When it comes to brunches, I am a fan. Even though I always eat too much and come out feeling guilty and nauseous. I don’t know what it is that I am so fond of really. The food is seldom the best quality, buffets are not my thing (as other people tend to touch the food) and I don’t really appreciate the ‘all you can eat’ concept. I just like brunches, that’s it. And the sparkling brunch at the Mandarin Oriental was so good that none of the above negative comments had any ground. If there is one brunch in Barcelona (or the world) you should try, it is this one.
Lets start with the wines. The brunch includes a glass of Balma cava. This was a new acquaintance for me and a pleasant one. The cava was quite young and fresh with notes of stone fruit (like peach) and citrus. The bubbles were not aggressive and the mouth-feel had some creaminess. I would say it was nothing exceptional, but a nice aperitif. The only negative point was that the waiter clearly poured very unevenly for the whole group (we were 11) and I ended up with a significantly smaller glass than my friends. I switched glasses with M. For an extra cost, one could also choose to have champagne. The house champagne was Billecart Salmon, which is not that exciting that I would have felt like paying for it.
For starters there were two different buffets: one with cold cuts, salads and Asian dishes, like sushi and gyozas, and one with bread, yogurt and muesli. I especially enjoyed the small truffle sausages. Mains could be ordered from the menu. We had a perfectly cooked sirloin steak, egg and foie grass, surf and turf rice and eggs Benedict with salmon. The food was well made and the steak was perhaps one of the best pieces of meat on the whole trip. Sadly the service did not do justice to the great food. Some dishes were forgotten and when we ordered some more steaks (the first one was so good that we had to have more), they came out well done (MURDER). We had to send a steak back two times until we got one medium rare again. Luckily we were not in a hurry, otherwise I would have been quite annoyed. The great thing about the main dishes is that you can order as many as you want.
Moving on to desserts, the selection was quite astounding. A whole buffet of cakes and pastries, all very beautiful and inviting. We ended up tasting quite many, and of course feeling nauseous afterwards. Some of the cakes were not that exciting but others were excellent. Traditional in style I would say, with a lot of ingredients like chocolate, strawberries and vanilla, apple pie and cheesecake. So perhaps there could be some more innovation to make it even better. I was also missing some small nibbles like pralines or nougat, something small with coffee.
The brunch also included all the tea and coffee one could drink. The selection of teas was better than your average cafe, however the quality was quite mediocre. I will not even go into the coffee, as it was Italian dark roast. But this is what you can expect at a hotel.
All in all I think the brunch was great. One of the best I have ever had from a food point of view. The Mandarin Oriental is really beautiful and you feel very luxurious but relaxed. The service was ,however, poor. Friendly, but the staff made way too many mistakes for what one expects at a five star hotel. It was clearly the B (or C) team serving that day. We had to send quite many dishes back as they came out wrong, some dishes we ordered never came at all and, well, I already mentioned the pouring of the cava. Te brunch including cava costs 45€, so I expect a much better performance from the personnel. Otherwise the staff were very nice and attentive.