Santa Barbara—America's Riviera, with a sparkling coastline, dynamic upscale food scene, and red Mediterranean-style roofs—will add a new hotel to the city in March.
The historic El Encanto will reopen as part of of the Orient-Express Hotels portfolio. First built in 1918, it shuttered in the summer of 2006 to kick off the multi-million-dollar renovation and transformation that exudes even more luxury. Nestled on seven areas of gardens (including a lily pond), and with views of the Pacific Ocean from a hilltop setting, guests bunk in style within 22 bungalow suites and 70 bungalow rooms.
After the property reopens, guests get access to a spa, restaurant focused on cuisine prepared using classic French techniques with a California-coastal twist, and an infinity-edge swimming pool.
At the restaurant, where Patrice Martineau is executive chef (born in Troyes, France, he last cooked at The Peninsula Tokyo and has also worked at Daniel in New York City and Savoy in London), almost all of the wines hail from regions immediately outside of Santa Barbara. It's the perfect pairing with fruits and vegetables picked minutes before a meal from an onsite garden. There's also a unique farm-to-table focus: "Ellie" is the resort's cow, her milk used to craft a special cheese available at the restaurant, paired with a pint of El Encanto's unpasteurized beer brewed nearby. El Encanto even roasts its own coffee. Some of the springtime dishes reflect Martineau's recent time in Tokyo, such as slow-roasted Daikon radish and seaweed custard with poached quail eggs. Guests can dine indoors or outdoors, both with views of the Pacific Ocean. Tea (plus scones and pastries) is served each afternoon in the lounge and cocktails (with Japanese and American bar food) at a bar each evening. Wine lovers can peruse the extensive wine list at El Encanto's Wine Room, where a food menu is available too.
Most of the bungalows feature cozy amenities like fireplaces and private patios or gardens, creating a "home away from home." There is also a lavish marble bathroom in each. For those traveling in groups, some bungalows interconnect and still others feature sofa beds for more sleeping room. Designed for couples, the Hummingbird Suite is 800 square feet with two patios, an outdoor shower and water feature.
At The Spa at El Encanto are seven treatment rooms, including a couple's room and a wet treatment room. All of the treatments rely on seasonal, organic ingredients. After a treatment, guests are welcome to sip detox teas on the outdoor patio or unwind in the relaxation lounge. There are also steam rooms, showers and—in the Fitness Centre—cardio equipment and a dedicated space for core fitness, yoga, and pilates.
To further explore the property, and its surrounding hillside, guests can borrow electric bicycles.
Based on double occupancy, rates start at $525 per night.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new-hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Orient Express, El Encanto Hotel