Photo by Patricia Esteve
Bravo24 at the W hotel
Until we had one foisted on us, who knew that we needed a sail-shaped luxury seafront hotel, offering the W-brand ‘contemporary lifestyle experience’? The blue-chip-chasing Ajuntament, that’s who. They okayed the project years ago, but wrangles over the building’s height delayed the opening until late 2009: apparently 160 metres high was obstructive, but 88 metres was not. So we have a squat, stubby sail in the middle of the horizon instead of a tall, elegant one. Really, if you’re going to allow a bombastic monument to capitalism to dominate a public beach then at least allow it to be a graceful piece of statement architecture—what we have now is not even original. It is the Oompa-Loompa version of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab.
So that’s the outside. But there are no half measures on the inside. Hotels are the royal palaces of the 21st century, but instead of chandeliers and oil paintings, the vast lobby of ‘La Vela’ flaunts an LED-studded disco wall, another wall shimmering with thousands of sequins, a fireside infinity pool, a terrace the size of my hometown and a low Ibiza underbeat that keeps the rich and the beautiful pleasantly twitchy.
Naturally, the W has various bars and restaurants, but the star is Carles Abellan’s Bravo24. A protégé of Ferran Adrià and the owner of such modish establishments as Comerç24 and Tapas24, Abellan has come up with something quite different here: a grill. I was expecting some sort of avant-garde jiggery-pokery, but the website blurb talks instead of a meat-hanging room and the different woodchips used to bring certain aromas to each steak, which would be lovely except that it’s a brazen copy of—sorry, ‘homage to’—Basque grill king, Victor Arguinzoniz.
Wood is also foremost in the decor: hanging blond wood slats section off the dining room and what looks like hundreds of small IKEA bookshelves are stapled to the ceiling. If the pared-down style and bold lines look familiar that’s because they are: Sandra Tarruella is the interior designer for the many restaurants in the Grupo Tragaluz stable. It’s all low-key and serves mainly as non-decor, directing the gaze out to the magnificent terrace and the sea beyond.
Unusually for a hotel restaurant, the wine list is not too exclusive and has a large selection of bottles at €18 (all the way up to a €1,900 magnum of 2007 Pingús, should you feel like showing off). The menu is a much shorter read: for starters we plumped for meltingly soft grilled aubergine with garlic shoots, quivering bonito shavings and an earthy miso sauce. The other starter was an equally accomplished plate of lightly grilled sweetbreads (some of the best I’ve ever tasted) served with asparagus and chunks of baby squid.
For mains there are all kinds of grilled creatures, including 10 varieties of cow, from Australian Wagyu (at €130 a pop) to young fighting bull from Andalucía. I chose Parda mountain beef from Valle del Esla, which arrived sliced up on a warmed slate and was indescribably tender, but oddly flavoured—if a water chestnut could be a slice of beef, this is how it would taste. My companion had some juicy and flavourful Merino lamb chops, also from the pastures of Extremadura, and although both meats were good, they were outshone by the starters and even some of the accompanying side dishes such as a first-class stew of spring onions, wild mushrooms and pancetta. When the spring onions are upstaging the steaks, it’s a sign that maybe Abellan should stick to what he does best and leave the woodchips to Arguinzoniz.
We were far too full for desserts, but the Little Lord Fauntleroy at the next table, who was swiftly putting away a pricey wodge of cherry tart with rosemary ice cream, would surely attest to their brilliance. Then it was time for my friend to repair to her luxury suite to gaze out to sea from the comfort of her double bathtub, and for me to descend to the viewless reality of the non-sail-shaped world below.
Bravo24: Hotel W, Plaça de la Rosa del Vents 1. Tel. 93 295 2636; www.w-barcelona.com. Open: 1.30pm-4pm, 8.30pm-11pm daily. Three courses with modest wines comes to around €70-€80 a head.