Sunday 12 August 2012

La Garriga de Castelladral, Carretera de Súria a Castelladral, Castelladral, Catalonia

An upmarket family-run hotel deep in the Catalan countryside, La Garriga de Castelladral is a former vineyard, perched on a hillside with distant views of the sabre-tooth mountain of Montserrat, across the scars of a nearby salt mine. There is a very wide terrace leading down to the outdoor pool, which would be a great vantage point, if it weren't for the pool cover, obscuring the view from the water. The hotel itself oozes character - the old manor house huddles around a cobbled courtyard. The owners have lovingly-preserved the original features, such as the massive brick vats and the ancient wooden barrels. There is also plenty of stylish, communal space, such as the tasteful lounge and library, which are decorated with arty travel prints and equipped with wicker chairs and hefty coffee-table photobooks.

Clinical, white and minimalist
Each of La Garriga de Castelladral's eight bedrooms is unique - the so-called Roofs Room (with a view over a series of roofs), for example, is split between the large sleeping area upstairs and the modernist bathroom and wardrobe downstairs. The stone walls and the sloping roof, with its original beams, give the room a period feel, but the fittings, such as the spherical lights and the flat-screen television, are mostly clinical, white and minimalist. The overall effect is pleasing on the eye, but it would be quite easy to knock the TV or a light off the ledge onto the staircase below.    

Goats cheese with honey
You can eat the fine buffet breakfast in a covered area on the terrace from where you can admire the view, but stay in the shade. You are served warm, freshly-baked bread, freshly-squeezed orange juice and good strong coffee, while the buffet includes fruit salad, expertly-baked cakes, such as chocolate and pecan, plus creamy, light goats cheese with honey produced on site.

You can return to the terrace for a four-course set dinner, which is about 30 euros per head. The appetiser might be delicious cream cheese wrapped in salmon and fat black olives, followed by a first course of thick and creamy pea soup, topped with a couple of slices of black boutifara sausage and served with toast.  Next up might be a small portion of slow-cooked beef, accompanied by a salsa. It is an excellent dish - the rich meat melts in the mouth. For desert, the coconut cake is light, fluffy and just sweet enough.  It is all beautifully-presented in stylish white crockery on luxurious white table cloths. You are are served a glass of cava when you sit down, plus water and bread.  Although the food is excellent, the service by the young waiter and waitress can be haphazard - they may forget to offer you any wine with your meal.

An exceptional hotel
The laid-back and photogenic family which run La Garriga de Castelladral includes three-generations and a clutch of cats and dogs. They have created an exceptional boutique hotel. 8/10