for a morning swim on the roof and then down for breakfast in the open-plan bar. Could there be a more wonderful start to the day than the juice of fresh blood oranges from Sicily, delicious local breads, cheeses and salamis, exotic jams (such as raspberry and red-pepper jelly), and sandwiches of cheese and Mediterranean tomatoes that melt in the mouth? Sadly, just as we had eaten our fill, we realised that it was time to leave. We’d had a wonderful break without even leaving our everyday stamping ground. So fabulous was the aesthetic and gastronomic experience that Mrs Smith insists that we do it more often. I give in on the strength of the breakfast alone.