It’s been 20 years since siblings Tom Morgan, Owen Morgan and Natalie Isaac opened their first Spanish tapas restaurant Bar 44 in Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan.
And it seems they tapped into something quite special as since then, they have gone from strength to strength, opening three further Bar 44 sites – in Penarth, Cardiff and the Bar 44 group’s first venture outside of Wales in Bristol – as well as a Northern Spain-inspired restaurant in Cardiff, Asador 44, specialising in meat and fish cooked over charcoal, and an artisan Spanish online market, Mercado 44.
Earlier this year, the two brothers released a book: This is Our Spain – Tapas y Copas, packed with food recipes, drinks pairings and stories of their travels and that’s not all.
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Now, they are opening a brand new boutique hotel in the centre of the Welsh capital at the end of June called Parador 44, which aims to bring a slice of Iberia to Wales and is set to be the first food-focused luxury hotel in Cardiff.
Tom, who travels to Spain a number of times every year to source much of the group’s delicious produce, says of this exciting new venture: “The opening of Parador 44, our first hotel, is the culmination of many years of dreaming and we think it offers visitors to Cardiff something very different and exciting. It has been inspired by our lifetime of family visits to the Iberian Peninsula and, as with Spanish paradors, our emphasis is as much on excellent food as it is providing an historic and beautifully converted place to stay.”
Much like the Spanish paradors – which are state-owned luxury hotels that have been converted from a beautiful and historic building such as a monastery or castle – on which the hotel’s name is based and history mirrors, Parador 44 has transformed from what was known decades ago as The Model Inn into a metropolitan paradise.
Situated above the Grupo 44’s grill Asador 44, at the top of a beautifully tiled set of stairs – and just around the corner from Bar 44’s city centre location – hotel guests will able to reap the benefits of having a delectable northern Spanish grill beneath them and will get to enjoy a typical Spanish breakfast in the restaurant during their stay (if their booking option includes breakfast).
Buying the building from Welsh company Brains, whom they previously rented the space for Asador 44 from, at the end of last year, Natalie tells us work began on the renovation of the hotel floors five months ago and says: “It’s been a lot of hard work. It’s a really awkward space for the builders to work in – very small and narrow, not much high street outside. It’s been a bit carnage at times. But just to see the end result now is amazing.
“When we rented the downstairs from Brains, they’d done the downstairs restaurant, which we changed slightly, but the upper two floors hadn’t been touched since the Model Inn days [which shut in 2010]. It all had to be stripped out and redone and have acoustic levels put in… soundproofing because you’re in the city centre. It’s been a huge project.”
She adds: “It’s really exciting because it’s something really different for Cardiff as well. There are lots of chain hotels in Cardiff, but not many independents. And it really adds to the restaurant downstairs because we’re finding everyone’s booking for a meal as well and they’re staying here. It’s just adding more strings to the bow all the times.”
The hotel is set to open on June 27 and comes complete with nine stunning continental-inspired, light and airy double rooms – one standard double, six king-size rooms and two suites – each with an en-suite bathroom, a beautiful cosy lounge, called the González Byass Lounge, which boasts an ‘honesty bar’ offering teas, coffees, alcohol and snacks, and a bright and idyllic Andalucien-style terraza – which immediately transports you not to the streets of Cardiff, but Barcelona or Seville.
Having worked with local architects DMP for the hotel, Natalie explains that each bedroom has its own individual design and style – no two rooms are the same. Inspired by the subject of Sherry – on which Owen is an expert – the rooms have all been named after various elements of the drink – for example ‘Copita’, which typically refers to the type of glass in which Sherry is served.
The place screams meditarranean elegance with its white walls, natural wooden finish, rustic furniture, much of which has been sourced from markets and auctions or repurposed from the renovation (for as little waste as possible) – as well as newly bought – and framed photographs taken on various trips the siblings have had across Spain.
And while they have taken a lot of inspiration from Spain, where they can, they have used local businesses and producers to tie it all together – such as Welsh slate for the signage around the hotel and a Welsh fragrance company whose fresh scent dances through hotel, Thornbush Hill.
As well as celebrating and supporting local businesses, Parador 44 aims to be as green and carbon neutral as possible. With this in mind, they have no kettles and fridges in any of the rooms. Instead, guests are welcomed and encouraged to use the Gonzales Byass lounge, which is stocked with drinks and snacks.
Room prices start from £135 per night for two people.
For more information, visit their website
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