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March 20, 2013

El Encanto Opens in Santa Barbara

By Ingrid Skjong | Hotels

El Encanto Opens in Santa Barbara
El Encanto by Orient-Express

Opened on March 18 in the hills of Santa Barbara, El Encanto—92 bungalows set amid seven acres of lush, manicured landscape—is an iconic destination poised to continue its coastal-California reign. An escape for the likes of Clark Gable and other Hollywood notables for nearly 100 years, the property highlights two styles of architecture, California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival, and is the product of a $134 million renovation that included both aesthetic and eco-friendly upgrades. (Orient-Express worked closely with the Historic Landmarks Commission and the County of Santa Barbara’s Building and Safety Division to ensure the changes stayed true to the original.)

Each of the bungalows features a singular design, a private patio or garden and awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean. Tie-ins to the hotel’s surroundings appear often. At the concierge desk, a piece of art by Damien Hirst—an abstract depiction of butterfly wings done in a silk-screen made with diamond dust—nods to the hotel’s location along a butterfly migration route. Plants like wisteria and jacaranda hit full bloom this time of year, and the seven-room Spa at El Encanto offers a signature treatment that includes a body scrub of Pinot and Cabernet grape seeds, brown sugar and Kaolin clay.

On the culinary front, two gardens, one for regular produce and one specifically for Japanese herbs, propagates the local approach. El Encanto’s own Holstein cow, Ellie, produces milk used to make a special cheese exclusive to the hotel, and executive chef Patrice Martineau executes dishes like dashi-poached local halibut with rosemary flowers and the hotel’s fabled Floating Island dessert of meringue and crème anglaise. The setting is so picturesque, guests are encouraged to explore the environs. Rooms start at $525; 800 Alvarado Pl.; 805-845-5800; elencanto.com.

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