Rosa Maria Esteva’s culinary journey began at age 40 when she separated from her husband and needed to financially provide for her four children and herself. Without a career to fall back on, she relied on what she knew, feeding her family and friends. In 1987, she opened her first restaurant, El Mordisco with her son Tomás Tarruella, creating Barcelona’s first quick bite, fast food restaurant for locals. Since 1987, Rosa Esteva, led by an innate sense of hospitality, innovative vision and ferocious drive, has created Barcelona’s design savvy hospitality group, Grupo Tragaluz, with her son operating 18 leading restaurants throughout Barcelona and Madrid, each with their own distinct style and cuisine.
In addition to combining an innovative combination of design, cuisine and atmosphere, her success can be attributed to her relentless attention to details, endless curiosity, and ongoing fine tuning based on customer’s feedback. While the restaurants operate in partnership with her son, Hotel Omm is her sole project with her presence visible and alive in every detail. Opening in 2003, Rosa Maria Esteva applied her restaurant recipe directly to developing Hotel Omm. A recipe weighted on being first to offer a unique concept in design, cuisine, atmosphere and location, welcoming both locals and visitors.
Contemporary design is at the forefront of this hotel as is Rosa Maria Esteva’s admiration for contemporary art with works thoughtfully placed throughout Hotel Omm. These artworks are not only part of the design collection, but personal accolades of her friendships with artists and designers, each with specific meaning. In the lobby, metallic cubes stacked in the corner represent a welcoming cypress tree with each cube dedicated to an individual grandchild. Table art in Roca Moo is most special with artist and designer painted plates and sculptures showcased at each table, a great prelude for the artful Michelin star Catalan cuisine to follow.
With an established restaurant empire, there was no question that Rosa Maria Esteva’s culinary team for Hotel Omm would be anything but exceptional. Perfectly appointed, the Roca Brothers of El Celler De Can Roca (named as one of the top three restaurants in the world for the second year in 2017) were selected to manage the fine dining restaurant, Roca Moo. Unpretentious and inviting in atmosphere, Roca Moo’s innovative Catalan cuisine can be enjoyed as an epicurean adventure in one of two tasting menus. Separated by a book case filled with art and design inspired literature, Roca Bar offers a more casual fair focusing on fresh local ingredients.
Side by side, these restaurants flow into the lobby area where the worlds of fashionable locals and curious visitors seamlessly converge into one space. A space of harmony where design, comfort and great food are paired with genuine warm hospitality. Learn more about the mastermind behind Grupo Tragaluz and Hotel Omm in our exclusive interview with Rosa Maria Esteva.
Interview with Rosa Maria Esteva, Owner Hotel Omm and Co-Founder of Grupo Tragaluz
“Art is on the table.” Rosa Maria Esteva
TL: When you meet someone for the first time, how do you explain what you do every day?
RE: My restaurants are my office, so I go to my restaurants and check that everything is, basically, perfect.
TL: What do you wish you knew when you started your business with your son Tomás in 1987?
RE: I wish I knew that I needed to know how to add and subtract!
TL: When considering a new project, in what order are the details of location, cuisine and design decided on, and how do these elements come together to create the entire concept?
RE: Everything goes together, so I can’t really say what would come first. Location is very important, and we mimic the location to a certain degree as it dictates a specific vibe to expand on the concept. It is crucial to look at the location as unique space with a vibe, where things happen and where there is a certain type of people and atmosphere. A location on the beach has a very different vibe than a location next to the cathedral in the Gothic neighbourhood.
Once the location is determined, cuisine and design always go together to create the atmosphere inspired by the location. We have many restaurants all over the city including; La Barceloneta, L’Eixample, and El Borne (Barcelona’s old town). While each restaurant shares that strong personality that defines Grupo Tragaluz, each restaurant has its own distinct style inspired by the destination.
TL: When you introduced Hotel Omm into the Grupo Tragaluz portfolio in 2003, what was your vision for the hotel?
Since we had been successful for the previous ten years creating restaurant spaces throughout the city which were popular meeting points for locals, it seems only natural to me that we could apply the same concept and vision to a hotel business. When we decided to open Hotel Omm in 2003, there were no other hotels in Barcelona that locals identified as a place they would choose to socialize. We built an atmosphere and a culinary offering that keeps it interesting for locals. As a restaurateur, I like to think of Hotel Omm as a restaurant with a hotel above it, not just another hotel with a restaurant.
TL: What do you think you are doing right to consistently attract an inviting balance of locals and visitors to Hotel Omm?
RE: Both my son Tomás and I, when we are in a restaurant, we pay the most attention to customers’ facial expressions. We need to know that they’re having a good time and that they’re enjoying themselves. To achieve this, you have to do many things right, thinking about the design of the space, the menu, the light, comfort… We don’t conceive our restaurants nor our hotel as static, but as something alive that has its own vibe, which is always evolving according to the clients’ taste and preferences.
TL: What is your favourite space in Hotel Omm and why?
RE: Undoubtedly, the lobby because it represents the essence of what I want to convey. Here is where the restaurants and the bar are located, where locals and guests come together.
It is a very well-designed, large space where every single corner and detail has been thought about to foster a specific ambience and function. Because of its creative design, the lobby acts as one space, which is always vibrant and full of life.
TL: I understand that the sculpture next to the front desk is an abstract representation of yourself. Can you tell us who the artist is and the details behind this piece?
RE: It is an abstract representation of my head, because it is the one place where everything is stored: memories, experiences, and knowledge… The artist is Manuel Solá. I’ve known him for years. I’ve always liked the power of his art, and how he works with noble materials, such as the iron used in this sculpture.
TL: What single word would you use to describe the energy of Hotel Omm?
RE: “Acogedor”, in Spanish. Which means welcoming, comfortable, friendly, cozy… and seductive.
TL: How were the Roca brothers selected to run Roca Moo Restaurant at Hotel Omm? How involved are you in the menu? Can you describe one of your favourite dishes?
RE: I wanted something different and very powerful for a five-star hotel. I already had several restaurants in the area, so I was searching for something that stood out. I liked, and I still like very much, the gastronomic concept of the Roca brothers, and that’s why I chose them. They take 100% care of the Roca Moo menu. In my case, I’m more involved in the menu of the Roca Bar, our informal restaurant in the hotel.
Regarding the dishes, all of them succeed to surprise me every time, but if I have to choose just one… Come and try the Golden Egg, one of the ten main dishes of The Classics Tasting Menu!
TL: Each table at Roca Moo restaurant is set with a hand drawn plate by different artists and designers as well as individual sculptures on each table top? Can you tell us about how they were selected and the philosophy behind this unique presentation?
RE: I’ve always admired contemporary art very much, and I have many artist friends. What better decoration for the tables than their own pieces? I like to say that “el arte está en la mesa”, a Spanish phrase which means that “art is on the table”. This is not only because of the gastronomy understood as an art, but also because of the design of plates and sculptures.
Regarding the artists, the artists who designed the plates are more international whereas those who worked on the sculptures are more local. To talk about all of them would be an endless task.
TL: With so many restaurants in your portfolio, what do you still enjoy cooking for your family at home?
RE: I’m very unpredictable. I love to open the fridge and improvise a dish with what I find inside, typically a lot of fresh local products. When I am in Ibiza during the summer, I really enjoy cooking a dish with roasted eggplant, “mahón” cheese, mint, “sobrasada” (raw, cured pork sausage), honey and mustard vinaigrette. All of these ingredients are typical of the Balearic Islands!
TL: How does travel inspire your business projects? What is your most recent idea inspired by a travel experience incorporated into your business? What travel destination gives you the most inspiration for your business and where are you excited to go next?
RE: We love to travel! We always choose to go to inspiring places, countries with different cultures that can enrich our knowledge both in gastronomic and design terms. Everything is fascinating to us. From the most modest tavern to the most sophisticated and fashionable restaurant, we always learn something new.
Our most recent business inspired by one of our trips is our new Barcelona restaurant, Fan Ho, specialized in Oriental cuisine and located quite close to the hotel. The idea arose when we were travelling through China, from Beijing to Tibet.
Our next trip…? In a few days we will go to Namibia, we are curious and adventurous too!
TL: With over 1000 employees, what do you think you have done well to create a place where people want to work on a long-term basis?
RE: We value and take care of details in every single thing we do, we like what we do, and we give freedom to our team, yet always preserving our characteristic style and personality.
TL: I understand that part of your daily routine is visiting each of the 18 restaurants as well as Hotel Omm. How important is it for you to be present and involved in the details?
RE: Yes, we always spend our days in our hotel and restaurants. I don’t understand any other working place. Our presence and involvement in the details is essential to our businesses’ success. It’s what makes me feel alive, because for me, happiness is about working on something you’re passionate about.
TL: When developing a new concept, what part of the process excites you the most?
RE: Precisely, what excites me most is the whole creative process. It is always very intense, because we put the same dedication into searching for a simple glass or plate as when we’re thinking about the gastronomic concept or the interior design of the space. We love to surprise others, to bet on things and to take risks, but above all, we like to be first.
TL: If you have a friend visiting Barcelona for the first time, where do you first take them?
RE: I’d put my friend in a taxi and show him or her the different atmospheres that can be found in Barcelona. That would definitely be a great day! Being the host is something I really like. It’s actually what I love doing, and even more in a city like this, so full of contrasting and peculiar ambiences.
TL: What do you love most about the Eixample neighbourhood and Passeig de Gràcia Avenue. Can you tell us about your favourite places in this area?
RE: I like everything about this area…..I love to walk down Passeig de Gràcia contemplating the marvellous architectures of different times, the modern shops and, of course, the restaurants. Actually, several of the Grupo Tragaluz’s restaurants are in this area, and they would be my most sincere recommendation. En el Paseo de la Concepción, for instance, between Paseo de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya, we have three very different and excellent restaurants, Mordisco, Tragaluz and El Japónes. Each one has its own special ambience and cuisine, so there’s always something for all tastes, just like in the city itself!
What is the best thing about living in Barcelona?
RE: The sea, the essence of the Mediterranean, and it’s close to everything, between the mountain and the seaside. It’s a city with many nuances and interpretations that can surprise you every day. And then, of course, there’s the emotional side of Barcelona. For me, it’s my city, where Grupo Tragaluz was born, the one that has seen us grow and where, without a doubt, you can find the best chefs.
Photography provided by Hotel Omm.
Guest Rooms & In-Room Amenities: 91 Guest rooms ranging from 25 to 65 square meters are positioned over six floors. City view rooms feature small balconies looking out to the beautiful architecture of Paseo de Gracia, while interior rooms feature balconies looking over a garden. Minimalistic in design, clean lines and all natural finishing, such as large panelled parquet floors in oak, are balanced with lush comforts, such as the finest Egyptian cotton bedding and thick handmade rugs hugging your tired feet after a long day in the city. Modular cabinets made of lacquered aluminium separate the bedroom from the dressing room with a full-length mirror and a nice amount of storage for your personal belongings. Thanks to innovative design provided by architect, Juli Capella, the artful marble façade with angled openings provide city view rooms a welcome functionality of noise reduction, privacy and an excellent amount of natural light.
Hotel Facilities: Spaciomm evokes the essence of the Orient using natural materials, such as stone, metals, and linen within a 400sm peaceful space. The water circuit features a Heated Indoor Pool, Hamman, Turkish Sauna, Natural Ice, Hydro-Massage Jacuzzi and Rain-Showers. Additionally, a number of treatments are available including facials, Ayurveda, Turkish and classic massages or simply relax in the gravitation room. Located on the same floor, a small but fully equipped gym and hair salon keep you looking and feeling your best while traveling. The rooftop terrace and pool offer exceptional views of Casa Milá, Sagrada Familia and the lights of Montjuïc. June through September, bar service with a sushi bar, specialty ice creams from Jordi Roca, and live music are offered to fully enjoy the long days and sunset views over the city.
Hotel Dining: Two lobby level restaurants offer foodies an exceptional taste of Barcelona. Roca Bar offering all day dining and a casual fair is perfect for locals and visitors to enjoy innovative tapas and Barcelona’s locally sourced products. One Michelin star Roco Moo, managed by the Roca brothers, chefs of world famous Three Michelin star El Celler de Can Roca, offers sophisticated Catalan fine dining in an open kitchen concept; including the Classic or Joan Roca tasting menu, which can be paired with wines by Hotel Omm’s sommelier. From June through September, the rooftop terrace opens with favourites from Roca Bar, Sushi, and Jordi Roca’s signature ice cream creations, which can be enjoyed with live music and exceptional views over Barcelona.
Design: Super sleek and contemporary, this hotel’s minimalist interior is balanced with highly comfortable furnishings and contemporary artwork from Barcelona artists. Interiors designed by Sandra Tarruella and Isabel López.