Hotel Of The Week: Hacienda Benazuza elBullihotel

At the Hacienda Benazuza elBullihotel near Seville guests enter a refined world of ancient architecture and tranquil gardens, and savour the latest cutting-edge cuisine
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The Independent Travel

This is a story of two halves. First, there is the fairy-tale property just outside Seville that is the Hacienda Benazuza elBullihotel, a sprawling collection of buildings dating from the 10th century dropped into endless, heavenly grounds. It is like combining the architecture of Granada's grand Alhambra with the seductive gardens of Seville's Alcazar.

Second, there is the story of the food. This is the southern offshoot of Ferran Adria's world-famous restaurant north of Barcelona. Benazuza packs a high gastronomic punch with its two Michelin stars, same menus and same fare, but without the year-long waiting list to get a table. The food is run by Ferran's number two, Rafa Morales.

Benazuza was once the fortress of King Alfonso X. It is an arrangement of whitewashed walls, regal courtyards, sweeping staircases and high-ceilinged public rooms crammed with antiques and chintz.

If being surrounded by such a romantic setting makes you want to get hitched, it's no problem. Benazuza even possesses a private 17th-century chapel that is perfect for weddings, which it holds most weekends, apart from at the height of summer when it's just too damned hot. My heart sank when I heard there was one the night of my stay. I've had too many supposed quiet luxury weekends away ruined listening to bad tribute bands and raucous laughter. But here the grounds are so vast that apart from a wander past the chapel to witness the Spanish society wedding, complete with ancient matriarchs with towering mantillas, you wouldn't have known it was there. Receptions happen in a large barn well away from the hotel residents.

The gardens are decidedly peaceful apart from the gentle trickle of water features and the swallows fluttering in the eaves. The large swimming pool has many channels leading off it, winding through lush vegetation and disappearing behind ochre walls. La Alberca, the poolside restaurant and bar, serves delicious tapas at lunchtime. By night, the courtyard is scented with church incense, which atmospherically smoulders in antique burners.

The location

Twenty-five minutes' drive west of Seville and about 30 minutes from the airport, Benazuza is on the outskirts of the small and undistinguished Andalusian town of Sanlucar la Mayor.

The comfort factor

Each of the 44 rooms and 17 suites is unique and hung with rich drapes and stuffed with very highly polished antiques. Most rooms have balconies or terraces, and some even have their own private gardens and Jacuzzi.

The bathroom

Miles of tiles, marble and baskets full of bespoke Benazuza products.

The food and drink

Eat your heart out. Don't do breakfast and you are missing a super seven-course affair served inside or out on a pretty terrace. La Alqueria restaurant offers a 33-course tasting dinner menu that is sensational.

The people

Cigar-chomping fatcat Spanish plutocrats, a smattering of Germans, Belgians and a few Brits.

The area

The delights of Seville are nearby.

The access

Because of the property's age, access for wheelchair users is limited. There are a few ground-floor suites. Children are welcome.

The damage

Double rooms from €353 (£252) excluding breakfast. The seven-course Benazuza breakfast costs from €37 (£26) per person. Dinner at the Michelin two-star La Alqueria restaurant costs from €140 (£100) each.

The address

Hacienda Benazuza elBullihotel, c/ Virgen de Las Nieves, Sanlucar La Mayor, Seville, 41800 Spain (00 34 95 570 33 44; elbullihotel.com).

The writer travelled as a guest of Abercrombie & Kent (0845 0700 612; abercrombiekent.co.uk) which offers two nights' b&b at the Hacienda Benazuza elBullihotel from £568 per person, based on two sharing, including flights and car hire

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* Michelin-starred food comes with a great view at Chevre d'Or (00 33 4 92 10 66 66; chevredor.com), in the hilltop town of Eze, in Provence.

* Le Quartier Français (00 27 21 876 2151; lequartier.co.za) serves some of the best cuisine in South Africa and is set in the foodie town of Franschhoek.

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