I want our guests to feel as if they are returning home,” says California property magnate Rick Caruso of his new baby, the Rosewood Miramar Beach. “That’s why you enter through a traditional front door and step into a foyer, rather than a lobby.” And indeed, the hotel imparts the sense of a grand private residence whose doors have been flung open.
Located 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, this 16-acre estate offers 124 guest rooms and 37 suites in Montecito, an affluent community cradled by the Pacific and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Despite its location, hugging one of California’s most beautiful beaches a couple miles east of Santa Barbara, the resort doesn’t announce itself pompously. Instead it invites the visitor through that low-key residential black gloss door. Check-in is at a small desk. Only gradually does it become clear that the real formula for luxury here is the almost seamless transition between outdoor and indoor, with each flowing into the other.
On the western side of the property, at the end of curling paths lined with carriage lamps, are the Garden Bungalow suites. At a generous 720 square feet, these cream residences with gray slate roofs are a series of jewel-like retreats, each featuring patios outfitted with sofa, chairs and coffee table.
Around the property’s perimeter stand the two-story Lanai bungalows, each with a private terrace. All the rooms offer either garden or ocean views, and provide a sense of seclusion. Amazingly, given that the 101 freeway is barely a hundred yards away, the only audible noise is the breeze in the jacaranda trees—thanks largely to high external walls and dense landscaping.
Beyond the Manor House foyer stretches The Living Room, a bright, airy, dove-gray leisure space with sofas and armchairs—perfect for afternoon tea, a flute of champagne, or some California caviar with buckwheat blinis, while a pianist tinkles the baby grand in the corner. Throughout the property, you’ll find art from Caruso’s personal collection, like the Georges Braque lithograph next to The Living Room fireplace, or a Marc Chagall in the hallway.
A wood-paneled haven with the feel of an English gentlemen’s club, The Manor Bar serves cocktails named after classic novels such as The Old Man and the Sea, Casino Royale and even Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Through the windows you can watch croquet being played on the lawn, or local teams competing on the bocce ball court. Meanwhile, dotted around the premises are communal fireplaces with seating and throw blankets, where guests can enjoy wine and conversation into the evening.
Down a flight of stairs is the resort’s crown jewel: Caruso’s restaurant. The decor continues the nautical theme, with navy leather booths lining the wall, a sweeping wooden deck and, beyond that, the languid waves. Arrive just before dusk, sip an aperitif and watch the sun sink lazily into the ocean. Caruso’s serves fine Italian food with an earthy Californian sensibility, featuring sustainable ingredients straight from farmers markets or fresh from the Pacific. “With cuisine, everything starts with the ingredients,” says executive chef Massimo Falsini, who previously oversaw the Michelin-starred Solbar in Napa Valley. “You cannot cook quality food with inferior produce. So I source locally from suppliers who respect both the animals and the earth, with minimal environmental impact.”
Try signature dishes like the crispy Monterey king salmon with a saffron pattypan soubise, or the San Francisco black cod with Ibérico ham consommé, and you’ll understand why Caruso was determined to build his signature restaurant around Falsini, who oversees all of the resort’s culinary offerings. Still, the Italian-American chef is modest, saying his work requires a highly skilled and dedicated team. “The chef must be a von Karajan, the maestro conducting an orchestra. If you think of his recipes as the sheet music, he needs world-class musicians, and then he must constantly guide their contributions to create a beautiful symphony. You cannot delegate the maestro’s role and still expect beautiful music.”