We pull up to the magnificent converted palacio that houses this chic layer-cake hotel and breathe a sigh. Once through the doors into the minimalist lobby, we can barely remember being a little bemused on our trip here from the airport. The view alone from Hospes Maricel is enough to go to your head. Cunningly designed to guide you seamlessly through to a series of pool-studded terraces overlooking the sea, this designer retreat makes this Mediterranean destination as alluring as the Balearic gets.
If given truth serum, I'd have to confess that the drive from Palma airport had not inspired confidence. The area surrounding the hotel is far from Magaluf, but it’s not exactly plush Portals Nous. Located in the hinterland of Calvia, west of Palma proper, Hospes is flanked by lacklustre apartment blocks, bars and restaurants. What a contrast: Maricel’s own eatery and spa couldn’t be more inspired. And the sea beyond is a shade of turquoise blue that I thought only Photoshop chicanery known only to a secret inner circle of holiday brochure designers and postcard vendors could achieve.
As we watch our bags disappear from the sleek reception area-cum-cocktail lounge, we stroll through to the alfresco bar. Peripheral vision gives us the chance to take in our surroundings – a combination of beautiful historic architecture and swish leather and wooden contemporary furniture. It’s a striking contrast to the stately 16th-century exterior. ‘Oh…’ is all Mrs Smith can manage as she drags her jaw along the marble-tiled floors. Or perhaps it was ‘Oooh’. I can’t quite be sure as I’m too busy admiring that view again.
Wild parties are said to have taken place here in the Sixties, when it was either a private house, or a disco, depending on who you listen to. It seems it was a bit of both. It’s certainly the sort of place you can imagine befitting high society hijinx. Bianca Jagger riding in on a white horse would fit in perfectly. Or the Spanish equivalent of John Profumo cavorting in the pool with a Continental Christine Keeler.
Did I mention the view? As a waiter brings us glasses of something suitably sparkling, its tempting to just run down the steps to the infinity pool, throw clothes off in our wake before dive-bombing, Peter Kay style, into the briny. But Hospes Maricel nowadays is a civilised affair. We politely sip our cava, soak up yet more of that vista, before tearing ourselves away to our room.
We are staying not in the main historical building, but in the slick recently added newbuild extension across the road. Make that under the road, since the new wing is accessed via a tunnel cunningly created to shield guests from the main drag above. The walls look strangely familiar. Not so much because they are constructed using an age-old drywall technique seen across the countryside of the Balearic islands since the 13th century. But, according to Mrs Smith, because they are just like the walls on the terrace at Space in Ibiza – such is her in-depth knowledge of the ancient Moorish architectural vernacular.
The ground floor of the wing housing our room is pin-drop quiet. One man’s Zen-like calm is another’s zero-atmosphere, but since this is also the entrance that leads you to the spa above, it seems suitably soothing. We are later told this part of the hotel has been earmarked for a Japanese restaurant. And those drystone walls are doing a cracking job of soundproofing – no bad thing since the road above is soundtracked by the moped-whine that is every bit as evocative of the Med as chirruping cicadas or Café del Mar compilations.
The trademark clay-coloured walls continue as a design feature in the bedrooms. Ours has an open-plan layout with an enormous glass-screen-shielded egg-shaped bath on one side, a sumptuous white bed on the other. Beyond that, sliding doors lead to a terrace with a black-tiled plunge pool, shaded from the sun by slatted screens. And – guess what – more of those stunning Med views. ‘Mmm,’ Mrs Smith sighs expressively.
A quick cocktail on the terrace, followed by some tapas down the road complies with a book we find by the bed, called ‘Sleeping, Dreaming and Resting’. The Spanish take their sleep seriously – this was the culture that invented the siesta after all. And Hospes take it more seriously than most. ‘The Sueños Project’ – sueños meaning, poetically, both sleeping and dreaming in Spanish – was put together in cahoots with a leading Spanish medical institute to offer guidance on getting the perfect night’s rest. It advises against heavy food before bedtime. We are saving our appetites anyway, as we’ve heard that breakfast at Hospes is emphatically the most important meal of the day.
It’s nine courses. Yes, you read that right. This gourmet tasting breakfast menu could take up most of your day. We don’t take notes – we’re back on the terrace, still gawping at the view – but we will forever recall a seemingless endless parade of dishes. Shot glasses carrying espumas of this, and spoons of escabeches of that. There are quenelles and quails’ eggs, biscuits and brioche, juices and jamon. Mrs Smith counts five different types of butter. The Madrid Fusion Gastronomic Summit called it the ‘best breakfast in the world’. Who are we to argue? This is certainly fine dining, just earlier in the day than usual.
Mrs Smith has an appointment booked in the Bodyna Spa so we head back to the room. Before the construction of the new spa wing, a series of caves built into the cliffs beneath the main house offered treatments. You can still have massages there. There’s nothing like pampering your inner troglodyte to the sound of crashing waves.
Left to my devices, while she heads to the spa's swimming pool, sauna, steam baths and solarium, I turn on the TV for the first time in days, and tune into Sky Sports. Manchester United has sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80m. I consider sending his agent an email. Well, if he is looking for somewhere glamorous to preen around a pool and polish off his mahogany tan for the rest of the summer, I think I know a place that might just fit the bill.
Join us – it's free!
Sign up now for exclusive hotel offers, money back on every booking, and Smith extras (like the one below) whenever you book with us. more
Smith extra at Hospes Maricel
VIP treatment on arrival; a bottle of Mallorcan olive oil and some Es Trenc flor du sal sea salt on departure