Surf and turf hideaways
It’s a hard job, trawling the Continent for extra-special hotels, but somebody has to do it. Having unearthed some fantastic rural and beach hideaways, Mr & Mrs Smith present their third guidebook European Coast and Country (Spy Publishing, £19.95). Chosen for their intimacy, style and service, the recommendations in their new collection include glamorous Mediterranean stays and romantic rustic mountain retreats. Here, Juliet Kinsman, its editor, selects some favourites from the book and the extended online collection, to whet your wanderlust. For more information or to book a stay at any of these hotels, go to www.mrandmrssmith.com.
Style Afro-Asian finca.
Setting An inland
‘Agroturismo?’ Mr Smith asked, sounding slightly terrified, as we approached the hotel. ‘Does this mean we’ll be mucking out stables and milking the cows?’ Thankfully, at Atzaró, one of Ibiza’s new agrotourism hotels, where a holistic approach to holidaying is the focus, you don’t have to harvest your own meals. The converted century-old farmhouse is a típica Ibizencan finca – all-white walls, windows and throw cushions. We spent a blissful day by the pool, splashing and falling in and out of consciousness, only to rally ourselves for a quick trip to Benirràs (the legendary bongo-beating sunset hang-out), and then back to the hotel for dinner. The outdoor restaurant had us again rejoicing at how well they do it in España. You can spend all the money in the world at some of the island’s top haunts, but there’s nothing quite like dining alfresco for hours, amid palms and candles, fountains and statues, under the stars. The modern Catalan cuisine was delicious, the service was refreshingly unhurried (no 90-minute tables here), and the entertainment impressive. There was live opera, full orchestra during dinner, then a DJ into the wee hours. I’d never have thought of going to
Rooms 10; two suites.
Rates €240–€480, includes breakfast.
Recommended rooms Each room has a private terrace and great view, and the majority also have fireplaces; we love Llevant. The suites in the new Japanese-themed enclave across the road are bigger, and even more zen.
Eating & drinking The restaurant offers a nouvelle take on tapas and Mediterranean meat and fish dishes. It’s all presented with finesse and elegance at no cost to the full flavours. There is live music in the bar three times a week, and DJs on the other nights.
LE MANOIR DE RAYNAUDES Monestiès,
Style Rustic eco-retreat.
Setting Green, green grass of
The website invited us to imagine ‘a tiny French hamlet where life goes on as it has done for centuries, interrupted only by the tolling of the church bell and the occasional bray or quack’. Although I think I’d recognise the quack of a modern-day duck, I was intrigued to discover what a bray might sound like, and what animal might make it. I don’t get out of
Rates €95–€170, including breakfast.
Our favourite rooms Mauricette is light and airy, with a freestanding roll-top bath and views all the way to the
Eating & drinking Fresh and natural is the Raynaudes philosophy. Dinner is served at the hotel at 20h every evening except Mondays and Thursdays. The gastronomic menu (€45) and Saturday’s eight-course dégustation menu (€55) are based on seasonal local produce and the cooking of the southwest.
Style All-white Dalí-contoured caves.
Setting Overlooking the caldera.
‘Now this,’ said my good lady, ‘is where we’re going on our honeymoon.’ It’s a phrase that strikes terror into the heart of the uncommitted but, although this reviewer’s Mrs Smith is a relatively new arrival, I had to admit I could see what she meant. Perivolas is perfect. Perched high on the hills of Santorini above the
Rooms 19, all with sea view.
Rates €368–€1,400; reservations secured with deposit, payable by personal cheque or bank transfer.
Our favourite rooms Studio eight is cosy and bright, with a balcony. Suite 15 has a big, secluded outdoor terrace. The new deluxe suite has its own jacuzzi tub and hammam. The Perivolas Suite is extremely spacious with a hot tub big enough for ten, and a private pool.
Eating & drinking Only residents can enjoy the Mediterranean cuisine here; candlelight and views out to sea make it unforgettable.
LA VILLA Mombaruzzo,
Style Cheap-chic palazzo.
Setting Rolling Monferrato hills.
It took all our concentration not to miss La Villa’s driveway, which after a right-angled swerve, deposited us at the butter-coloured three-storey property. We’d barely made a crunch on the gravel when one of the couple responsible for converting this palazzo to super-posh B&B spotted us and cheerily indicated that a glass of Prosecco awaited. Now this is our kind of start to a stay – no queuing at an impersonal reception, no stuffy bellboy waiting for his tip in return for pointing us to it – it’s more like arriving at the home of friends. The 17th-century heritage of La Villa is barely evident, which is a salute to its English owners who’ve given it a fantastic new lease of life as a country hideaway. That’s not to say it’s bereft of classic charm: vaulted ceilings are preserved, flooring is original and rendered perfectly sympathetic to its roots, but neutral colours and simple comfortable furnishings provide a contemporary freshness. We’d missed out on the grandest honeymoon-worthy suites, but our boudoir was still delightful with its handful of antiques and modern travertine wet room. Just as I was sniffing the sweet-smelling soap, Mr Smith alerted me to the fact that the sun was setting, and that as exciting as I found the BRAND products, he’d rather be on the terrace for the ‘magic hour’ – that dusky time of day beloved by directors for the gorgeous orange glow. The Piemonte countryside was indeed a picture. And it wasn’t simply a case of the bubbles in the local fizz enhancing our view of undulating hills and terracotta-roofed farmhouses – the scenery looked just as gorgeous over breakfast. JULIET KINSMAN
Rooms Four suites; five double rooms; two single rooms.
Rates €85–€190, includes taxes and breakfast.
Our favourite rooms The honeymoon suite is the grandest; a four-poster and fantastic view make it feel really special.
Eating & drinking There is no restaurant as such, but this doesn’t mean that you need go hungry here. Breakfast is a fantastic continental buffet of cheeses and cold meats and enticing jams. They can throw together a platter for lunch, and will also hand you all the necessary accoutrements so you can get busy with their barbecue.
LA COLUCCIA Santa Teresa,
Style Modern opulence.
Setting Open spaces and emerald seas.
This Mediterranean island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, attracting the super-rich in super-yachts as well as newcomers ready to fall in love with this unique place. A promenade of trees leads past the lawn to the sea, but before we headed straight for the water’s edge, a very friendly manager directed us to our new home for the week. Now, La Coluccia’s big selling point is proximity to world-class beaches but, boudoir-wise, even its biggest rooms are pretty compact. Hey, you might say: how much time do you want to spend in your room? But this was our honeymoon. The design – in minimal blacks, whites and greys – the bathrooms, and our balcony and its sea view made up for the lack of acreage. We kicked off our first full day with breakfast on the terrace, looking out over the glittering sea. We were here to relax after the stress and excitement of our big day, thumbing through the guidebooks to discover why 5,000 years of history makes Sardinia an ideal destination for archaeology fans – by our second coffee, we were already mentally halfway to one of the many hidden beaches within easy reach of the hotel. Sardinia feels like one great big area of outstanding natural beauty, and La Coluccia, one of very few boutique hotels on the island, does everything so well that lazy honeymooners won’t regret sticking around there for most of their stay in
Rooms 45: classic, garden-side, and superior/seaside rooms.
Rates €110–€405 per person, including breakfast and dinner (minimum stay of seven nights in high season months: June to August, starting either Saturday or Sunday nights).
Recommended rooms Rooms 53 and 54 have panoramic views out to sea and are not overlooked.
Eating & drinking Mediterranean food with a global twist, and a delicious range of wines; we love the four-course tasting menus. Dinner is included in the price of the room.
LA FUENTE DE LA HIGUERA Partido de los Frontones,
Style: Sierra country house.
Setting: Andalucian acclivity.
An hour’s drive and a world away from the high rises of
Rates €135–€260, including breakfast.
Our favourite rooms Room 10 has the best private terrace. Room five is a junior suite with beautiful views over the valley. Spacious Room two is the honeymoon suite.
Eating & drinking Order the €35 three-course dinner during the day; the menu changes daily and features Spanish fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. There is a 24-hour honesty bar.
SON BRULL Pollença,
Style Modern monastery.
Setting The island’s olive-groved north.
Foolishly, our hearts sank as we approached the austere-looking walls of Son Brull – it just seemed so far from our mental picture of design-hotel comfort. We were soon reassured: the monks who once inhabited this converted 12th-century farm would be amazed at the heights of relaxation achieved by the sybarites occupying their old home. The vast wooden olive-oil presses where the monks once toiled line the walls of a candlelit bar scattered with low-lying Scandinavian chairs. Beyond the courtyard where horses were once kept, an infinity pool gently overflows. Further inside, down stone-cut steps, nestles the quiet haven of the spa and the greenish waters of a connected indoor and outdoor pool. Our room was a vision of discerning good taste, with little wooden shutters on the tiny windows, and views over the gardens. There was tons of space for unpacking and general lounging on the Scandinavian oak chairs, as well as a Bang & Olufsen TV. A vast bed with silky cotton sheets, linen throws and white sofas kept us feeling cool (teamed with top-notch air-conditioning). Beyond your room, there are several secluded spaces at Son Brull that allow you to get away from people and never feel crowded, and the walls are of a solid medieval thickness that leaves you wondering if there’s anyone else staying in the hotel at all. JO CRAVEN
Our favourite rooms Any with a view on the pool side of the house, as high up as possible.
Eating & drinking 365 is the chic, formal-ish fine-dining restaurant, with black banquettes, white-clothed tables and a gold-leaf ceiling. The evening menu is modern, with plenty of fashionable flourishes and adventurous combinations, all very well presented. There’s also a snack menu and tables by the pool. Drinks are available until midnight in the former oil-pressing room, where old beams and a well make a stunning centrepiece. In summertime, Thursday is jazz night, Saturday is more relaxed.
These are edited extracts from Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: European Coast and Country, published by Spy Publishing, priced £19.95, and from the extended collection, which is available online at www.mrandmrssmith.com.