24-Hour Room Service: Casanova Hotel, Barcelona, Spain
Arriving at the Casanova felt like walking on to a film set. This wasn't without grounds, because we were (if only for the day). A TV crew filming a beer advert had set up in the hotel's bar, which meant that cameras, bright lights, swarthy men and beer bottles were strewn all over the place – not that any of this fazed the immaculately groomed staff, who carried on as if it were just another working day.
Barcelona isn't short of chic places to stay, but the Casanova appears to be the location of choice for TV production crews and the style-savvy. Once inside this 19th-century limestone townhouse, guests are greeted by a row of church candles arranged like organ pipes (pictured, right), their soft glow setting the mood. The reception is discreetly tucked to one side, leaving the rest of the large open space for low-slung crushed-velvet sofas, leather swivel chairs, gold cushions and more candles. But it's the neon-lit bar that is the main draw. Here, glass fish-bowls are casually filled with crushed ice and bottles of Moët adorn the bar at which an accomplished "mixologist" fixes fine cocktails. At weekends, Barcelona's bright young things venture here to be entertained by local DJs.
Overlooking the bar is the Mexiterranee restaurant, which serves beautifully presented Mexican-Mediterranean fusion dishes. My Catalan-style poached fish, and the melt-in-the-mouth beef my boyfriend ordered, were washed down nicely by the recommended wine from Catalonia's Priorat region. Portions were large and we rolled happily to our suite for a nightcap.
It seems that no luxury hotel comes without a spa these days and the Casanova is no exception. So, the next morning, it was off to The Stone Spa. It's small, but what it lacks in space, it makes up for in kudos. My therapist tailored my massage to my requirements – "unknot me, por favor". And the Dermologica face-pack smelt so much like banoffee pie I was almost tempted to start licking myself. Fortunately, I was still full after breakfast, so knots unknotted and skin peachy-soft, I floated out.
The Casanova concept is "hip elegant". Did it hit the right note? I think so. It's hip in its look, atmosphere and attitude, but elegant in its understanding of what a guest is looking for when away from home for a night or three.
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 559, Barcelona, Spain (00 34 933 964 800; www.casanovabcnhotel.com). The hotel sits on the corner of the broad boulevard of Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Carrer Casanova – yes, they do have a valid excuse for such a terrible name. Although not in the centre of town, the Plaça Catalunya, La Rambla and hip Raval neighbourhood are all within walking distance.
Time from international airport: just 12km from the airport, the 30-minute taxi ride costs €25 (£21) one-way. But if you'd rather save your spending money to splash out at La Boqueria's daily food market, efficient and inexpensive express airport buses stop at the Plaça Catalunya after the 15-minute ride. The closest metro is Universitat, on the red line.
Thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows, our junior suite was flooded with natural sunlight. Although the view of this cramped city from seven floors up was not anything to write home about, the suite felt far from claustrophobic. The lounge, bedroom and bathroom all interconnected and were decked out in natural hues, with wooden flooring and retro-modern furnishings. The immense bed, with its silky-soft gold-and-chocolate bedspread was so oversized that I thought I'd lost my boyfriend during the night. Smaller rooms feature the same line in decor but without a lounge area.
Freebies: coffee from the in-room Nespresso machine, an extra that is unusual in Barcelona hotels; classy bathroom products from The White Company.
Keeping in touch: the living area was kitted out with a huge flat-screen TV and Sony PlayStation; there are direct-dial phones in the rooms. Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel, but it costs €15 (£12.50) per day.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Standard doubles start at €137 (£114), room-only, and are small and compact, but the clever use of mirrors gives the impression of bigger space. The junior suites start at €260 (£217).
I'm not paying that: Chic & Basic (00 34 93 302 5183; www.chicandbasic.com) is part of a new breed of style-on-a-budget hotels in the city, and it has a modern hostel located on Calle Tallers off Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. Doubles start at €80 (£67), room only.
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