The Best New Countryside Hotels: 2019 Hot List
Set the scene.
On the Pacific Coast Highway, this Laguna Beach motel has had a shiny-bright, white-lacquered makeover. There’s an art-filled living room instead of a lobby; then, it’s straight outside to the blue-sky-meets-Pacific-Ocean panorama.
What’s the story?
Two local hoteliers bought this crumbling pile and undertook an extreme makeover to bring the Cape Cod structure in line with the expensive, barefoot-chic style of these SoCal surroundings, with interior designer Robert McKinley (who did Montauk’s Surf Lodge) working his magic.
What can we expect in our room?
White lacquered walls, exposed beams, and McKinley’s finds (mid-century modern chairs, naïve artworks) from the flea markets of Paris and Normandy. All are different. Some have bijou ocean-facing balconies, while two second-floor rooms, Mer and Ciel, are among the smallest yet have excellent blue views from the bed. Then there’s a Marantz turntable in lieu of a television set and a selection from the 550-strong vinyl collection in the living room. Beach Boys or Eagles feel particularly apt.
How about the food and drink?
The guests-only Saline showcases the skills of chef Leo Bongarra (formerly of L.A.’s Sunset Tower Hotel), who adds shaved truffles gratis to his seasonal Med-leaning dishes such as grilled scallops on celery root and parsnip purée, and serves chlorophyll water with edible flowers. Much has been made on social media of his cerulean sea algae spirulina ‘milk’ which tasted divine over ‘rawnola’ with coconut and cacao shavings. Sous chef Kuo makes a mean seafood salad at lunch with the catch of the day plus basil, mint, and other herbs from the rooftop garden.
Anything to say about the service?
Uniformly impressive and seamless. It’s very relaxed but guests are taken seriously.
Who comes here?
Everyone looks beautiful in the California sunlight. Up with the sun, early morning hiking, then back for 9 a.m. yoga in the organic garden. Handling surfboards, kayaks, diving gear, and Linus bicycles. Surf tees, no shoes, Celine slides for driving home in a convertible.
What’s the neighborhood scene like?
This strip of coast is a laid-back bolthole for artists and surfers, with million-dollar beach shacks overlooking the Pacific. In-house ‘adventure guru’ George Vitolo will take guests up trails above Laguna, paddleboarding and sea lion-spotting at Shaw’s Cove, or to the best surf breaks at Rockpile Beach, for serious wave riders only. Between the surf shops in Laguna, find the best empanadas at The Stand Natural Foods and tacos at La Sirena Grill.
And anything you’d change?
A few more Moroccan rugs in the rooms upstairs might muffle other guests’ movements. Locals will wish they could dine anytime at Saline—but guests will love the exclusivity of it.
Anything else we should know?
The Road is a very impressive little paper in-room guide. It was unusually well written and full of valuable addresses and local secrets, such as Dartmoor Hike for its sublime blue views and reggae nights at The Dirty Bird a few miles down the highway.
Is it worth it—and why?
Yes—this is one of southern California’s most appealing beach towns, and the Joaquin is a true original.
Bookmarks bar – HInts4-5
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June 10, 2019 at 06:35AM