Ring My Belmond
Elegant and bold flavors marry gastronomic creativity at The Dining Room
Perched above the city, with its sweeping views and award-winning accommodations, El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel effortlessly satiates the desire for a last-minute European escape without the hassle. Spanish colonial revival architecture beautifully complements the gleaming stretch of the Pacific just below Santa Barbara’s scenic Riviera. Although there’s no occasion, I feel an undeniable pull to the property—a much-needed mid-week treat. Afterall, a year of pandemic-induced isolation calls for some impromptu indulgence, and nothing delivers that quite like the El Encanto.
From the front archway that’s adorned with a garland of multicolored trumpet vines to the moody lobby where no corner is overlooked—attention to detail is a defining characteristic of the property. I make my way to what I consider to be the coveted seat in The Dining Room and Terrace restaurant. Nestled on the veranda with an unobstructed view of white sails gliding over the ocean, as if on ice, I settle onto the plush loveseat and sip on a refreshing aperol spritz—an obligatory summer order—while looking over Chef Bruno Lopez’s new menu.
It's not quite 5 o'clock, but since rules have gone out the window in the “roaring 2020s,” I order the P.Y.T. The presentation of the vibrant magenta vodka concoction is as exciting as the taste; the right amount of bite hanging on the edge of tart and spice. Given the weather, a light and refreshing appetizer feels like the ideal order. Presented on a bed of thinly sliced tomatoes, the Heirloom Tomato Tartar is sweet and juicy thanks to muted hints of balsamic that allow the natural flavors to shine through. For my main course I risk it and order duck, which is one of my favorite dishes, but also a tricky one to get just right—yet given the hotel’s caliber and the chef’s skill I have a feeling I am in good hands. The Duck Breast is beautifully plated atop lima beans and grilled peaches, an unexpected but welcome combination. As expected, Chef Lopez delivers. The balance of crispy skin and buttery tenderness is the mark of an expertly cooked duck, which along with summery peaches that have remnants of crunch, and a delicious yet not overpowering sweet and sour sauce, creates an irresistible experience. Not one bite is spared.
In keeping with the theme of indulgence I stay for dessert. My gastronomical delight arrives in the shape of a lemon, which is so realistic I almost think my order was mixed up. A delicate tap with my knife reveals that the white chocolate butter shell masquerading as a lemon, is in fact filled with yuzu mousse, lemon caviar, and a dash of tequila and mint. From taste to presentation, this may be my new favorite dessert—which for a connoisseur is a bold statement. With a full, and happy, belly I make my way from the terrace to the grass that separates the restaurant from the sparkling pool. I marvel at the panoramic views on the city below as a warm California breeze gently rolls in through the property. It truly is a multisensory experience here, and although I have yet to retrieve my car from the friendly valet, I am already planning my next visit to El Encanto.