Wednesday 20 February 2008

Avenida Palace Hotel, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, Barcelona

A pompous and somewhat tacky hotel with swirling gold staircases and marble pillars rising out of the old-fashioned foyer. The tired bedrooms, decked out in red and brown, have very thin walls through which you can hear your neighbours' conversations, ablutions and television quite clearly - not conducive to a good night's sleep. In any case, the beds and pillows are too hard for a four-star hotel and even in the non-smoking rooms you occasionally pick up the faint waft of cigarette ash. The en-suite bathrooms have old-fashioned, temperamental fittings and black and yellow speckled basin tops vaguely reminiscent of vomit. If you are at the rear of the hotel, the view - of the backs of modern buildings - is unusually drab for Barcelona.

At least each room has a decent flat-screen TV and a quickish WiFi service, which can be bought in hourly, daily or weekly increments from Swisscom. Better still, the buffet breakfasts include tasty scrambled egg, smoked salmon, unusually spicy sausages, thick fruit juices and weakish, but drinkable, coffee. Food ordered via room service arrives promptly, but isn't always hot. The dishes on the menu includes a large piece of delicious salmon (16 euros) cooked just right, but it can come with watery and anaemic vegetables and, bizarrely, nothing in the way of carbohydrate. You may have to fill your stomach with a big bowl of ice cream, whipped cream and blackberries for desert. The Avenida Palace is well-located in the centre of the city, but it belongs in another, more tolerant, era. 5/10