This winsome Relais & Châteaux inn is proof that great things come in small packages. Echoing Carmel’s storybook aesthetic, L’Auberge Carmel’s white stucco exterior, flower boxes, and Mullion and Muntin windows exude old world charm. Built in 1929 as Carmel’s first apartment building, the quaint building served originally as a bohemian enclave for the artists and writers who gathered in this seaside hamlet. Today, L’Auberge Carmel is Carmel Village’s most luxurious lodging option, offering personalized service, posh amenities, and the Relais & Châteaux hallmark of outstanding cuisine.
In a town that boasts a multitude of hotels and inns, each with its own personality and ocean-faring vibe, L’Auberge Carmel stands alone. Service sets it apart. Looking for the best martini in town? “Gin or vodka?” might ask the concierge who will then direct you to the best of either. Seeking to peruse early American artworks? A map of the area’s numerous art galleries appears before you. Hoping to spend an afternoon on Carmel’s vast white sand beach? Your valet will escort you to the perfect spot, towels and umbrella in-hand.
Of course, one need not venture off of the small property to enjoy Carmel’s sunshine or coastal fog. Book a second story room, don a sumptuous robe, and relax on your plush four poster bed while gazing at the ocean. Grab a copy of the Sunday New York Times from the Inn’s quaint lobby and curl-up, cat-like, on one of the inner courtyard’s sun-dappled settees. Enjoy a luxuriant, white table-cloth and silver service breakfast (included in your stay) next to the courtyard’s central tiered fountain. Your wish is L’Auberge Carmel’s command.
Each of the inn’s 20 newly redecorated rooms is accessed off of the fairytale-esque courtyard. Veering from former darker tones to lighter, the makeover includes new flooring (wood on first floor rooms and sound-absorbing carpet on the second), new textiles (including lovely Relais & Châteaux fleur-de-lis logo-embossed window sheers) and a shifting of antique furnishings that lend to the Inn’s European atmosphere. Bathrooms feature large soaking tubs (in most rooms) accented with jars of lavender bath salts, Penhaligon bath products, and radiant heated bathroom floors.
In-room extras include a welcoming bowl of gooey caramels, a bag of house made trail mix, bottled water, Nespresso machines, and warm cookies at turn-down. A small salon off of the lobby serves custom cocktails and wines by the glass, and flows into the small dining room – home of the inn’s intimate and lauded 12-table restaurant Aubergine, helmed by Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef Justin Cogley. For the full L’Auberge Carmel Relais & Châteaux experience, dinner here is a must and shouldn’t be missed. Cogley is a culinary artist whose creative, ingredient-driven dishes celebrate the bounty of the region. His daily changing eight course tasting menu is an of-the-moment celebration of seasonality and ingenuity. Course presentations are often whimsical and exceedingly Insta-worthy – a sea urchin shell here, a teeny-tiny foie gras cone there. All are unbelievably delicious. Case-in-point, lobster bites served in an ethereal shiro dashi butter with house made brioche buns – the most decadent, deconstructed lobster roll you’ll ever find.
If indulging in an Aubergine dinner, splurge, and go all the way with wine pairings. The restaurant’s 2,500-bottle cellar, located below the inn’s courtyard, yields surprises from around the world, with a specific spotlight on selections from Monterey County and France. Knowledgeable sommeliers select just the right varietal and vintage to compliment each dish.
The service at both L’Auberge Carmel and Aubergine is impeccable – attentive yet unobtrusive. And in these increasingly casual times, the appearance of coat-and-tie bedecked wait staff is refreshing, and heralds that this is someplace special. And indeed it is.