1 June 2009 by Duncan Mills
From the moment i spot a canary yellow convertible parked in the driveway leading up to Reads I sense that this place will be fun – and a little eccentric, too perhaps.
And that is certainly the case when I enter the main building, a wonderfully eclectic space, packed with personality and attention to detail. There’s a room just off the lobby selling panamas and other assorted hats, and just beyond that lies a twelve-metre arched room decorated with paintings of mythical scenes, Roman feasts and winged horses housing the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Bacchus. The artist who created these exquisite murals was a friend of the owner and still visits from time to time, adding extra details here and there throughout the hotel. The Classical theme continues in his paintings alongside the pool in the Vespasian Spa.
While admiring a picture of a beautiful crane in a sitting room, something stirs to the side and I realise I’ve got company – one of the resident cats curled up and content on a sofa. The entrance hall, communal landings and stairways in the main building are festooned with antiques and paintings that Vivian Read, the English owner, has collected over the years and which make his hotel feel so incredibly homely. This extends into the quirky guest rooms. Mine is a white and airy suite with a porcelain dog standing guard at the entrance and poster prints from the grand age of travel on the walls. A plate of fresh strawberries is laid out for me on arrival, as they are for other guests in very different rooms, with Moorish or more traditional Mallorcan designs.
In a shed in the back courtyard hang a selection of professionalstandard trekking, mountain and road bikes manufactured by the Dutch company GIANT. Guests can borrow the trekking bikes for free, or rent the top-end bikes – and many do, heading off into the nearby Tramuntana Mountain range or the less demanding central region of the island, before coming back to the spa for some well-earned recovery and relaxation. Or they can sit down at the Chef’s Table in a corner of the kitchen for a ‘surprise menu’ for up to six guests, watching the preparation and presentation of world-class cuisine by Felix Eschrich and his team over a glass or two of wines selected by Sommelier Sebastian Bustamante.
It’s another nice touch from an ever-surprising hotel. The vision behind this happy madness emanates from Vivian Read, a former solicitor in London who has made this Willy Wonka of a hotel his personal project for the past twenty years. His passion is matched by that of his son and daughter, who also threw themselves wholeheartedly into his madcap scheme, and who now look after the daily running of the hotel.
For the origins of Reads are suitably zany and uplifting, a dream fulfi lled. The family had spent many happy years holidaying in Mallorca at their holiday cottage in Alaró. They would often pass the old Ca’n Moragues estate, with the 500-year-old unoccupied house falling ever-increasingly into disrepair. Then, in 1988 the estate came up for sale, and Vivian decided to give up his legal career and take on the restoration of the house, with the intention of opening it as a hotel. The family moved out to Mallorca and have lived and breathed the building ever since, living on site for several years while work took place, sharing the heartaches and joys of the challenge together. It took six years for the hotel to open and it has gone from strength to strength. Yet the passion and effort that the family invested can be felt in every room and, outside, in the immaculate lawns and landscaped gardens. Oh, and the car in the drive? Vivian’s, of course.