by Jade Conroy, The Telegraph, June 5, 2019
In The House of Bernarda Alba, Federico García Lorca’s final play, the five daughters of the titular character are placed under house arrest for eight years in order to mourn the death of their mother’s second husband. On a recent visit to Can Bordoy Grand House & Garden, I was reminded of Bernarda and her daughters, though the setting was present-day Palma de Mallorca and not 1940s rural Andalucia, the location of the fateful story.
At roughly the same time as the drama was set, Can Bordoy – parts of which date as far back as the 15th century – was, in fact, a private home to another family, also with five daughters. Their ending, however, was much less dramatic than that of the girls at the Alba household: two of the daughters became nuns and later turned their old family dwelling into a primary school.
Nowadays, any sign of a pedagogical past has gone. The property has been turned into a beautiful, 24-suite hotel at the hands of OHLAB, a leading Spanish design firm run by Paloma Hernaiz and Jaime Oliver. It’s not their first hotel on the island – the lauded Puro Hotel, also in Palma, was designed by the duo too.
But while Puro Hotel draws on a Balearic bent when it comes to design – think Balinese beds for barefoot lounging, an all-white lobby, plenty of raffia and teak wood – Can Bordoy is a break from the typical Mediterranean aesthetic employed at Puro and other hotels across the island.
The first hint you get of Can Bordoy not being quite like any other place on the island is the purposeful omission of the world ‘hotel’ from its name. This is a place that wants to feel like somebody’s house – and it does.
The hotel sits on a quiet street, barely big enough to fit a car, though the property’s Range Rover manages to deliver guests right outside the huge triple-height front doors. Once through, guests enter into a sleepy courtyard, traditionally Mallorcan but for the yellow-green Moroso garden chairs made from fishing net threads.
Their bold colour and unconventional structure are a counterpoint to the more traditional cobblestones, potted palms and black window shutters. Similarly unconventional combinations are a design tactic employed inside the hotel too.
The OHLAB team drew on the Japanese technique of kintsugi – the art of repairing broken porcelain with a precious metal, and rather than covering up the flaws, enhancing them with something better. In order to let light into the stairwell at the entrance of the building, for example, a glass-bottomed pool was installed on the rooftop.
Guests will also see cracks in walls and marks on floorboards – though the effect is lifted with the selection of furnishings: names include Bocci, Flos, Tom Dixon and Gordiola. The layering of styles makes for an impressive mise-en-scene: linear Artemide lamps with singular bulbs are framed by corniced ceilings, while trendy cane-backed armchairs by Patricia Urquiola sit next to antique oil paintings from the property owner’s private collection.
Sapphire-coloured velvet drapes hang from mirrored ceilings in the main bar, which also doubles as reception – there’s nothing as obvious as a check-in desk here. Instead, guests do all their dealings at a marble extension of the main bar. A lift is seamlessly hidden behind the drapes, delivering guests to their rooms.
All 24 are different: some have gargantuan ceilings; others balconies overlooking the garden; a few are duplexes with egg-shaped tubs on the top level. Many have bathrooms concealed by more stage-like drapes. All have bespoke, jewellery box-like walnut beds with inbuilt brass lamps.
Although the true luxury at Can Bordoy is being left to your own devices, the team of butlers will do anything from drawing you a bath with rose petals to stocking your minibar with your personal selection of drinks. The hotel will also happily arrange for guests to see Palma’s many offerings - a visit to the marvellous Fundación Miro, with the artist’s former studios open to the public; a private boat trip; or wine tastings at a vineyard up in the hills.
The hotel is heavy in texture and rich in colour, which for some won’t go hand in hand with the long, hot Mallorcan summers. But the clever placement of windows and bifold doors at the front, middle and back of the house mean that at the height of summer, a cool breeze from the port runs straight through each of the lounges, gauze curtains billowing.
And if the hotel does err on the darker side, the fragrant garden bursts with light – and will be the deal-sealer for many prospective guests of this hotel. It is the largest private walled garden in the city, stuffed full of hackberry, jacaranda and citrus trees. The green is complemented by funky chairs the colour of a Miró canvas (and Miró certainly would have approved of this mini paradise). There’s a walled-off strip of pool, a hot tub and a treatment cabana, serviced by the small subterranean spa.
There’s also the other, aforementioned rooftop plunge pool, surrounded by loungers and views across the pinky-gold rooftops of Palma towards the ‘La Seu’ cathedral - well worth a visit inside too, if only to see Gaudí’s illuminated crown of thorns which hangs above the altar (it was actually finished by one of his pupils).
Other works of art by the school of Gaudí can be found all over the Old Town - their mosaic-filled facades, curved windows and sculptural lines home to pedestrian pursuits such as a dentist’s office or Horno Santo Cristo, Palma’s best pasteleria, where you can pick up fresh-baked ensaïmadas, boxed up in blue-and-red monogrammed cardboard for you to take back to the hotel for a snack.
Not that you’ll need it with Botànic, the hotel’s bistro-influenced restaurant, dishing up the likes of sardines on pa amb oli (tomato bread), cuttlefish and sobrasada sandwiches, and moray eel fritters all day. The largely healthy menu, overseen by chef Andrés Benítez (formerly of Michelin-starred Bou) sources a lot of the goods from nearby Mercat L’Olivar, which is also worth a visit if only to sample a couple of oysters and watch Palma’s residents go about their daily market ritual. Dinnertime at the hotel sees locals – including some of the old pupils who studied here when it was a school – book in for Benítez’s seven-course tasting menu with pairings with some fantastic biodynamic wines.
Perhaps the Alba sisters’ fate wouldn’t have been so bad had this been their house.
Suites at Can Bordoy Grand House & Garden start from €351 (£310) in low season; and from €679 (£600) in high, including breakfast.
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