Address: Monte Verde at Seventh
Web Address: http://www.laubergecarmel.com
Small towns don’t get any more charming or quaint than Carmel-by-the Sea. Art galleries, boutiques and cafes abound in this coastal hamlet and L’Auberge Carmelis the perfect lodging choice for a perfect town.
Built in 1929 and recently renovated, this luxury boutique hotel has only 20 guestrooms that surround a charming brick courtyard. The white stucco building with arched doorways, green trim and flower boxes filled with red flowers has the look and feel of an inn you might encounter in the French countryside.
The small entryway leads to the restaurant, Aubergine, to the right. To the left is an intimate bar area with a fireplace and beyond that the reception desk. Straight through is
the beautiful tiered courtyard, set with teak furniture, red umbrellas, pots of flowers and colorful gardens, ideal for reading or an afternoon glass of wine.
The guestrooms remind me of a Pottery Barn catalog….and that’s a good thing. Dark wood furniture and green curtains and accessories perfectly compliment cream colored plaster walls. French windows and antique doorknobs add a nice touch. Oversized and warm, the room was cozy and comfortable and outfitted with a flat screen TV, CD player and refrigerator. The designer bed had luxury linens and down comforters and pillows. The large bathroom had a bowl sink, a huge soaking tub and a separate marble shower. Radiant floors, organic toiletries and plump towels added to the appeal.
Only 12 tables affords the chef the luxury of a more personal relationship with his guests a the delightful Aubergine where diners are offered a four course menu or the Chef's Tasting menu. Add a distinctive 4500 bottle wine cellar and you are in for a treat.
The intimate dining room is decorated in shades of green offset by burgundy flowere d banquettes, stone walls and colorful whimsical artwork. On this night, I sat at a table by the window which allowed me to watch the passersby while I enjoyed a five course meal paired with wines selected by wine director Thomas Perez. After a delicious amuse bouche, I started with a slow cooked red Abalone served with a green garlic risotto and followed that with seared foie gras paired with walnuts and rhubarb. A brief respite to a small cheese course and then on to a wonderfully tender braised shoulder and roasted loin served with fava beans. Dessert was an almond brioche accompanied by candied apple and green apple ice cream. Perez wine selections were perfectly paired and the meal was one of the highlights of my California trip.
The wine list highlights wines from Monterey County, California and France but includes excellent wines from the best regions of the rest of the world as well. There is plenty to choose from and while a little pricey, there are some good choices at reasonable prices. Better yet, have Perez make your selections.
4 courses-$89, add $75 for wine pairing, Chef's Tasting menu-$110, add $125 for wine pairing.
Often the best service is the kind you don’t see until you need it and such is the case at L’Auberge. No one hovered, but seemed to be there when I wanted something. Check-in and out was efficient and friendly. A glass of wine was delivered promptly in the courtyard. My restaurant server was excellent and a staff member moved my car periodically so I wouldn’t get a ticket on the limited time street parking.
Winter from $340, Spring from $425. Summer/Fall from $680. Rates include breakfast.
WHAT OTHERS SAY…
It’s all about “understated luxury” at this adults-only Relais & Châteaux hotel in Carmel that’s “outstanding in every respect”, especially when it comes to the “superb” 10-course contemporary Californian meals at Aubergine and the “fantastic” breakfasts; the rest of the “world-class” experience includes a staff that makes “every effort”, “beautiful rooms” with French doors and deep-soaking tubs, and “luxurious” grounds.” ZAGAT
It’s the “crème of Carmel” and “special in every way” gush groupies of this “charming”, “intimate” Relais & Châteaux Californian turning out “absolutely exquisite” prix fixe meals “with wine pairings that will leave you talking for days” ferried by service “so good it raises the bar”; true, it also “pushes the envelope on price” and can be “a bit pretentious”, but if you “don’t come underdressed” (jackets suggested) and “bring several credit cards”, “you’ll be richly rewarded”; P.S. the arrival of a new chef might not be fully reflected in the Food score. ZAGAT
World's Best Places to Stay "Gold List" - Conde Nast Traveler
Conde Nast Traveler - Readers’ Choice Awards - “#31 Best Hotel in the U.S.”
Gayot.com - "Top 10 New Restaurants in U.S."
Travel & Leisure - Top 500 World's Best Hotels List
WHILE YOU ARE THERE:
Carmel is a wonderful little town with a gorgeous beach, loads of art galleries, wonderful shopping boutiques and numerous indoor and outdoor cafes. Lunch at the Highland Inn overlooking the Pacific is magical. About 20 miles south is Big Sur and the ride along the coast is one you will never forget. Bring your camera. 17 ½ Mile Drive is another driving experience you’ll enjoy. There are good, moderately priced golf courses around, but golf mecca, Pebble Beach, is only minutes away. If you are a golfer, this is an experience you will not want to miss. The Inn can arrange just about anything else you would like to do from kayaking to horseback riding to nature walks.
San Francisco:2 hours
Sacramento: 3 hours
Bakersfield: 3 hours 49 minutes
Los Angeles: 5 hours 18 minutes