This high end resort needs to work on its service,
April 04, 2018
This resort is gorgeous. It is about 15 minutes due west of the downtown Santa Barbara area, and located right on the coast. We had the opportunity to stay here for a couple nights, along with other family members. However, we were typically gone during the day, so we unfortunately didn’t have any time at all to enjoy the resort and its amenitites. We also had cool and foggy weather for the 2 ½ days we were there, which may be typical for this area of the coast at this time of the year…I don’t know. The rooms here are expensive, as they are for other comparable resorts, Ritz Carlton or otherwise. However, there are some nice touches. In addition to spacious, well appointed rooms with balconies, they have in-room Nesresso machines. However, they don’t have refrigeratiors…only a mini bar. As we knew we would be out for most meals, we didn’t need a fridge, but it would have been nice to store thinks like milk (for the espresso-based drinks), leftovers from a restaurant one night, and any other GF snacks we might like to have on hand (cheese, yogurt). I’m guessing you could request a refrigerator in advance. It’s just rather unusual not to find one in hotels these days. There is complimentary coffee and high-quality tea service each morning in the lobby until 10 am.
But now, for the frustrating part of our stay. My father and his caregivers waited 2 hours in the lobby before he could check into his room. And he had not arrived early, but rather shortly after 4 pm, at which time the room should have been ready. He is in a wheelchair, and a handicapped accessible room had been requested, but they told him upon arrival that if he wanted an accessible room, they would have to put him in a regular room, not the suite he had booked. That wasn’t really an option, as he had a caregiver with him and also wanted to be able to host us and other family members in a suite-type setting with a couch, chairs, and table. So he kept his suite set up, but that left him without safety features like bars to hold on to in the shower while bathing. It is quite frustrating that we had not been told of this when initially booking. Fortunately, we were only there for a short stay.
Things continued to disappoint when we ordered room service that night. Again, because my dad is in a wheelchair, he preferred to stay in the comfort of our room for dinner, rather than venture to one of the resort's two restaurants. Room service took 1 1/2 hours to arrive. When we ordered via the in-room tablet device (noting special requests like gluten free in the notes section provided with each item we ordered), it went smoothly. We were told via the tablet that it would be about 30 minutes. Then we got a call saying it would be more like one hour. We had ordered late (8:15-ish), so learning our dinner wasn't going to arrive until 9:15 didn't make us happy, but we didn't have much of a choice. Then, it didn't show up until 9:45. We were pretty frustrated, but at that point, what can you do? The worst part was that the expensive steaks we ordered were completely overcooked, to the point where some of them were almost inedible. Sauces were forgotten, and one entire entree was forgotten and arrived 10 minutes later. All of this for a bill of close to $500 for 6 of us! It was quite maddening. That same evening, in spite of the disappointing experience, we chose to order room service breakfast for the next morning. We were leaving to go on an all-day excursion early the next morning, so we wanted to make sure we had a decent breakfast. Fortunately, the food arrived at the time we had requested. However, the gluten free toast (8 slices, quite generous) came cold and totally overcooked. Our son didn't even eat it. What a shame...and a waste. The omelet was great, and the eggs/bacon and pancakes (for our other son who is not GF) were all good, but I was just so frustrated that, in spite of offering GF bread for toast (and apparently prepared safely in a dedicated gluten free toaster), it would be delivered virtually inedible. I can't imagine whomever prepared the toast would have found it suitable to serve a guest! And here was another disappointment for our Celiac son whose steak had been the one delivered late (10 pm) the night before.
The two restaurants at this resort, which, unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to dine at, both can apparently serve gluten free guests. One, Angel Oak, the high end steakhouse with sky-high prices, is mostly steaks and seafood, which is certainly easy to do from a gluten free perspective. We had inquired at the other, more casual restaurant, The Bistro, if they offered gluten free pasta. Their limited menu featured a seafood pasta, and we were told that, yes, they had gluten free pasta available -- as well as gluten free pizza crust. It also sounded like the chefs, as expected, were well trained in avoiding cross contamination in preparing gluten free orders, and like I mentioned above, they have a dedicated toaster for gluten free bread.
We learned that this resort was just taken over by Ritz Carlton 6 months ago, so it all started to make sense. It seems they are still getting the right management and staff in place and bringing the resort up to Ritz Carlton standards. In their defense, it also seemed to be a busy weekend, with a wedding on property that weekend (and with the majority of guests seeming to stay on property). But I'd expect this to be the norm for a resort like this (probably hoping to always be hosting at least one large event each weekend). You'd think they would realize the staffing needs of the kitchen (i.e. for room service, etc) by now and anticipate for dinner rushes at peak times.
Like I said, this resort is gorgeous, and I'd love to go back sometime once the kinks are ironed out. I'd recommend calling ahead of time to perhaps talk to the dining manager about the various options, especially if you intend to take many of your meals on property. Just be prepared to spend a small fortune for the food! Try to see if you can get an in-room mini-fridge in your room, too, for any snacks or perishables you may want to bring for anyone on a special diet who may want snacks between meals.
Fortunately, the front desk manager was kind enough to adjust our bill to account for the disastrous in-room dining experience we had. That was appreciated.
I'm giving this a 3-palm rating because of the beauty of the resort and the assumed better experience of dining at the resort's two restaurants...and most importantly for their effort to serve gluten free guests. But the meals we had in room were certainly not worthy of a 3-palm rating.