San Ysidro Ranch is outstanding. A lovely property full of character and charm. A gorgeous place to escape from the world into total privacy, which is probably why it has long been popular with Hollywood glitterati, who need to go somewhere discreet.
The rooms are lovely and exude understated luxury. They are furnished with antiques and original art. Every detail has been thought of and every amenity provided. We are leagues ahead of the prefab Marriott-plus style that all to often passes for luxury at large five star chain hotels.
The bed was a work of art with Pratesi fabrics, the same I sleep on at home. Kudos to hotels that uphold the same standards I do.
Our room had a deck so private that it included an outdoor shower for a bracing scrub on a December morning. However, there was not much of a view: the deck overlooked a stand of trees.
The fireplace was the cherry on top. Gas jets propelled flames among faux logs. While I usually despise fake fireplaces this one was charming and cast a happy glow and warmth throughout the room.
In the middle of the Ranch is a sinkhole they call the Stonehouse Restaurant. Okay I am in Southern California so I expect an expansive menu with lots of vapid but cute Cal-Ital and Cal-Asian touches. Instead I am handed a (dusty) folder with a short list of dishes that put the "T" into "Tired". People!!!! mixing roast beets, nuts, and goat cheese crumbles into a salad was innovative -- about 30 years ago, but now even my mouth breathing daughter-in-law adds them to her supermarket salad mix.
The main courses were heavy on the red meats, with no fish offering other than Scottish Salmon. Folks, if I wanted to eat Scottish Salmon would I be in Santa Barbara?
Okay, so I figure red meat is their strength, let's give the beef a try. The steak costs $48. At this price, it must come from one of those politically correct organic California artisanal beef farms where they give the bovine counselling before sending them to be butchered. I asked our waiter where the steak came from and received the response "The Mid-West". People!!!!! When I pay $48 for a steak, I expect you to know (a) the state, county, and pasture it lived in; (b) the type of grass it grazed on; (c) the name of its butcher; and (d) its breed.
Despite my deep misgivings about every aspect of the Mid-West, I ordered the steak anyhow. A thin little flap of brown meat, it gave new meaning to the word "non-descript". While I will never admit to eating at an Outback Steakhouse, the steak there is better than at the Stonehouse.
We also tried the Colorado Lamb (acceptable but what restaurant with pretensions west of the Mississippi doesn't offer Colorado Lamb) and the venison (dry and tough).
With its fake Brit name, you expect the Resort bar, The Plow and Anchor, to be a cosy spot with comfy seating, a roaring fire, and cheerful staff. Instead it is a soulless room of tables lines up in rows to accomodate overflow from the Stonehouse. The staff were overworked and gruff.
I would expect a place with the pedigree of the Ranch to make a first rate martini, but just to be sure I asked what vermouth they pour. First, the waiter didn't seem to understand what vermouth is or the essential role it plays in a martini. Secondly, when he finally clued in, he showed me a bottle of some California attempt to make a vermouth. People!!!! Vermouth is a suble beverage. California is not a subtle state. What could possibly make you think California would make a good vermouth? Martinis with the California vermouth were almost undrinkable. It is almost unthinkable that a Rosewood resort would not have a bottle of Noilly Prat behind its bar.
Are you getting my point: you should STAY at the Ranch but EAT off property. Just down the road, Piatti serves Italian food for people (like the rich folk who inhabit Montecito) who have actually been to Italy. Arigato Sushi in Santa Barbara offered the kind of innovative ocean-food that lures me to California.
My apologies that most of this review pans the restaurant. Despite the sinkhole restaurant the Ranch is an absolutely fabulous place to stay. That makes it so galling that they can't offer a better dining experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled in the Montecito foothills of Southern California’s wine country, San Ysidro Ranch has provided a tranquil vacation destination for discriminating travelers for over a century. Guests are drawn to the Santa Barbara hideaway for its blend of natural beauty, romantic heritage and classic luxury. Myth and history mingle in the lush garden where Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier exchanged vows; in the setting of John and Jackie Kennedy’s honeymoon retreat. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- San Ysidro Ranch, a Ty Warner Property Hotel Santa Barbara
- San Ysidro Inn