The Sant Francesc opened in Palma at the end of March and overnight became the smartest place to stay in the Mallorcan capital. There are already quite a few boutique hotels in the old town of Palma, usually in medieval buildings of golden stone – and very lovely they are too. But the Sant Francesc, a member of Small Luxury Hotels, shifts things on with a bit of a jolt with its uptown feel and bold use of dark tones, subtly making the traditional architecture feel edgy and modern.
The hotel occupies an elegant 19th-century building that had previously been a private house and had remained unchanged for 50 years before being restored by the Soldevila family, who are also behind some of the best hotels in Barcelona, including the Majestic and the Murmuri.
Stepping into the double-height lobby, your gaze is drawn to the grand staircase on the left, where the soft charcoal carpet gives a hint of the townhouse grandeur within. Then you glimpse the courtyard up ahead, where the silvery green leaves of the dainty olive trees contrast with the inky hues of the woodwork framing the windows on the floors above. Venturing deeper into the building, you discover a cool cocktail bar with steps leading down to the Quadrat restaurant in the former stables and terrace tables in the patio beyond.
The 42 room and suites are all different. I stayed in 302, a room of around 35 m2 in the tower section at the rear of the building. This is a bit of a secret part of the hotel and to get to it you take the lift to the second floor, go down a few stairs and then up a few more stairs – not as fiddly as it sounds really. A door can close off 302, the junior suite 301 next door and the Tower Suite, which has its own 20 m2 terrace. But we are focusing on 302… which is like a romantic attic with its pitched, beamed ceiling, painted off white, and two small windows giving onto a traditional Mallorcan courtyard.
I loved the variety of tactile textiles, particularly the finely-striped fabric on the doors of the two wardrobes (plenty of wooden hangers and shelves inside) and the cream linen runners bordered in blanket stitch over the headboard. A throw embroidered with pink flowers lends a feminine touch to the exquisitely comfortable bed, which has a 30 cm mattress and squashy feather pillows. Delicate blown glass bedside lamps give a soothing amber glow and there are reading lights too. Toggle switches make even turning the lights on and off a luxe experience.
I know I’m always banging on about it, but in a new hotel I would have expected more – and more easily accessible – sockets to plug in my various devices. Although there are sockets either side of the bed in 302, they are under the bedside tables and I had to crawl under the desk to plug my laptop in. I understand why designers conceal sockets but I don’t think guests should ever have to move furniture in a hotel room. I should think this is just a teething problem though and will be resolved – I’m just nitpicking as I was really impressed by the details in the design.
Most rooms at the Sant Francesc have walk-in showers and some – including 301 – have freestanding bathtubs, but 302 has an unusual spa-style square bath in the local honey-coloured Santanyí stone with overhead and handheld showers. Products – shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion – are by James Heeley in 60 ml bottles in Figuier fragrance, a lovely, sensual, Mediterranean scent. There is a good Aliseo hairdryer and an iIluminated mirror, as well as slippers in two sizes and robes in a lightweight waffle fabric – so you don’t feel bulky or weighed down. A photo in the loo bears the caption “Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul”, which is apparently a quote by Charlie Chaplin. Now there’s something to think about.