Barcelona is full of secrets. Take HOTEL ARTS BARCELONA, it’s managed by Ritz-Carlton but you don’t see any signs. The 43-floor tower holds 455 bedrooms and suites. Go through the upper floor lobby to the rear terrace and pool and there’s a marvellously idyllic summer-long restaurant. Beyond is a skeletal fish sculpture, 35 metres long and 54 metres high – see it in the distant centre of the image above. It’s by Frank Gehry, and it was commissioned by Barcelona City Council. for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
More surprises. Back in the lobby walk there is a most attractive glass-walled art gallery, We Collect, currently showing Christopher Rymon’s Don’t Grow Up. Continue past the gallery to a glass-walled culinary concept store, The Pantry. At its rear a barely-visible door can be opened to reveal a restaurant speakeasy, The Secret Pantry. Start with locally farmed tomatoes with fresh Mató cheese from Catalonia, Cantabrian anchovies and basil-infused oil, then segue to the Mediterranean seabass and tiger prawns with chargrilled endives and Valencian orange-scented beurre blanc. Finish with poached Lleida pear with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Drink a good strong Priorat red, perhaps a 2018 Vinya Pendents Carinyena, which garnered 94 from Wine Spectator.
On Sundays there’s another surprise. At lunch, think of a traditional El Vermut Catalan picnic. Choose local products, dine out on a grassy terrace or in the speakeasy, music provided. Don’t, by the way, think this is anything like a traditional R-C. It’s oodles of fun, with lots of local Millennials and Gen-Zs in and out.
The locals certainly appear to expect the unexpected at Hotel Arts and its boss, Andreas Oberoi, and his team seem to come up with even more – with style. This was the first hotel where Girlahead, some years ago, experienced a sauna with big windows giving 43rd floor 270° views over the Mediterranean – and the views from the 33rd floor Club lounge are spectacular too. You are so high up you can’t see if there are any normal-sized fish down there (is that why Gehry’s is so gorgeously gargantuan?).