If I was to run a Master Class on the ideal small luxury hotel experience, then my case study would most certainly be the Mercer Hotel Barcelona. The hotel, in the heart of the cosmopolitan, global city of Barcelona, brings together genuine luxury, designer style and impeccable service – and above all, a warm welcome that remained consistent throughout the stay.
Found within one of the evocative buildings of the city’s atmospheric Gothic Quarter, the Mercer Barcelona Hotel is imaginatively designed, so that Roman and medieval elements sit comfortably side by side with contemporary styling and modern day luxury.
The ‘Barri Gòtic’ or Gothic District is Barcelona’s original old city. Roman ramparts remain, sandwiched between medieval gothic buildings and striking, movie-set style neo-gothic architecture. The city’s gothic cathedral is close by, as are numerous ancient churches and even the remains of a Roman forum and temple. This central neighbourhood is also home to the City Hall and the Presidential Palace.
The historic area is closed to traffic, so the stone paved streets and distinctive squares are a favourite for visitors and locals alike for a night out at a characterful bar or a relaxing restaurant. The ‘Jaume I’ metro station is around five minutes’ walk away; whilst taxis can bring you from the airport right to the hotel’s front door.
In short, it’s a fascinating, central location from which to explore the Catalan capital.
The robust facade of this palatial listed property has been cleaned, restored, and accented with striking black window awnings with the subtle Mercer Hotel identity, whilst oversized planters define the exterior entrance, framed by ancient studded wooden doors. This ‘casa señorial’ is clearly a property with a noble, medieval history, and it lends a unique personality and character to the whole hotel.
Once inside its clear the space has been completely remodelled with contemporary materials, technology and styling. Yet ancient stonework, columns, arches and other bold features remain, communicating the building’s remarkable heritage. The hotel is in fact built upon the original Roman walls of the old city of ‘Barcino’. Within the property there is even remnants of a first century Roman watch tower with ancient frescos; a space now converted for private dining or cocktail reception. Architect Rafael Moneo, who was tasked with the project of creating the hotel has clearly found the way to harmonise the elements of old and new.
The warmth and texture of the historical features are contrasted by modern, signature furniture and contemporary art on flawless off-white walls. Natural light reaches the centre of the building thanks to the open courtyard, featuring a vertical garden, and surrounding on three sides by glass – a welcome reminder that we are in Mediterranean Spain.
Overall, décor is refined, elegant yet understated.
Yet more than anything I found the ambience to be defined not so much by the design of the hotel, as by the young team. The Mercer Barcelona Hotel’s identity is created by the staff, who throughout my stay made me feel welcome. Hotel Mercer understands that it’s the small details that count; a greeting and smile from housekeeping when you pass them in the hallway; a helpful suggestion from concierge before you leave the hotel; and a warm hello when you return. Service was attentive but not overt; it was discreet and professional, whilst at the same time meaningful and friendly. That’s a hard balance to strike, but they achieved it consistently.
Welcome and Check-in
Those initial moments upon arrival are so crucial – they can so often set the tone for one’s entire stay. Typically guests arrive after tiring journeys, so for me the first impressions count.
From the moment the taxi pulled up at the entrance of the Mercer Barcelona Hotel I felt as a valued guest. The doorman opened the car door, offered a smiling welcome, whilst the bellboy took our cases. The glass entrance doors was swung open, as we approached the historic entrance.
Jordi at Front Desk offered us each a glass of crisp, chilled Catalan cava (well, it’s never too early for bubbles is it?)
Within moments we were checked-in and General Manager Francesc Holgado arrived to introduce himself and say a few words about the hotel.
The arrival welcome made it clear that the staff had a good chemistry together, they worked well as a team – things just comfortably flowed.
Juan Manuel, from concierge took us to our room, the Mercer Suite. Well, in a nutshell, it’s impressive. Admittedly though it is the best room in the hotel, so little wonder I was wowed.
Reflecting the noble history of this house, the 95 sq. m suite’s large living space is a Gothic gallery that overlooks the street, Carrer Lledó. The subtly painted walls and ceiling are brought to life with alcoves of gilt detailing. A lavishly thick rug covers the wooden flooring.
A handsome, contemporary purple sofa and two designer chaises longues, a glass desk and an elegant dining table furnish the space.
The high ceilings allow for bold canvases of original art on the walls, and for the curious, there is a book case laden with heavy tomes covering art, history, travel, and of course Barcelona.
The sideboard is where one finds the Nespresso machine, as well as the mini bar – stocked with mineral waters and soft drinks included in the room’s rate and refreshed daily. A kettle and gourmet teas were provided upon request.
The bedroom is separate, partitioned by a large sliding wooden door, creating a cosy hideaway with its simply dressed king bed. Built-in double wardrobes provided sufficient storage, and a large safe (room for a laptop & tablet).
Although the subtle lighting throughout the space is relaxing, it would be good to have had a halogen for those few occasions when on needs bright light; packing and unpacking for example or looking for a dropped cufflink.
The evening turndown was thoughtfully provided, with chocolates and the next day’s weather forecast placed on the made bed; towels were refreshed; and slippers and bed mats placed. Housekeeping also left a welcome amenity – a bottle of delicious Catalan cava, and an equally tempting plate of macaroons and chocolates; so stylish and decadent – it’s what staying at a 5 star hotel is all about.
The contemporary, all-white bathroom featured a large, half egg bath tub, designer lighting and plenty of Molton Brown amenities, including luscious smelling body products, a small loafer, hair brush etc. Other thoughtful details included a single cut rose in a vase, linen face towels, effervescent bath-bomb and room fragrance.
Breakfast was a delight. The restaurant is impeccably presented for the first meal of the day. Immaculate linen table cloths, napkins and sparkling silverware and a single orchid dressed the tables. International newspapers were to the side.
I have to admit that I’m not a great fan of buffet breakfasts, so it was a pleasure to have table service at the Mercer Barcelona Hotel. Breads, croissants, preserves, a beautiful fruit salad, cheese, ham, coffee, tea etc. were all offered and served by the bi-lingual waiter. The menu includes hot dishes. There is a small buffet of cereals, baked goods, and treats like gourmet chocolates. Service was polished, attentive yet discreet. Even the server-assistant tasked with clearing the tables did so with care, almost not making a sound.
The hotel, despite its relatively modest size, has a choice of places to eat, offering different moods and styles.
For al fresco cocktails, light bites or refreshing drinks, then I would recommend the roof terrace. It’s a privilege for an urban hotel to have this lush garden oasis, styled with hardwood decking, modern furniture, sunbeds and a plunge pool – it was my place to chill, and daydream, my thoughts drifting off over the rooftops of old town.
We enjoyed lunch in the hotel’s ‘Le Bouchon’ eatery; an authentic neighbourhood tapas and bistro bar with its own dedicated street entrance. It has an informal atmosphere where you can sit at the bar or at vintage wooden tables and enjoy Catalan treats like a glass of sparkling cava with oysters, or a vermouth.
Food & Beverage Manager Miguel put us on the right track with some excellent suggestions from the menu, including the ‘jamón joselito’ (Iberico ham) from Extremadura; an exquisitely presented tomato and mozzarella salad with romesca sauce; steak tartare; and ‘caballa’ fish – all paired with Spanish wines by the glass. Eating here can be as sophisticated or as simple as you choose since the menu allows for quick bites or more substantial sharing plates as well as a full bar.
The Mercer Restaurant, an elegant space at the back of the hotel that spills out into the orange tree courtyard, is about to be reimagined by the acclaimed Chef Giuseppe Iannotti. This acclaimed Italian chef from Benevento is to bring his ‘Kresios’ restaurant to the hotel in early 2016.
Rest of the Hotel
The property, although spread out over different buildings, is relatively compact. The lobby lounge feels luxurious with its plush sofas in elegant grey, bold burgundy carpet and copper tables dressed with cut flowers. Yet the tone is unpretentious, with jars of candy and marshmallows left at the door for guests to treat on.
The heart of the building is an intimate orange tree courtyard ‘el patio de los naranjos’. This pulls in light to the interior of the building and provides a peaceful place for meals or a somewhere to sip a coffee and read the papers.
The small cocktail bar feels exclusive, and is striking with its dark design and designer lighting; an intimate place for a pre-dinner drink or before heading out on the town. Adjacent is the library, a snug den with books, magazines and an internet-connected Mac. I was told this space was originally a walkway for roman soldiers between watch towers! (There is no fitness room or spa).
My favourite area was the roof terrace, with sun beds and seating as well as a small bar.
The 28 guest rooms all share the same uncluttered design, and are available in 4 categories ranging from 28 – 45 square metres (Superior, Deluxe, Junior Suite & Premium Junior Suite), in addition to the 95 sq. m. Mercer Suite. Expect muted tones to maximise the feeling of space and light; designer furniture, lighting and detailing; wooden floors; and rain effect showers. The larger rooms have bath tubs and historical architectural features.
The property is a listed building, amongst the narrow streets of the gothic district, so don’t expect expansive views from the windows (some rooms look over the internal courtyard). But other rooms, like the Premium Junior Suite have their own private terraces!
The rate for a Superior Room starts from 425€ (485€ including breakfast). The fabulous Mercer Suite starts at 1950€ including breakfast.
Address: Calle dels Lledó, 7, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Tel: +34 93 310 74 80