The first notes sounded in the balmy air, and as I looked around the setting for the outdoor flamenco guitar concert I reflected on the timeless beauty of the Real Alcazar in the heart of Seville. Later that evening we walked through the cobbled streets of the old city to Hotel UNUK, where we would be staying for the weekend and entered a very different world, but one which seemed not the slightest bit out of place despite its modernity.
The hotel is in an old and quiet street facing a beautiful little pottery shop which beckons you in for a browse, a chat and a purchase of one kind or another. It’s a lovely location, central enough to make for easy sightseeing but away from the hustle and bustle of the busier parts of the city.
Walking into the lobby I was struck not only by the coolness of the air but also by the calming white walls, contrasting perfectly with sleek lines of elegant light wood. The central indoor courtyard is a thing of beauty with the stylish retractable roof blind to keep the fierce heat at bay drawing the eye far upwards.
This is a grown-up hotel, sophisticated and assured, despite the fact that it has only been open for a couple of years. The vibe is smart with a feeling of intimacy that comes from quiet luxury and just the right size of the hotel, neither too big nor uncomfortably small.
Firstly the rooms. The philosophy of understated elegance continues, but this time married with comfort and all the mod cons you would expect in a hotel such as this. We were in a junior suite with an outdoor terrace that ran around both sides of the room and had enough seating areas to cater for friends, along with a jacuzzi for fun and electric blinds to provide shade when you tire of the Andalusian sun. But the view from the terrace catches the eye and holds the gaze, across the white and blue houses, to a skyline dotted with ancient churches and with bells that toll well into the evening.
Back inside and upwards to the next white terrace, perfectly set against the stunning blue sky and complete with a saltwater pool and lounging areas. We swam to the edge and looked down at the area below with sun loungers, parasols and the gym for those who favour a more active style of relaxation. There is also a wellness room with a sauna and a massage service should you wish to partake. The final layer of the building is the pièce de la résistance and takes the breath away, a stylish outdoor rooftop bar and the Recoveco restaurant with 360-degree views across the whole of the city. After dark, the elegant lights are lit by each table and you sit and savour the view, the warmth, and the beautiful city of Seville in all its glory.
The restaurant was busy over the weekend with Spanish families enjoying lunch well into the end of the afternoon and sometimes the early evening. As dusk came the ambience changed too as a steady stream of guests came out of the lift onto the rooftop marvelling at the view on all sides. We were lucky to find ourselves the perfect table for dinner and eagerly perused the tasting menu that features many of the traditional ingredients that this region is famous for, cooked and presented in a manner that is wholly of the moment, stylish and beautiful.
The starters to share came one at a time, first the slivers of finely sliced tuna on toast with dainty circles of payoyo cheese dressing, then the rich flavours of tomato tartar with generous rounds of burrata. Finally the adobo tacos with three different sauces to choose from, each with its own distinct flavour and spice levels.
We veered away from each other when it came to mains. My partner enjoyed the Iberian pork with yucca, artichoke and a green mojo and I couldn’t resist the seabass from the seaside town of Conil de la Frontera not far from Cadiz and where the Spanish flock to for their summer holidays. It was delicious on a bed of prawns and vegetables.
Desserts were gratefully received and we sat and looked across the night sky comfortably replete and at one with the world. The menu was paired with a variety of wines, a local white from the Sierra de Cadiz was particularly pleasant and my partner favoured the red rioja. We finished with the Sevillian ‘gin-tonic’ that the Spanish like to serve as a digestif to complete the meal rather than preceding it. Our Sevillian friend Victor had told us that the ice in our drinks should never melt, and satisfyingly it didn’t.
In the unlikely event that the weather is inclement or if you prefer to eat inside, the restaurant on the ground floor is both modern and warm, with burnt orange furnishings complementing the elegant modern wood tables and surrounds. We happily enjoyed breakfast here each morning, choosing the local breakfast of choice- toasted bread with smashed fresh tomato, topped with slices of jamon and drizzled with olive oil and a smattering of salt. Accompanied by a slice of freshly made tortilla, it was a delicious start to the day.
We reluctantly left both the Hotel UNUK and Seville, to continue our journey and spend some time in the ancient port city of Cadiz. Seville is a place we return to again and again, never failing to enjoy the beauty, the way of living and the warmth of the climate and people. It seems to be comfortable marrying the old with the new. We watched the well-dressed crowds flocking to the Plaza de Toros de Sevilla, the largest bullfighting arena in Spain one evening, and ate tapas on the Calle Arenal.
Hotel UNUK combines all the charms of this ancient city with thoroughly modern attention to detail (even the walk-in shower had a button rather than a dial) and attentive and friendly service from the staff. It’s great for a city break or as a base for a longer exploration of the many interesting cities and coastal towns of Andalusia.
To discover more visit unukhotel.com
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All imagery courtesy of Hotel UNUK.