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Food Hotel: Barcelo La Bobadilla, Andalusia

, Andalusia
+34 958 321861
Cuisine: European
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Set in 350 of its own forested hectares in the Andalusian countryside, the five-star G.L. Barceló la Bobadilla was just a small, unremarkable hut in a field 25 years ago.
 
Designed by architect Jesús del Valle, who drew from the construction techniques of the al-andaluz period to recreate the Cordóban mezquita in the impressive entrance hall, today this 70-room hotel is one of the finest small hotels on the planet and as close to the idyll of nature and harmony championed by the caliphs’ designers in that golden age of architecture as it possible to find, and more importantly to be able to stay in, in the 21st century.
 
In a nod to the modern religious breeze in Spain, La Bobadilla also has its own chapel – home to the largest private organ in the country, which accommodates 1,590 pipes – which although unconsecrated is able to host weddings, such as that of the Japanese couple who wed there during our stay. All the guests were invited to witness the ceremony.
 
The ethos of La Bobadilla is relaxation, and the entire machinery of the hotel is geared towards the pursuit of just that. An 800-square meter spa, replete with hydro-massage pools, sauna and swimming pool - with in-house massage therapists - is a good place to start. Each room at the hotel is of a unique design, from the lavish imperial suite to the standard doubles, a feature which lends to the sense of singularity that pervades the hotel – a characteristic emphatically reinforced by director Enrique Castellanos, the excellent Gema Martínez, and the 95 members of staff who effortlessly blend unexacting professionalism with informality and a personal touch which sets La Bobadilla apart.
 
As Lutz Bösing, the congenial head chef who arrived in Spain via a chance encounter over a beer in his native Germany, points out, there is little less relaxing than having to be “told how to eat something.” “The type of client who makes a hotel like this possible wants to relax,” says Bösing, who oversees the menus in the the hotel’s three restuarants, La Finca, El Cortijo, and the summer al fresco lunchtime eatery El Mirador. “A guest may like something simple to eat, and you have to cover all the bases.You have to adapt to the client and my labor is to present international and classical cuisine in a way that is attractive to both Spanish and European clientéle. In many ways, it’s more demanding than working in a restaurant dedicated to one style, but at the same time it’s good for the client, because all I have in front of me is their particular order.”
 
La Finca’s five forks – the only restaurant in the province of Granada with this distinction – Repsol Guide star and raft of awards do more than suggest that Lutz has achieved precisely that goal. The centre of solomillo in black truffle sauce that was the centrepiece of an exceptional dinner at La Finca proved exactly why – it was the finest cut it had ever been my privilege to consume; the perfect traditional / innovative equilibrium that guides Lutz’ dextrous hand.
 
La Finca is also considered the best restaurant in Spain by the Ministry of Agriculture for the conservation, preservation and service of its extensive wine list. Many of the ingredients incorporated into the menus of La Bobadilla’s restaurants are sourced locally and nationally, and nowhere is this more in evidence than in El Cortijo, which concentrates on national and regional dishes. There is, though, no reason why that should preclude a touch of the unexpected as well, as a preliminary glass of cucumber gazpacho laced with a salmon julienne indicated.
 
One of the most striking features of the hotel’s eating experience as a whole is the familiarity bred from encountering the same waiters in different locations. This first-name terms intimacy lends itself to a genuine homely feel about the hotel – and the staff are genuinely pleasant and outgoing - a not inconsiderable achievement in a country not given to over-exuberance in the very loosely termed ‘service industry’.
 
As the hotel’s director, Enrique Castellanos, stresses, much of this bonhomie is born from employing “local, down to earth” people in all areas of the hotel. With the icy touch of forced ceremony removed, La Bobadilla achieves the almost impossible: a guest-friendly hotel with the style of Lucretia but few pretensions to the bourgeois. “In modern society, luxury is not measured in gold or silver, but in space and service,” says the director, who also extols the virtues of “the Andalusian symbosis, the harmony between water and nature.” And the environment-conscious guest can rest easy about La Bobadilla’s carbon footprint as well.
 
In keeping with the hotel’s ethos of incorporating the natural world into the fabric of its design, much of the hotel’s energy is produced by olives, and all of the aforementioned water is drawn from its own wells and recycled. A 250,000 euro investment in a biomass plant has reduced the hotel’s CO2 output by 80 to 90 percent and reduced its energy costs by 45 percent, according to Castellanos. The waste produced by the 250 square meter installation that feeds La Bobadilla’s hot water and heating system provides a natural insecticide for its on-site fruit plantion and aids the maintainance of the hotel’s vast and liberally distributed collection of plants, which itself has its own ‘hospital’ overseen by the the gardening staff. Something to contemplate as the sun sets over the wind farms dotting the rolling hills encompassing La Bobadilla; a leading small hotel that scores big in every department.
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