Take one hotel with a star-studded Hollywood past, add stylish American Riviera décor with one knock-out ocean view, and combine with a sprinkling of art created with diamond dust, California coastal dining at its very best (with the help from one very pampered cow) and seven years dedicated restoration.
The result? Orient-Express’ latest creation, and first hotel on the US West Coast, El Encanto which opens today in Santa Barbara.
“The addition of El Encanto to the Orient-Express family is another milestone in the strengthening of the Orient-Express footprint in North America," says John M. Scott, President and Chief Executive Officer, Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. "El Encanto is an icon on the West Coast and fits perfectly with our existing international portfolio of unique assets."
A glamorous hideaway for almost 100 years, El Encanto sits in seven acres of beautifully preserved landscaped gardens and is an integral part of Santa Barbara's social, cultural and architectural heritage. Under Orient-Express’ watchful eye, the hotel has been fully restored and now consists of 92 individually designed California-style bungalows, with hardwood floors, plantation-style shutters, and bespoke accessories. Integral to the restoration process was maintaining the hotel’s historic architecture, and Orient-Express worked closely with Santa Barbara’s Historic Landmarks Commission to ensure that the main footprint of the hotel remained true to its original design.
Each bungalow has its own private patio or garden, where guests can choose to dine al fresco or enjoy a romantic sunset in complete seclusion. Telescopes on each terrace allow guests to take in the magnificent sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean for which the hotel is famed. The 800 square-feet Hummingbird Bungalow even boasts its own outdoor rainforest shower.
The lush, terraced gardens of the hotel are punctuated by meandering pathways and streams, and with the scented citrus trees and Lily Pond, contribute towards the calming and peaceful atmosphere that made the hotel a favourite amongst Hollywood’s Golden Era elite. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are said to have motored up from Los Angeles to escape the bright lights and big city.
El Encanto’s art has been carefully curated to reflect the Santa Barbara landscape and regional sensibilities. World famous artist Damien Hirst’s ‘Psalm print: verba mea auribus’, which is prominently located at the concierge desk, was created on a silk screen with diamond dust. The abstract piece depicts butterfly wings, as the hotel is located on a significant butterfly migration path. Works from renowned Californian abstract artist Charles Arnoldi were also selected for his use of bright colours and organic shapes as an expressive medium. His ‘Future’ painting can be seen at the dramatic entrance to The Dining Room.
The culinary offering at El Encanto, overseen by executive chef Patrice Martineau, is ‘Californian Coastal’, incorporating seasonal produce from the Santa Barbara region, as well as freshly picked herbs and vegetables from the hotel’s Chef’s Garden. In a nod to the past and demonstrating Orient-Express’ commitment to respecting the heritage of the hotel, Chef Martineau has recreated the ‘Floating Island’ dessert which first made its debut on the menu in 1920. The Floating Island at El Encanto became somewhat of a star of the dessert menu and was unavailable elsewhere in Santa Barbara. Each subsequent chef has recreated this signature dish and Chef Martineau will carry on this time-honoured tradition by incorporating a delightful mango twist to the meringue and crème anglaise dessert.
As with all Orient-Express hotels, El Encanto has pushed boundaries when it comes to its gastronomy, and has its very own Holstein cow, Ellie, whose milk will be solely used to produce handmade cheese for the hotel. For the past year, Ellie has been spoiled with a custom made diet, special baths, hoof pedicures and massages to ensure that she is the most pampered cow in the region, producing the best milk possible and in turn, the tastiest cheese in town. Other bespoke gastro treats created especially for the hotel include El Encanto’s own-brand of freshly roasted coffee, wine, and home-brewed unpasteurised beer.
A purpose-built spa provides the perfect opportunity for head to toe revitalisation, with an indulgent menu drawing inspiration from El Encanto’s ocean vista. Seven tranquil treatment rooms, including a couples room and wet room, allow guests to choose from a selection of therapies infused with calming sea elements, such as seaweed from Patagonia, or vinotherapies, which offer healing properties extracted from regional vines. One of the spa’s signature treatments, The Pinto and Cabernet Crush Sugar Scrub, drains toxins and stimulates circulation through a refining and renewing body scrub that combines Pinot and Cabernet grape seeds, brown sugar, and Kaaolin clay for a wonderfully invigorating experience. Organic facials, some using oxygen infusion therapies, further massage treatments, and a full range of beauty treatments are also on offer, making for an excellently rounded spa experience.
With the calm and natural beauty of the California coastline playing backdrop, and with its verdant gardens and dramatic ocean views, El Encanto is the ultimate American Riviera retreat ideal to escape the stresses of everyday life. El Encanto offers guests a novel way to discover the surrounding area with custom made electric bikes. With a quaint basket at the front of the bikes, El Encanto (on request) can prepare budding cyclists with a picnic for their journey down to the Santa Barbara town centre, or to a secluded leafy spot along the American Riviera where they can relax and take in the views.
Rates for a Superior Bungalow start from approximately USD 525 (approximately £347) per room per night including tax. The Enchanted Upgrade package has been created especially to celebrate the launch of the hotel, and entitles guests booking with this offer to a one category upgrade at the time of booking. The Enchanted Upgrade package is valid for booking until May 31st, excluding Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27). For further information or to make a booking please visit www.elencanto.com or call Orient-Express Hotels Ltd UK Reservations on 0845 077 2222.