Whatever other reviewers have said about the beauty of the place, the scenery and the house itself is quite right. If anything, those features and the standards of the rooms (based on our experience of the African room) are even more impressive and seductive when you actually see them.
But you have to understand that Can Serola is neither an hotel nor a restaurant: in UK terms it is a superior, if expensive, bed-and-breakfast with the occasional dinner by arrangement. It is primarily Gilbert's home, and we felt that we were paying guests in it who might occasionally be an inconvenience to him. That creates a level of tension around the edges that you should not expect to find here or, of course, in any place offering hospitality to holidaymakers (rather than business travellers looking to arrive late, sleep, eat breakfast and leave immediately afterwards).
So what does this mean, if you looking to relax as a holidaymaker? Can Serola is a relatvely short, but at night difficult, drive to the nearest town offering good food and bars. If you have spent the day sightseeing and can't face more driving, or as a driver want to have a single drink, you have only the Can Serola option. What does that mean? Gilbert explains on arrival that dinner is offered some nights by arrangement with him or his staff. If you think you might want to eat dinner, you therefore have to find him (not hard at breakfast) to make a firm arrangement to eat later, assuming he is cooking. So you can't be spontaneous. There is a rather full set dinner, though we understand that there may be some flexibility for dietary needs. We were not made aware of any lighter option, other than to order one of Gilbert's bottles of wine with nuts. The quality of the dinners we had was average to good, but not in any way noteworthy - if anything they tended to be bland. The range and quality of wines on offer - we think no more than four in all - was very disappointing given that there are so many wonderful local wines. The mark up on the substandard local wines was very high. Still, if the wines had been good or representative of local Emporda quality, we wouldn't have minded so much. The quality of the self service breakfasts was quite good and they were plentiful, though again it was disappointing that the best of local cheeses or meats were not represented. The rest of the time, if you want to have a drink, you need to find Gilbert. He works hard around his home and estate, so he was not always discoverable and nor was his single assistant, a charming French student.
If for any reason you don't have dinner (e.g because you hadn't arranged it before you set out in the morning, or you wanted only a bottle of wine and some good local bread and cheese), and you wish to stay around the beautiful property or even in your beautiful room, you are well and truly stuck. On one occasion, having bought our own wine locally, we asked for a corkscrew and two glasses. Gilbert supplied those. He made it clear to us that, as he offers his own wine, he was unhappy about doing so. Though he did so, it certainly inhibited our asking him again. If Gilbert was willing to offer his guests more choice in his menus or more accommodating food and beveridge options, we could understand his unwillingness to let guests bring their own food and drink.
Altogether, there certainly was a level of tension and rigidity noted by other guests at the same time as our visit. Was this behaviour uncharacteristic of Gilbert? It seems so given the high praise of other reviewers. Shall we return? To the region, certainly, to Can Serola, no. We need to relax. For us, the experience was not relaxing. For others, if you understand and are willing to accept the limitations of what is on offer, you could still have a lovely couple of days here.
Why three stars overall? Because of the quality of the accommodation and the beauty of the place.
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