Cool in Catalunya – W Barcelona Hotel

by Continental Club on August 10, 2011

It has been noted on several occasions that Continental Club gets about. Glamour, quite obviously, is our constant companion as we flit hither and thither through the skies.

Or not, as is sometimes the case.

All too often come those ‘It’s Wednesday; It must be Wolverhampton’ moments. So when the opportunity presents itself to break free from the banal and cast off the cookie-cutter, CC has resolved to snatch it with a grip hitherto reserved only for carousel case-catching.

Of course, staying off-piste can be fraught with the possibility of rocking-up at your icon of individuality to discover that it’s actually a festering stack of squalid dormitory.

Where, one wonders, will wow we weary wanderers without worry? Well, what about a W?

Now, for those not in-the-know, W Hotels first broke cover in New York City, as global hotel group Starwood’s take on established-hotelier-does-design-hotels. Something about the formula seems to be striking a chord, for Starwood’s chain that’s not meant to look or feel like a chain now stretches from Times Square to Taipei.

W Hotels are generally-regarded as achingly hip, whilst CC is rather closer to artificial hip. So, a brief stopover in Barcelona provides the chance to check out the cool kids and test the theory that a ‘good hotel’ doesn’t have to conform to a carbon-copy blueprint.

W Barcelona is something of an icon at the Southern tip of Barceloneta; a Catalan Burj el Arab, designed by architect Ricardo Bofill, standing sentinel at the entrance to the port and watching over Playa Sant Sebastiá beach.

The sleek glass and steel smoothness of the sparkling blue exterior gives way inside to a more womb-like atmosphere, with the lobby and atrium a veritable funnel of deep redness.

Lifted away from the ground floor hubbub, glass-balconied guestroom floors look across the central space.

The guestroom corridors take the mood-lighting down another notch; stylish, richly carpeted passageways with barcode-like strips of illumination marching towards a final porthole on the Mediterranean sun outside.

Not much difficulty in locating the allocated lodgings though – with bright, bold numbers to aid the search – especially for the late-night hard of partying…..

Room 326 is, in fact, a ‘Fantastic Suite’ in the W way of describing things. All things considered and despite the opportunity for hype to overtake reality, it is indeed rather nice once through the door. We’re back to cool and sleek again from the arterial corridors, with a spacious lounge walled with a single pane of floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the port and city….

….with part of the ‘minibar’ invitingly placed atop the coffee table – just in case arrival coincides with cocktail o’clock, one assumes.

As a Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) member, there’s a little W welcome card too.

A wander through into the bedroom area reveals that the space is in fact a combined bed and bath event….

….with a more than spacious rainfall shower in the far corner which looked very, erm, ‘social’.

A selection of ‘Bliss’ toiletries are liberally scattered about, but in individual quantities which conform to the truism that one can sometimes have too much of a good thing – particularly if you’re travelling hand luggage only. In which case, the infuriatingly-generous 120ml bottles must be discarded even if only having been subjected to a single squirt whilst in-residence.

Settled in, it’s time for a look around.Thoughtfully-provided optical enhancements are not recommended for poolside though; better to watch the beautiful people from behind the Ray-Bans, rather than tucking a telescope  into one’s trunks and zooming-in.

The W Bar is the heart of the hotel, incorporating both bar and lounge and leading off the lobby towards the pool terrace.

As the day progresses, a DJ takes to the decks (CC overheard someone saying that, which apparently means that someone works a record-player) to ease guests into the evening.

As long as the sun still shines, however, it’s the outdoors that beckons, with a reflecting pool stretching through a glass wall and onward seemingly all the way to the sea beyond.

The hotel’s beach club on Playa Sant Sebastiá is favoured by those who seek sand and space, while the hotel’s terraces offer pools and coastal vistas.

The upper terrace is furnished with day-beds and provides a calmer atmosphere one storey above the watery distractions. A rather nice spot for an antique traveller to lie back, drink in the view – and several mojitos.

Indeed, for those feeling the need to retreat yet further, terrace cabanas afford even more lofty panoramas.

This ‘chilling’ is all and well and good, but the time inevitably comes when weight bears heavily and a little work must be put in before dinner. Enter ‘Sweat’ – the W’s gym.

Or not, as the case was. The interior design says it all; this is not in fact a place to sculpt and tone away those lumps and bumps; it’s just another W place to go to show your already-sculpted and toned body-machine to others even more torsotastic than you. CC saw the writing on the wall and scuttled away to check out the spa instead….

….which worked up enough appetite for some pre-dinner nibbles courtesy of the hotel.

The dawning realisation that all power was ebbing away from the iPad brought with it the discovery that the trusty travel adapter was still lodged in the wall of a much less memorable hotel, and the Whatever/Whenever button was jabbed on the telephone. Suggesting that, somewhere behind the scenes, a ‘proper’ hotel was at work, room service had the adapter at the door in under 5 minutes. Proving that somewhere else, a marketing department had also been at play, it came in a dinky little bag.

In fact, almost nothing had escaped the Colouring-In Department’s touch; not only did the ‘minibar’ contents include a pair of flip-flops, they’d succumbed to the W way of doing things and found themselves appended with the brand.

Back to reality with a bump and a work dinner in town, but then home once again to the beachside bed and the thoughtful provision of milk and cookies before slumber; the cookie quantity rather suggesting an expectation that the trunk telescope might have impressed enough bystanders to have filled the rainfall shower to capacity – and then all of them needing a nibble.

Although by this point, the bed itself seemed to have usurped the team-sized shower to become the star-attraction, as it levitated atop a bath of glowing light.

Your correspondent could take no more, not even a jaunt to the rooftop Eclipse Bar, and instead sank into the mattress and slept like a baby while the beautiful people partied below. And above. And possibly all-around.

The following morning, unsurprisingly, brought with it curiously quiet corridors, as only those sound-of-mind and advanced-of-years (in other words those who couldn’t take the pace of much in the way of nocturnal entertainments) padded around on their way to their morning constitutional, or work, or breakfast.

The latter seemed attractive, and was offered in the hotel’s sub-contracted star-attraction restaurant, Bravo.

Confusingly, Bravo is signposted from the first floor, but at breakfast is accessible only by stairs from the ground floor lobby.

Once the portal is located, the restaurant proves to have a very pleasant outdoor area, dappled shade provided by pergolas above.

The view is across the terrace and out to the sea.

The breakfast buffet isn’t the largest that’s been seen this side of a Holiday Inn Express, but the quality is excellent – in particular the abundant range of fresh fruit which have been prepared in notably interesting ways; melon infused with mint being a particularly refreshing day-starter.

The reality of El Prat Terminal 2 can never be avoided forever, however, and so this first W-sampling  must be concluded and check-out sought.

Now, eagle-eyed observers may already have noted an earlier lack of lobby pictures, check-in comment or indeed mention of service-levels in general – with the exception of the swift power adapter delivery. For the overall impression was of a staff who are bouncingly stylish but not desperately efficient. There’s arguably a slight lack of personality too; a missing engagement between guest and hotelier that’s critical for longer-term relationships.

This isn’t a nightclub, where no-one can hear, little can be seen and the conscience levels of the majority are, let’s say, ‘moderated’.

It’s a hotel; somewhere to feel welcomed, looked-after, safe, comfortable and then, yes, if possible, entertained and wowed. Somewhere that we stay, perhaps for a while; that we make a sober decision to return to and to patronise the outposts of.

And so the queues at Reception, slightly off-hand manner at the Whatever/Whenever concierge desk and intermittent bar service on the terraces appears to be the only taint on W’s sparkle – a slight dulling of the effect that seems a shame, but one that the aged CC somehow feels confident will be overcome. The bones of a ‘good hotel’ are certainly there, with the strength-in-depth of Starwood apparent from the quality of design to the specifications of the fixtures and fittings; from the loyalty programme to the supremely comfortable W beds.

Indeed, if the ‘soft-product’ of service can develop the personality that the building and the brand seems to have in spades, then the W Barcelona will deserve a much lengthier re-visiting.

Slightly less shampoo and a touch more training, and we could have a W-inner.

 

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2 comments

I got to say the view from the Eclipse bar on the 26th floor of the W Hotel is pretty amazing. I never really saw the city from that angle before. A bit more details in our review of the hotel here http://www.romantic-holidays.net/w-hotel-barcelona/

by Nicolas on November 11, 2011 at 10:35 PM. Reply #

[…] see what we said after our first stay, read Cool in Catalunya – W Barcelona Hotel, and we’ll add to it here with a few more words and pictures, starting with the lobby level […]

by W Hotel Barcelona | Continental Club Blog on July 9, 2013 at 8:57 AM. Reply #

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