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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Hotel Insider: Barcelo Torre de Madrid, Spain 

With several new Barcelo hotels opening across the UAE, we check into its flagship property, a good-value designer haven in the Spanish capital

The welcome

I’ve booked a transfer from the airport, so there’s a man with a sign with my name on it as I enter arrivals at Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport. The journey is about 15 kilometres, but takes almost an hour in heavy morning traffic. During quieter times, the trip takes about 20 minutes. On arrival at the hotel, part of a bigger building overlooking Plaza de Espana and the Grand Via, staff from the concierge desk on the ground floor lobby take me up to the quieter guest lounge and reception on the second floor. Here, it’s an interior designer’s dream with bright furniture by Fritz Hansen and quirky modern Spanish portraits. I’m taken to my room without fuss and my bag follows.

The neighbourhood

The hotel is technically in the Arguelles district, though it’s on the edge of the more central and hip Malasana area. Nearby are several parks and points of interest, including the main shopping street the Grand Via, the Temple of Debod, a reconstructed Egyptian temple, and the Palacio Real or Royal Palace. It’s a 15-minute walk to the Plaza Major. There’s a metro station right in front of the hotel.

The scene

The hotel, which opened last year, is part of a 33-storey concrete tower that has been operational since 1962, and at the time was the tallest building in the world of its type. A nine-floor section is the 258-room hotel, while the rest is apartments, though they have separate entrances and facilities. The hotel interior has been designed by Madrid artist and interior designer Jaime Hayon, with quality, style and subtle humour. The ground floor contains the main lobby and Garra Bar, which enjoy a seven-­metre-high ceiling and designer fixtures. A large sculpture of a bear is a nod to the city’s emblem. This area is buzzing in the evening with live music and both locals and guests. Upstairs on the second floor, the elegant Somos restaurant is also open to those not staying here, but the homely lounge is relaxed and mainly for guests.

The room

My room is a fifth-floor junior suite, which is generously sized and has its entrance into the separate living room. There’s clean laminate flooring, comfy furniture, a luxurious marble bathroom and quiet bedroom with a supremely cosy bed and excellent pillow menu. My room has an uninspiring view of a neighbouring ministry, but the rooms at the front with views of the Plaza de Espana and the Grand Via are noisier.

The service

Staff, who are trained to act like “local friends”, are kind and helpful. The phone is answered promptly and requests arrive within five minutes.

The food

The buffet breakfast, which is €25 (Dh104) per person, is excellent, with a large range of high-quality hot and cold items, including ­freshly baked bread, artisanal olive oils and vinegars, fresh fruit, cheese and vegetables. Lunch and dinner is available in Somos restaurant, which offers a good-value set menu at lunch (three courses with one drink for €29; Dh121). From the main menu, the grilled octopus and potatoes (€16; Dh67), salmorejo (€14; Dh58) and sea bass (€18; Dh75) are all recommended. At the Garra Bar, dig into good value tapas plates such as patatas bravas (€5; Dh20) and sardines on chips (€6; Dh25).

Loved

Returning to my room after a hard day’s sightseeing, the 40-minute massage at the spa (€70; Dh293) and the interiors. Overall, this is good-value luxury.

Hated

At breakfast, an otherwise excellent spread was slightly let down by the provision of self-service coffee machines for guests. To get a better espresso entails asking for one from the busy kitchen. There was also a bad smell in several of the hotel’s corridors.

The verdict

A bright, happy and comfortable place to spend a few days. Hopefully, the current freshness of the decor will be maintained.

The bottom line

Rooms at Barcelo Torre de Madrid cost from €120 (Dh503) per night, including taxes.

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