In a quiet street of the Andalusian capital one finds the Hotel Mercer Sevilla, a genuinely exclusive, 5-star ‘Gran Lujo’ 12-room boutique property. Here Seville period grandeur, including an exceptional grand marble staircase and light filled courtyard lobby lounge, meets a 21st century European minimalism of designer furniture and bespoke features.
There’s a Manhattan-style cocktail bar, fine-dining restaurant, private rooftop pool terrace, and exquisitely prepared guest rooms with fabulous signature Mercer bathrooms, writes Andrew Forbes.
Along this leafy Seville street stand some of the finest bourgeois mansion houses of the Andalusian capital. Here the super-rich of Seville’s Golden Age built their urban family homes, known as Casa Palacios, sparing no expense in conveying their wealth, fast-tracking themselves into elegant high-society. After all, thanks to Spain’s discovery of the Americas, Seville had become an epicentre of global trade. This is the chic setting for the Mercer Sevilla.
Mercer Sevilla is one of only two 5-star ‘Gran Lujo’ properties in the capital
We’ve been following the progress of this property (see our news section) for a few years, from the time the project was first announced by Mercer Hotels, through the lengthy, painstaking renovation of the once abandoned noble house, to its launch in November 2016, as a strikingly contemporary hotel framed by the period extravagance of its palatial setting.
I was a guest at the Mercer Barcelona where I was totally seduced by the Hotel’s signature style in hospitality; it’s highly trained staff, the attention to detail, the personalised approach; (you can read our review of the Mercer Barcelona here).
Understandably therefore I had lofty expectations for the Mercer Sevilla – after all it is the city’s second 5-star ‘Gran Lujo’ property – that’s the highest category in the Spanish hospitality rating system.
What’s more, on a personal note I had great hopes for a special experience as I live in Andalucia and I’m excited to see the investment in upscale, unique properties here. So, did the Mercer Sevilla meet or exceed those expectations?
Calle Castelar is within Seville’s exceptional historical city centre. It’s about 5 minutes’ walk from the Cathedral, and less than 10 minutes’ walk to the river Guadalquivir, passing the city’s iconic bullring. So, it’s fair to say the location is central, yet somehow this stone-cobbled street is off the tourist trail – you must decide to go there to find it.
5 minutes’ walk from the Cathedral
A few of the other neighbouring palatial mansions have also been converted into hotels, but nothing to the level of the Mercer Sevilla. However, there is talk of another 5-star boutique hotel opening nearby – the charm, peace and authenticity of the area is clearly not going unnoticed by property developers.
Seville is less than two and half hours from Madrid on Spain’s highspeed AVE train; two hours by car from Malaga’s international airport; and Seville also has its own airport served by a few European airlines.
Welcome & Check-n
Upon arrival, Mirna provided an elegant and generous welcome. With a warm smile, she poured a welcome glass of cava and provided the suite keys. It’s the kind of effortlessly chic check-in I was expecting from Mercer Hotels.
Jaime the Rooms Manager offered a brief tour of the property, before taking me to the guest room, explaining the finer points of the installations and facilities.
This 19th century Casa Palatio echoes classic Andalusian architectural style. The exterior has all the elements you might expect; a generously proportioned facade; heavy Spanish wrought-iron ‘rejas’ or bars on the windows; and a brass-studded wooden door.
The façade has been painted white, brilliant in the Andalusian sunshine, which somehow prepares you for the clean, uncluttered style of the modern interior design. Entering the hotel, you are faced with an elaborate wrought iron screen that allows you a tantalising glimpse of the beauty of the courtyard patio beyond.
The building’s transformation into a contemporary urban hotel has been facilitated by architects Cruz & Ortiz; whilst the pared-back minimalist interiors are the work of Amanda Molina of Mercer Hotels – here again she has offered her very personal skill at interiors.
The heart of the building is a large, courtyard patio, fully restored and slightly altered, so that the classic marble fountain is now off-centre, on one side, opening the space up as a bright lobby lounge.
The patio is now covered in a contemporary glass roof, below which hangs an exceptional sculptural, rectangular light installation that defines the modern style of the hotel. Light floods the centre of the hotel, and into the guest room floor landings that surround the courtyard.
The wealth of the former owners is demonstrated by the scale and luxury of the building, from the grand marble staircase, a period masterpiece; to the wide and spacious landing hallways.
The building is of pale stone, and white marble which provides an almost gallery-like back-drop to the interiors of contemporary European designer furniture and lighting.
Together with the recognisable pieces from manufactures such as Minotti, Fredericia and Cassina there are also craftsman pieces from Walter Knoll.
Exquisite bespoke elements also extend to the guest room rugs and landing hallway carpets by Now Carpets. These were especially impressive, designed to mimic the otherworldly textures of the nearly wetlands outside of Seville.
The interior is impressive – there is undeniably harmony between all the different furnishings and lightings. The refined and elegant décor and handmade furnishings cleverly managed to balance modernity as well as echo the golden era of Seville’s rich history. The extravagant golden sofa in the lobby courtyard and the adjacent artwork added a pop of decadence in the cool interior. In my opinion the hotel could have more warm elements to further enhance the ambiance and make it more welcoming – maybe some architectural plants possibly. Also guests should be encouraged to use the space more for snacks, drinks and relaxing – it would benefit from a feeling of life and vibrancy.
I stayed in the largest Junior suite – a street facing room with twin floor to ceiling windows that opened onto Juliet balconies. The room had those soaring ceilings one expects of period properties. The furnishing style was minimalist – a bespoke piece housed the TV, mini bar and professional Nespresso machine. A Minotti sofa and chair was on one side, and an elegant writing desk with leather inset to the other.
The super king bed was a delight. A designer bare bulb hung over one nightstand, whilst a low designer lamp stood on the other bedside table. The room was white. There was one piece of contemporary art, in black. An exceptional grey rug lay on the wooden floor. The welcome amenity of cava and handmade chocolates was beautifully presented – truly 5-star.
Exquisite details, generous proportions, beautiful balance
Smart details included USB charging point; good reading lights by the bed, and good light and sound-proofing.
It was the kind of room that interior design magazines love – less is more. Exquisite details, generous proportions, beautiful balance. Personally, I would love a few extra touches to make it feel more welcoming and warm. Say a luxurious throw on the sofa, or some fresh flowers, more hard back books on the shelves, some luxury magazines on the desk – just small elements to add warmth.
The bathroom was stunning – in the signature Mercer style of brilliant white. The W.C., a Japanese-style bidet loo, was conveniently in a separate room. The vanity washbasin was integrated into the flowing white design that extended to the large wet room space with illuminated rain shower; and, a bathtub.
Luxury amenities were by Molton Brown and generously included everything you might need from toothbrush to hairbrush.
Presentation was immaculate. In fact, house-keeping in my experience was excellent at the Mercer Sevilla. Friendly, and helpful; and twice a day, in the morning and at turndown, the room was left looking like new – flawless. That’s a genuine Gran Lujo service.
Although there are only 12 rooms, there are plenty of options. The small rooms feel cosier, and feature beautiful silk tapestry panels. Since this is a historic building, room sizes and shapes reflect the original house. Some face a new internal light well, furnished with a striking vertical garden that rises from the dining room right up to the pool terrace. Others such as 104 and 103 connect to create a huge family space – the later room is the largest suite in the hotel.
If you want your own private terrace, then opt for either room 201 (deluxe suite) or 202 (junior suite).
The rooftop pool terrace offers a cocktail bar, seating area for light snacks and evening drinks, sun loungers and a stylish aluminium lap pool.
During the day it’s a real pleasure to relax here – a beautifully appointed area that provides sunbathing, a cooling shower and the pool. In my mind, especially say on a Friday or Saturday night the pool terrace should be open to the public. I understand the desire to keep the Mercer Sevilla exclusive and for the pleasure of the privileged guests, but on the other hand as a guest it’s important to enjoy a flavour of the city’s energy. It was a pleasure to enjoy pre-dinner drinks and tapas on the roof terrace.
‘Fizz’ Cocktail Bar
Mercer Seville is one of the pioneers of the cocktail scene in Southern Spain. This is quite a challenge as really on the continent, especially in the Mediterranean there isn’t a heritage of cocktail bars, the notion of cocktails is quite alien to the culture– this is the land of wines and sherries. Admittedly Gin & Tonic has been huge in Andalucia for years, as have the ubiquitous mojitos; but mixology has so much more to offer!
Yet José, the young mixologist at the Mercer Sevilla was one of the standout members of the team. His talent, professionalism, positive attitude and friendliness is a very exciting indication of the potential of this very special hotel.
During my stay, in August, the bar was relatively quiet. It is worth noting that August is low season in Seville as it is the hottest time of year and most city residents take much of the month as vacation and head to the beaches of the Costa del la Luz. Leaving just us hardy sun-loving tourists in the city. So understandably the hotel was quiet, but I still believe there is a great deal of potential for this cocktail bar. More I am sure will be done to encourage the locals to visit the hotel and enjoy the bar.
After all, the joy of a great cocktail bar is not only the creative concoctions from the barmen, but the ambience of the space itself. Maybe more seasonal events, drinks designed around local fine sherries and more accessible dining options such as gourmet tapas or sharing plates would attract some discerning non-residents, adding to the atmosphere for guests.
This season the hotel has launched a new cocktail menu, so now is a good time to head on down and enjoy some of the best cocktails in Seville.
As I write, a new season menu has just launched at the Mercer Seville’s signature restaurant, the Maria Luisa.
Named after Seville’s largest park, the fine-dining restaurant of the Mercer Sevilla hotel is an intimate space open to non-resident guests and offers lunch (a well-priced menu, downloadable from the website) and dinner.
(Good to see one of my Instagram photos of the meal, used the Mercer’s pop-up page on their website)
The restaurant has been finding its identity since opening last autumn and now the young, talented Chef Rafa Liñán is at the helm, offering a contemporary take on traditional Andalusian dishes.
Typically, the tasting menu begins in the bar with a signature cocktail, for example the ‘Essence of Seville’ accompanied by tapas; then moves into the dining room for the main dishes; and ends with coffee & petit fours in the patio.
I indulged in the summer menu, which included bite-sized morsels to start of salt & citrus marinated prawns; oysters; pringa; salmorejo; and of course, jamón. Each was served on bespoke tableware created for the hotel and the menu.
In the dining-room, the summer menu was of carpaccio of Andalusian prawns; hearty tomato prepared creatively with basil and cheese.
Then fois pâté with olive oil toasts; and then the main dish of lamb with cauliflower, which had a distinct Al Andalus style, reflecting southern Spain’s history.
The sweet plate is the citrus flavours of the Mediterranean with a sweet torrija cake.
Breakfast is also offered in the Maria Luisa restaurant – it’s a strikingly designed space, with walls covered in dark silk wallpaper, and brilliant spot lighting. The presentation of the table is flawless – beautiful tableware and perfectly pressed tablecloth.
It’s a theatrical setting for breakfast. However, maybe it would also be great if the patio could be set for breakfast, where one could eat in natural light. Here the morning service was not as quite as polished as at the Mercer Barcelona. The young team are still finding their feet I think, but they were always friendly.
So, I guess you want to know if my expectations for the Mercer Sevilla were met. It’s an exceptional property; beautifully restored, a piece of living Seville history, with impeccable contemporary interiors. There were also a few stand-out members of the team; and the overall feeling of exclusivity and personal service was on-point. The property’s challenge is that as a 12-room hotel slightly off the main historic centre, at times, it may lack the compelling vibe of a luxury capital city boutique hotel. The movers and shakers of this capital city need to be further enticed into using the cocktail bar and enjoying the restaurant to further enhance the ambiance of this beautiful place. Yet on the other hand, the Mercer Sevilla maintains a genuine feeling of exclusivity, discretion and tranquility that is very appealing to high-net-worth travellers.
Would I recommend it? Undoubtedly yes, and I hope 2018 will be a wonderful year for the hotel.
Calle Castelar, 26
Tel: +34 95 422 30 04