By Mark Captain, Travel & Lifestyle Editor
Imagine a picture perfect Spanish seaside town near Barcelona with clear waters and an independent 5 star grand luxe all-suite hotel overlooking a bay. Well imagine no more as we spend a weekend at Alàbriga Hotel and Home Suites.
Costa Brava was one of the first package holiday destinations for British people abroad and for too long was associated with egg & chips and sunburnt Brits on crowded beaches. How things have changed. This part of Spain is known for its beautiful climate that brings sunshine all year-round. Its location on the northeast coast of Spain means generally cooler winters but you’ll also enjoy more enjoyable temperatures in the summer.
Located overlooking Sant Pol beach in S’Agaro, the hotel sits on one of the most preserved and picturesque areas of the Spanish Costa Brava coast and has a relaxed, elegant charm. Sant Pol is a long sand crescent beach between Sant Feliu and the luxury estate of S’Agaro. The beach opens up onto a natural bay and still retains beach huts – the only beach on the Costa Brava which has them. Behind the beach, there are a handful of local businesses so take the road along the beach till you arrive at the impressive gates of Alàbriga Hotel.
Alàbriga hotel is owned independently so has bags of character and personality. This independence means that the usual luxury hotel rulebook is thrown out of the window. EVERYTHING here is bespoke from a 3000 piece Italian crystal chandelier to the uber comfortable beds. Anything (yes anything) in the hotel is available for sale including artwork (all living artists) or if you prefer, a hand carved designer plate from the restaurant.
Design – The owners are certainly not scared of spending money as everything you experience is a feast to senses. For the interiors, cutting edge Italian designers include Rubelli, Donhia and Armani Casa. The building itself is impressively shaped like a super yacht. Inside, the details keep coming. In a multi-purpose lounge, all furniture and carpets are made of pure silk with multiple sculptures and art all over including impressionist, postmodern and abstract pieces. On a Saturday, afternoon tea is served here, Alàbriga style.
Not just another hotel bar – Hotel bars can be dreary but the details keep coming thick and fast here from an impressive gin collection through to a wall installation of champagne bubbles designed by Dom Perignon. Incidentally, Dom Perignon is the only champagne served at Alàbriga Hotel and all guests receive a complimentary bottle on arrival in their suite.
It’s not often that toilets get mentioned but the loos at Alàbriga are well worth a look. Pop into any of the ground floors loos to experience state-of-the-art multi-coloured glass bathrooms. Breeze delicately past mirrored doors and behold copper and gold leaf glass sinks that make a striking impression and also a great excuse to leave dinner for a few minutes to update your Instagram story.
What about the suites? There are no keys. Every door (including your suite) is activated with your fingerprint. A deluxe suite (the smallest) is around 100 square metres and includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen-dining room, living room and terrace overlooking the sea or gardens. Miele appliances feature kitchen side as well as the softest bathrobes and slippers. In suite toiletries by Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze and Marvis are made especially for Alàbriga Hotel.
Comfort on holiday is so important and what we loved most were the home comforts throughout like our bed, plentiful terrace furniture and the luxury of peace and quiet. Comfort is in plentiful supply here. The beds were specially designed for the hotel in Spain with materials that adjust to your weight. The mattress and pillows (they also have a pillow menu) are very comfortable and have been purchased by guests for their homes.
For something special, stay in the Presidential Penthouse, the biggest suite in all of Catalonia at 730 square metres plus another 500 square metres of terrace including a jacuzzi and bar. There is a dedicated lift to carry you to indulge in four bedrooms with a king size bed in each for ultimate luxury. Being an all-suite property, guests in all suite categories are allocated their own 24-hour butler to help with every day life. Well behaved pets (up to 15kg) are also very welcome.
After a leisurely Mediterranean breakfast of smoked salmon, cured meats, fresh pastries and jam made from the hotel kumquat trees, we spent a day exploring luxury facilities. We started at the heated outdoor pool followed by a jacuzzi and relaxing facial. If you are feeling more adventurous, non-surgical beauty treatments are also available and carried out by a doctor.
The place to see and be seen on the Costa Brava this summer is at Alàbriga’s Sea Club, gently terraced down from the hotel. After a dip in the infinity pool, choose some live crab and lobster for lunch from the tank to enjoy in your Cloud Cabin which can be a sunbed and also a dining table.
The hotel’s restaurant, Terra, not only holds a coveted Michelin star but also has a concept that takes you on a journey through the local region with flavours of the sea, garden and mountains. Dishy Head Chef Abraham Artigas is native to Spain though his genius inspiration comes from many sources so expect touches from Asian, African, Latin American and of course European (especially Italian) cuisines.
Dishes kept wowing tables and my favourite was a prawn tartare in a crispy shell paired with a house smoked Negroni. What detail! A grilled turbot with a white wine butter also impressed and let the fish shine. Tasting menus (including vegetarian) are a great option so sit back, relax and let Abraham tantalise all your senses. Every single wine on the list is also available by the glass to enjoy, a rare treat to savour.
Alàbriga Hotel has to be seen to be believed. To find out more and to book, visit hotelalabriga.com
THINGS TO DO ON THE COSTA BRAVA
Boat trip to Ibiza – So Alàbriga also have a yacht which can be hired. A gentle sail to Ibiza takes a couple of hours only. The Azimut 58 Flybridge yacht is 18 metres long with plenty of space for sunbathing, champagne and relaxing.
Visit a vineyard – The long and winding mountain road leads to a working family vineyard, restored to its glory in 2004 by the Martín Faixó family. Come to enjoy expertly crafted Spanish wine, take relaxing walks between the perfect rows of vineyards and stay in the middle of the Natural Park of Cap de Creus.
Lunch in Cadaqués – After exploring Martin’s vineyard, have lunch on the terrace at their picturesque family run restaurant on the beach of Es Poal. You can enjoy the freshest fish along with magnificent views of the village of Cadaqués. Start with a glass of wine from Martín-Faixó’s cellar or even their own craft beer. When bread with a tomato salsa arrives, ask for fresh garlic for a proper Spanish experience. Cadaqués is also just 30km from the southern French border.
Local fish auction in Palamos – You can’t beat fresh fish. On Monday-Friday, boats bring their catch ashore every early evening for an auction. Watch this drama unfold and watch locals haggle for the famous local prized red prawns. After this, visit the Fishing Museum next door which is housed in a former boat shed and is the first museum dedicated to fishing around the Mediterranean. www.visitpalamos.cat
The Dali Theatre-Museum – A visit to this part of Spain has to include a visit to The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. It is located in a former Municipal Theatre, a 19th century construction destroyed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. On its ruins, Dalí decided to create his museum. Be amazed by the single largest and most diverse collection of works by Salvador Dalí as well as Dalí sculptures, three-dimensional collages, mechanical devices and other oddities from Dalí’s imagination.