A torch and a pair of sunglasses are not conventional accessories for a sojourn at a design hotel. But guests at Barcelona's Hotel Omm might do well to pack both. Groping my way along a theatrically dark, black-walled corridor, I follow a member of staff who is stooping and straining his eyes to locate my room number. Finally stopping at room 311, the door is flung open - and my eyes are assaulted as I enter a minimalist space flooded with brilliant white daylight.
The use of light and dark is taken very seriously at Hotel Omm - and fortunately the overall effect is as chic and stylish as it is dramatic. The white marble façade sets a playful tone. Likened by the architect to an advent calendar, the exterior is made up of rectangular marble segments which appear to have been peeled open to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow light to pour into the guest rooms.
Fashionable locals gather on the taupe and moss-green sofas that dot the buzzy Moodern bar in the lobby. A rooftop terrace with a swimming pool and views of city rooftops provides a balmy setting for summer drinks. The basement nightclub Ommsessions is a perfect late-night drinking den, while chill-out options are available at the Asian-inspired spa Spaciomm.
But its the food that causes the biggest stir - inevitably given that Omm is the first hotel to be opened by Rosa Maria Esteva, the formidable sixtysomething doyenne behind Barcelona's famous Tragaluz restaurant group. The Michelin-starred Moo restaurant doesn't disappoint. From the frothy foie gras soup with lychees, and prawns with pig trotters, down to the plates decorated by visiting artists, dinner is a delight. Just don't forget to take a torch so you can find the way back to your hotel room.
Hotel Omm, Rossello 265, Barcelona, Spain (00 34 93 445 40 00; www.hotelomm.es). In the heart of the elegant Eixample district, just off the Passeig de Gracia.
Time to international airport: around 25 minutes, costing €25-€30 (£17.90-£21) by taxi.
The 59 rooms in the original building are white, airy and minimalist. There are large mirrors, vast windows and burnt-orange blankets providing a splash of colour. All fittings and amenities - wardrobes, safes, minibar - are concealed behind smooth white lacquered units. A further 32 suites opened in an adjoining building last September and are more richly toned, with wooden four-poster beds and taupe and brown furnishings.
Freebies: Bedtime bottles of water and hand-made chocolates. Natural Esencial Mediterraneo toiletries are provided in stainless steel dispensers, and a Hotel Omm CD with chill-out music to match the decor is available for use in the room.
Keeping in touch: Rooms are fitted with free Wi-Fi.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at €225 (£161); breakfast is €22.50 (£16). The tasting menu with matching wines in Moo costs €112 (£80) per person.
I'm not paying that: Design aficionados on a budget should try Hotel Ambassador (00 34 93 342 6180; www.ambassador-barcelona. com). Doubles start at €118 (£84), room only.Reuse content