Restaurant Review: The Mimosa Garden at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of busy Barcelona is an oasis of calm: The Mimosa Garden, located within the iconic Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the city’s much celebrated Passeig de Gracia, Eixample. But while this picturesque garden restaurant is a genuine haven of peace and tranquillity, it is far more than just a place to unwind and rest your weary feet after a fast-paced day of sight-seeing. Here, you can enjoy an entirely unique twist on the Catalan tapas dishes so prevalent throughout the city – this time, however, it’s Peruvian cuisine that is the order of the day, and all washed down with a cocktail or two from the restaurant’s unrivalled and utterly indulgent drinks menu.
Just a stone’s throw from Gaudi’s iconic Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, the Mandarin Oriental is one of the city’s best-loved haunts for foodie travellers and locals alike, boasting seven incredible restaurants – including the two Michelin star ‘Moments’ – alongside its stunning luxury accommodation. Fusing modern design with timeless style, it is a truly original space that has slowly become the beating heart of the city, with chic interiors, gourmet Michelin star dining and an utterly indulgent spa; the ultimate in luxury five-star experiences. Ideally located close to all of the Catalan capital’s major attractions, the hotel enjoys an atmospheric setting – and is frequented by the likes of Justin Bieber and Coldplay, both of whom had been staying at the hotel just the day before our visit. Be warned, though; it’s a popular place – book ahead to avoid disappointment, whichever your eaterie of choice.
Designed as a haven of serenity and calm, the Mimosa Garden is nestled discretely in the hotel’s picturesque central courtyard, surrounded by the inner hotel walls for a truly private experience. It’s no wonder visiting superstars choose to spend their downtime here, as it is the sort of secluded space that simply can’t be found elsewhere in the city – that, and the mouthwatering cuisine, of course.
A plethora of plush green plants lay the foundations for a serene and calming environment – from oleanders, holm oaks, and lavender, to the eaterie’s delightful namesake, the mimosa. The work of renowned landscape architect Bet Figueiras, the garden features comfortable outdoor furniture designed by Spanish-born Patricia Urquiola – also responsible for the plush interiors that can be seen throughout the hotel.
But this charming setting offers just a mere taster of what the Mimosa Garden has to offer; the spectacle is, of course, the food.
Taking you on a gastronomic journey to some of the furthest-flung corners of beautiful Peru, chef Gaston Acuro serves up show-stopping Peruvian-style dishes that draw influence from the flavours of Tokyo. The tapas-style servings are reminiscent of Barcelona’s own food culture, and make for a relaxed and sociable way to sample authentic Peruvian fare that promises to delight the tastebuds and provide a real thrill for the senses.
Classic dishes include ceviches – made from marinated raw fish or seafood – and tiraditos; raw fish, cut in the shape of sashimi, and served in a spicy sauce.
Tired from a busy morning exploring the city, my dining partner and I settle gratefully into the comfortable garden furniture, and perusing the impressive cocktail menu in pursuit of a refreshing drink, we decide upon a Chilcano Limeno and a Lima Lama – a difficult choice since they all sound so delightful, so it is a good job we like to share.
A refreshing blend of Piso Quebrado, lemongrass, lime and chamomile, the Chilcano Limeno is rounded off with a good dose of orange juice and ginger beer, making for a tangy yet extremely sophisticated drink. The Lima Lama, meanwhile, is Caribbean twist on the signature cocktail, El Chilcano, comprising pisco, ginger beer and lime. As predicted, we quibble over who has the privilege of each, with both proving a welcome and refreshing choice that is just what the doctor ordered after a long, hot day in the sun. It’s nice to find something a little different to the sickly sweet ‘tourist’ cocktails that plague drinks menus across much of the city – an overpowering drink would only serve to detract from the delicate flavours that await, and as our delectable dishes begin to arrive on the table, we are ever more grateful for our choices.
The food is a spectacle to behold, arriving on the table in a flurry of colour and fanfare. Beautifully presented and expertly arranged, it almost seems a shame to ruin them by taking a bite.
Though a veritable feast for the eyes lies before us, it’s the incredible Causa Limena that steals the show. Artistically piped purple potato provides a vibrant backdrop for mounds of delicately seasoned crab, finished with a scattering of ripe, green avocado chunks and a drizzle of spicy yellow aji sauce. The potato boasts the creaminess one would expect, with a subtle saltiness juxtaposing perfectly against the delicate sweetness of the crab. Fragrant and piquant in equal measures, the aji is the icing on the cake.
The Nigiri Norteno, meanwhile, is another firm favourite, boasting fat, juicy scallops balanced carefully atop balls of sticky white rice. Succulent and sweet to the taste, the scallops are as fresh as they come, bursting with an incredible yet understated flavour that, combined with a deliciously creamy Norteno jus, makes for melt-in-the-mouth decadence with every passing bite.
Two dishes in, and suffice it to say that we are impressed; the cuisine, so far, is surpassing all expectations. But with several delectable dishes left to dip into, the competition for the top spot is fierce.
Next up, it’s the Criollo Maki – plump, sticky rice rolls stuffed with sweet crab, fragrant smoked trout and creamy avocado – drizzled, once again with the signature yellow aji that is so prevalent in Peruvian cuisine. Not wanting to pass up on the opportunity to try a Peruvian take on the classic Spanish ‘croquetas’, we also dig into the restaurant’s unique prawn-stuffed offering – and, served chilled, they are wonderfully crisp and flavourful, as by this point, we have come to expect.
Feeling full as the final dish arrives, we order another cocktail to wash it all down with, and resolve to make a little more room in our stomachs. The Anticuchos de Pulpo make it worth our while; succulent skewers of octopus piled atop smashed herbed potatoes, and drizzled with spicy anticuchera sauce. The octopus brings just the right amount of bite to the table – satisfyingly juicy, it’s a dish with a gentle kick.
Against our better judgement, we squeeze in a dessert – and with only two on menu, it’s a relatively simple choice. The classically exotic Chilcano de Manzana is a refreshing way to end the meal, with an icey texture and delicate apple flavour that is light on the stomach as well as the tastebuds. The Chocolate Mousse, meanwhile, is served with crunchy popped quinoa and tart raspberry compote – sumptuously creamy as one would expect, with a light and fluffy texture and a dangerously rich and chocolatey flavour.
Four or five main dishes from the Mimosa Garden menu will serve and fill two hungry stomachs, and we finished our meal feeling plump and satisfied. The service from our waitress has been impeccable from start to finish, with detailed and knowledgeable explanations readily accompanying each dish. Attentive and polite, she ensures that our needs are met at every stage of the Mimosa Garden experience, keeping us well hydrated and topped up with cocktails at all times. A shining example of what it means to dine here – not just at the Mimosa Garden, but at any of the Mandarin Oriental’s exquisite eateries.
In a nutshell:
A haven of tranquility that offers a welcome step away from the stressful, fast-paced big city life, the Mimosa Garden is the perfect place to catch your breath and indulge in a unique and exciting culinary experience that is unlike any other in Barcelona. With simple, delicate flavours expertly juxtaposed to create a mouthwatering menu that draws on Japanese influences as well as Peruvian, it’s a feast for the senses. If you like sushi, you’ll love it.
Thanks to a host of restaurants set in an ideal location, the Mandarin Oriental makes for a great base to return for daily luxury dining in Barcelona, and is sure to ensure a quality dining experience with enough variety to keep things fresh and interesting. It can be tough to find quality food in Barcelona if you don’t know where to look, and even the famous Catalan tapas dishes are often unauthentic, fast-food offerings you’d do best to avoid. MO is a must-visit.
Address: Mandarin Oriental, Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40, 08007 Barcelona, Spain / +34 93 151 88 88