ABaC

Tibidabo Hill, Barcelona, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A hotel made for indulgence, with a 2-star Michelin restaurant, boutique-beautiful bedrooms and an Elemis spa
This is as good as it gets in hotel-land; it's genuinely hard to fault a thing about ABaC, and it feels slightly churlish to try and do so. Nevertheless, in the interest of critical reviewing, let's give it a whirl. It's set on a busy road. But it's cocooned in a lush garden and surrounded by high wooden walls (press a discreet buzzer to enter), so you barely notice the traffic - plus the bedrooms are fully soundproofed. It's expensive. But it's utterly spoiling and being here feels like a real treat. It's a bit out of town, near the Park Güell. But if you're a second-timer to Barcelona, or here on a romantic break, you might relish escaping the mad buzz of the city centre. And we're only talking 15 minutes in a taxi or a quick metro ride.

Now let's look at the positives. An elegant, friendly restaurant with 2 Michelin stars and a sublime menu. Fifteen beautiful bedrooms, with hydro-massage baths, Hermès toiletries and amazing beds. An Elemis spa you can hire exclusively, with underwater loungers and a thermal circuit. Lovely staff, who are incredibly helpful and keen for you to experience the Barcelona they love. And last, but not least, a wonderful restoration of a historical 19th-century building that was once the cultural hub of the city, combined with a stunning wooden-and-glass extension and hip, modern décor. As Mary Poppins would say, practically perfect in every way.

Highs

  • Walking through the open kitchen to see the chefs at work, creating pure culinary magic
  • World-class, incredible food: think pumpkin and citronella cream with roast scallops and leeks, then Belgian Ale: chocolate, coffee butter, toffee, cacao beans and black olives. Be sure to book a table when you reserve a room
  • Pristine bedrooms with black-out blinds, sound-proofing and Treca de Paris mattresses on the bed; you will sleep amazingly well
  • Popping into town for a quick Gaudí fix, then returning to the peace of suburbia
  • An uber-cool cocktail bar and lounge, plus over 1,000 choices of wine

Lows

  • It's set on a busy road - see above
  • It's expensive - see above
  • It's a little out of the city - see above
  • Breakfast isn't included in the rates
  • No twin beds, or extra beds for children. This is very much a couples' escape

Best time to go

Barcelona is at its buzzing best in spring, early summer and autumn, when the days are sunny and the nights balmy. Locals tend to leave the city in droves in August, the hottest month of the year. Avoid December to February if you don’t like the cold - it can get surprisingly chilly in winter.

Our top tips

  • The spa can be booked exclusively for an hour at a time; don't miss the opportunity to have it all to yourselves
  • When you check in, reception will give you a copy of the month's Barcelona Time Out, which details the city's current activities, restaurants, exhibitions and places to eat
  • Close to the hotel, Tibidabo Amusement Park is a good day out for thrill-seekers
  • Great for...

    City Style
    Eco
    Foodie
    Honeymoon
    Spa
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 15
    • Restaurant and bar (open Tuesday-Saturday)
    • Allowed, but best for little ones
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Concierge Service
    • Jacuzzi
    Room:

    Rooms

    The best thing about ABaC's rooms is their high quality and thoughtful detail - in particular, the amazing sound-proofing, black-out blinds and Treca de Paris matresses, which ensure a blissful night's sleep. The second-best thing is that all rooms have the same amenities; the only difference is space and the addition of a terrace to some rooms.

    So the smallest Deluxe still has a hydro-massage tub (with coloured lights, so the water goes from blue to green to red!), a walk-in rain shower, an abundance of Hermès toiletries, super-thick towelling robes, a Nespresso machine, and a massive Bang & Olufsen TV (perhaps too big). We slept in this room: bathing was a joy, sleeping was a delight, and we happily lounged.

    Our favourite room was the Superior. Inside, it's much like a Deluxe, though slightly bigger. But outside it has a beautiful terrace with teak flooring, a bed of lavender and 2 loungers for sun soaking.

    Privilege rooms are the same price as the Superior, but instead of a terrace they have more indoor floor space and views of the garden. Suites have a separate living area with a big sofa (smaller rooms have armchairs or chaise longues) and an iPad. Gadget lovers will enjoy the remote-controlled lighting and blinds in all rooms. Minibars are equally high-class, with Grey Goose vodka, Billecart Champagne and unusual fruit juices.

    If you're here for a special occasion, it's definitely worth splurging on the Penthouse. The bathroom is huge and square, with a double vanity in the centre, and you get loads of room in the bedroom/living area. Outside, the balcony has a table and chairs for private dining plus loungers and an outdoor Jacuzzi.

    Décor throughout is crisp, clean and tasteful: bright white linens, exotic wood flooring, taupe sofas, and colour from rose-pink velvet cushions, art and pink orchids. Nothing is overdone, nothing is garish. These are spaces made for unwinding.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Bathrobes
    • Central heating
    • Cots Available
    • DVD player (on request)
    • Hairdryer
    • Iron (on request)
    • Jacuzzi
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Phone
    • Safe box
    • Satellite tv
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi

    Eating

    With 2 Michelin stars, ABaC's food speaks for itself. The restaurant, open Tuesday-Saturday, is headed up by Jordi Cruz, who was Spain's youngest chef to receive a Michelin star (he was 25 at the time).

    The sophisticated dining room is elegant but not forbiddingly formal, with white, precisely ironed tablecloths, beautiful arc lamps and floor-to-ceiling windows. Tables are well spaced and the atmosphere is calm. In summer, you can eat out on the terrace.

    As you'd expect, flavours and combinations are gloriously inventive, and presentation is immaculate. Imagine sweet and salt oyster tartar with sorrel, coriander and marine sprouts for a starter, or casarecce pasta with sea cucumbers, Comté cheese and lemon basil. Seafood is a highlight (perhaps tuna belly with ponzu sauce, kumquat skin, crispy artichokes and spicy roots purée), as are the unusual meat dishes (baby goat shoulder with green cider foam is popular).

    As for puddings, they couldn't sound more delicious: pickled lemon with yoghurt snow, flower nectar and violet ice cream, or caramelised honey brioche with Mato, toffee, roasted pine nuts and Idiazabal cheese. The accompanying wine list has over 1,000 choices. In truth, every meal is a tasting menu, but the formal Tasting Menu and Grand Tasting Menu offer good value for money and endless courses. If you're feeling anti-social, order room service, which has the likes of roast guinea fowl, caviar and oysters.

    Before or after dinner, go for a cocktail in the uber-cool ABaC Lounge. It's a discreet subterranean space, with clusters of Chesterfield sofas and armchairs, delineated by coloured lights.

    Breakfast is a treat, too. You're given fruit salad with mint ice cream (so decadent to start the day with ice cream!), a basket of buttery pastries, a bocadillo of flavoursome Iberian ham and cheese, and then asked about your cooked preference. We went for scrambled eggs, and they were exceptional, served with chives and traditional pan con tomate.

    There are other good restaurants close by too, including Casa Pepe for tapas; reception can advise.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Restaurant
    • Restaurants nearby
    • Room service
    • Vegetarian menu
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Unwind in the Elemis spa, with its thermal circuit, hammam and wonderful-sounding treatments, such as the exotic lime and ginger salt glow with a deep-tissue back massage
    • Barcelona's Botanical Gardens back onto the hotel, and Gaudí's Park Güell is close: a municipal garden with beautiful structures designed by the famous architect, including his famous salamander, his house, and various mosaics
    • Take the Tram Blau (a 19th-century wooden tram) up the hill of Tibidabo for wonderful views over Barcelona, especially at sunset
    • The cultural highlights of the city never fail to thrill, even if you've seen them before. We love the Sagrada Familia, the cathedral and the Barri Gòtic. Reception can arrange bike hire if you want to cycle around
    • If you're into art, the Picasso and Miró museums are excellent, as is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), which specialises in Spanish and Catalan art
    • Head to the beach for the day; temperatures are lovely for most of the year. Or play golf; there are courses close by

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cycling
    • Golf
    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Nightlife
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Shopping / markets
    • Swimming

    Kids

    Children are welcome but the hotel doesn't have any extra beds, so you'd need to get an extra room for children older than 3. Little ones aged 0-3 stay for free in their parents' room, and the hotel can provide a baby cot.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Ask about connecting rooms; there are a couple (referred to by the hotel as Grand Suite and ABaC Suite). Bear in mind all beds are doubles.

    Babysitting:

    Reception can book nannies.

    Kid Friendly:

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