Barcelona is one of Europe’s architectural treasuries. As a cradle of modernism, it’s up there with Paris and London, celebrated for structures that manage to convey Catalan’s mythic past while paradoxically trumpeting progress. Yet, as a city, for all its formal innovation it has developed a (very first-world) shortcoming. For years, the “It hotel” in Barcelona wasn’t really in Barcelona. The Gran Hotel La Florida was out of town, and above it, too, being situated high on the Tibidabo mountain. The opening of Soho House’s new property on the edge of the up-and-coming Gothic Quarter, then, represents a social rewiring.
The eighteenth House in the group’s rapidly expanding empire, which now stretches to Chicago and Istanbul, is a £45 million refurbishment of a former 19th-century apartment block overlooking the Port Veil marina. It’s winning over Spaniards and travelling foreigners – mostly Brits, on our visit – thanks to the same formula that has made a success of previous outings: tried-and-tested Soho House features mixed with local flourishes.
Anyone who has spent time in its other operations will, for instance, be familiar with the earthy colour palette, the industrial fittings, the Cowshed spa, the Cecconi’s restaurant, the no-photos policy and the rooftop pool that’s too intimidating to swum. in. Throughout, however, there are grace notes that conjure up the locale, whether it’s the traditional red-brick vaulting in the ceiling of the upstairs restaurant or the Catalan fabrics in the 57 bedrooms.
The dinner menu captures the strategy in miniature, listing “House Regulars” alongside an array of site-specific tapas, salads and soups. Highlights include the tuna tartare (£22) and the oxtail risotto (£23). Like Chicago and Istanbul, Soho House Barcelona is big – 80,000 sq ft over six floors – which is necessary because it has to cater for two business models: a hotel with benefits (nonmembers can book a room, which includes full club access for the duration of their stay) as well as a home-from-home for Soho Housers proper. Innocents abroad can easily use it as a launch pad for enjoying the Barca beyond, as the staff are briefed with helpful recommendations for things to do in the city. See right for five not to miss…