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With Gatsby-esque charm, the Belmond El Encanto high in the hills above Santa Barbara beckons travelers to its charming cottages, elegant dining room and tranquil lily pond. The resort has provided splendid comfort for guests looking for a quiet respite from busy Los Angeles for more than 100 years.
Featuring two distinctive styles of architecture – California craftsman and Spanish colonial – the hotel emerged from a $134 million restoration to once again become a Santa Barbara icon, resplendent in all its glory. With meticulous attention to detail, the resort’s 92 bungalows and suites were designed with modern amenities with a nod to Hollywood glamour. Open the patio door and let the breeze flow through. Plush bedding, luxurious robes and cozy fireplaces are among the comforts afforded to guests.
Nestled among seven acres of lush gardens, El Encanto’s zero edge pool and therapeutic spa offer relaxation and serenity. Panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean make El Encanto an ideal destination for special occasions, especially a wedding.
The sophistcated dining room offers comfortable seating indoors or on the terrace. Executive Chef Johan Denizot creates California coastal cuisine highlighting the treasures of Santa Barbara. Local halibut, spot prawns and briny sea urchin bring tastes of the sea. Fresh produce grown in nearby Ojai provide crisp lettuce, hearty artichokes and sweet berries.
A kabocha squash soup accented with coconut, pumpkin seeds and a scallion pesto is a perfect starter. The pumpkin seeds add texture to the smooth soup and the pesto gives it a nice zest.
Fresh mint brightens an arugula salad with blood orange, fennel and olives, while pistachios add a nutty crunch.
All of the fish dishes are superb, like the whole grilled branzino with a tangy salsa verde. Halibut with coconut broth and Thai chili combine California and Asian influences. Grouper cooked in a clay pot with coriander and ginger hints at Indian cuisine and points to the chef’s versatility.
True to his native France, Denizot offers duck confit with a perfectly crisp crust and deliciously tender meat. Other highlights are the wagyu ribeye steak and the double cut heritage pork chop.
If you find the 600-bottle wine list overwhelming, a few local favorites are pre-selected by the sommelier. With such a vast collection, there is a bottle in every price range and varietal.
For dessert, try El Encanto’s signature dessert, the floating island. Vanilla custard and twice baked meringue float in a crème anglaise. Brûlée butterscotch pudding, pistachio macaroon ice cream sandwich and a California olive oil cake say “how sweet it is” to dine at El Encanto.
Toss a coin in the wishing well or tiptoe by the lily pond. A visit to El Encanto is always enchanting.
800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, California, (805)845-5800. belmond.com
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