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Rare Form

The Curious Case of the Restaurant Hotel

Pepe Viera
Pepe Vieira Restaurant & Hotel — Poio, Spain

Hotel restaurants are commonplace. Restaurant hotels, however, are a complete rarity. And rarer still: restaurants with hotels good enough to be in our selection, like these.

Most hotels have restaurants. And many hotels have award-winning restaurants where the cuisine might be held in higher regard than the accommodations. But not many restaurants have hotels — establishments where the restaurant existed long before the lodging, or where restaurant takes precedence in the name. Yes, the restaurant hotel is not a common phenomenon, and restaurants with hotels in the Tablet selection are rarer still — “blue”, to use the culinary parlance.

The idea isn’t exactly new. There’s a long tradition in Europe of chef-driven destinations, and an even longer tradition of coaching inns and public houses, which date back to the Roman “Tabernae” (or “Tavern”), where weary travelers could get a bite and a bed. Food has always had the ability to be the primary focus of a journey. Travelers will go to the ends of the earth for a unique meal, whether it’s a MICHELIN-starred tasting menu or the simple homestyle specialty of a street vendor. When a restaurant inspires enough interest to warrant adding a high-quality hotel, it announces to the world that it is now, more than ever, a place worthy of such a pilgrimage.

Restaurants are an essential part of the travel experience, and the connective tissue of our trip planning. They are the central gathering point and beating cultural heart of communities around the world. There’s a good chance that some of your most unforgettable memories took place during an epic dinner. These restaurant hotels make it possible to stay in the moment for a little while longer.
 

Wm. Mulherin’s Hotel

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Wm. Mulherin’s

It’s been close to a century since Wm. Mulherin’s Sons transacted any business from their whiskey-bottling plant in Philadelphia’s Fishtown. For decades, all that remained was this 19th-century building, until it reopened as a fantastically successful wood-fired Italian restaurant, serving first-rate pizza, pasta, and cocktails to residents of this up-and-coming neighborhood. Except it didn’t stop with locals — Wm Mulherin’s Sons is a phenomenon that’s famous far beyond Fishtown, and before long it became clear that a few bedrooms, to accommodate far-flung travelers, wouldn’t go amiss.

Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa

Labico, Italy

Antonello Colonna

If you’re a big enough fan of Italian cooking, the name Antonello Colonna may ring a bell. The famed chef and restaurateur — once nicknamed an “anarchist in the kitchen” — made a grand entrance onto the food scene in 1985 when he took over a rustic trattoria in Labico, outside of Rome, prompting a culinary revolution with his adaptations of traditional dishes. A small empire grew from there, and in 2012, he opened a twelve-room hotel, the Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa, adjacent to his famous one-MICHELIN-Star restaurant in Labico.

Antiga Casa Buenavista

Barcelona, Spain

Antiga Casa Buenavista

What began just over a hundred years ago as a family-owned restaurant in Barcelona, in a central location where El Raval meets L’Eixample, is now a stylish and memorable boutique hotel. Antiga Casa Buenavista is still family-owned, but it’s an impressively professional operation. The style is roughly one part historical, drawing on Barcelona’s 20th-century modernist tradition, and one part contemporary, exhibiting the simplicity and focus that are hallmarks of 21st-century hospitality design.

Hofke van Bazel

Kruibeke, Belgium

WHofke van Bazel

Chef Kris de Roy worked in multiple MICHELIN-starred kitchens along the way to opening his own establishment, and in 2013 his own Restaurant Hofke van Bazel was awarded a MICHELIN Star of its own. As you will have gathered from the context, though, Hofke van Bazel is more than a restaurant, it’s a 5-room luxury boutique hotel as well. And a fine one, we might add, with two suites in the original restaurant building and three more are housed in a newer, neighboring building.

Akelarre

San Sebastian, Spain

Akelarre

It’s a familiar enough concept in France and even in England, yet for all the distinction of Spain’s high-end restaurant scene, a luxury boutique hotel devoted to a single chef is still something of a novelty here. Just west of Monte Igueldo is where you’ll find Akelarre, a stunning piece of modern architecture which adds 22 luxurious hotel rooms and a full-service spa to Pedro Subijana’s legendary three-MICHELIN-Star restaurant.

White Barn Inn

Kennebunkport, Maine

White Barn Inn

Kennebunkport has a number of great places to eat, but they pale next to the White Barn. The restaurant, in a 140-year old white clapboard barn, is the hotel’s focal point, and is internationally known, possibly New England’s finest. The list of culinary awards the White Barn has won is truly exhaustive, and would be exhausting to read; suffice to say that the dinner goes a long way toward making this rustic and intimate compound down one of America’s finest country house hotels.

Pepe Vieira Restaurant & Hotel

Poio, Spain

Pepe Vieira Restaurant & Hotel

Some restaurant-driven hotels play it safe with their rooms, perhaps unwilling to assume that fans of forward-thinking gastronomy are similarly fans of forward-thinking hospitality. Others, like Galicia’s Pepe Vieira Restaurant & Hotel, wager that as long as they’ve got you thoroughly hooked at the dinner table (with a restaurant that’s been awarded two MICHELIN Stars), you’ll be willing to trust their vision for what the overnight experience should look like. And trust them you should.

Atrio Restaurante Hotel

Cáceres, Spain

Atrio Restaurante Hotel

Atrio is another establishment that chooses to put the restaurant before the hotel in their name. And even without the fine accommodations, Atrio’s restaurant alone would easily merit a detour, with its three MICHELIN Stars. It’s a serious place — white tablecloths, finely besuited waiters, diners with similar sartorial inclinations — that’s perfectly matched by a wonderfully peaceful, architecturally striking hotel whose fourteen modern, clean-lined rooms have been masterfully integrated into the stone facade of a much older building in Extremadura’s ancient walled city of Cáceres.

Auberge du Soleil

Rutherford, California

Auberge du Soleil

Guests come to Auberge du Soleil for the setting, with views over endless vineyards and olive groves; they come for the hotel, which is effortlessly, unpretentiously luxurious; and they come, most of all, for the restaurant, which has one MICHELIN Star and stands out as something special even in Napa Valley, a region that’s arguably America’s culinary capital. In true French style, the restaurant came first, with rooms provided as an added inducement for diners to drive those last few miles to Rutherford. Today they’re anything but an afterthought.

The Wheatsheaf

Northleach, England

The Wheatsheaf

England’s venerable coaching inns are the ancestors of today’s pubs, and the Wheatsheaf Inn, in the Cotswolds town of Northleach, is as true as can be to the classic, slightly utopian ideal of a public house as a welcoming place for a drink, a delicious bite to eat, and an attractive, comfortable room for the night. The Wheatsheaf’s restaurant was here before the rooms, and its popularity drove the owners to expand into overnight hospitality in the first place.

Weber’s Boutique Hotel

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Weber’s

At first glance it may seem difficult to reconcile the visual impression made by Weber’s Boutique Hotel with its claim to have been open — and family-owned — since 1969. But it’s clear that this is an establishment that hasn’t been content to rest on its laurels. The restaurant came first, a classic upscale steak house with live lobsters and a live piano player, and it’s still here in something approximating its original form — which feels like a time capsule in comparison to the hotel, which is as modern as they come.

Àbac Restaurant Hotel

Barcelona, Spain

Àbac Restaurant Hotel

Barcelona is no longer just about tapas bars that stay open long after other countries have gone to bed, it’s about cutting-edge culinary experimentation as well, pushing high-end dining beyond its traditional limits. And so we see hotels like the Àbac Restaurant Hotel, hotels that quite literally put the restaurant first. And why not, when you’ve got a kitchen that’s been awarded a MICHELIN Star under Chef Jordi Cruz.

Monument Hotel

Barcelona, Spain

Monument Hotel

The Monument is an elegant hotel that opened on the same premises as the MICHELIN-starred Restaurante Lasarte, by Martín Berasategui, the Basque chef who holds more stars than any other chef in Spain. Lasarte is a landmark, considered one of the best places to eat in Barcelona, and now it has a hotel to match. Both are located in a grand 19th-century building on the Passeig de Gràcia, a few minutes’ walk from a pair of architectural monuments by Antoni Gaudi, Casa Battló and La Pedrera.

Librije’s Hotel

Zwolle, Netherlands

Librije’s Hotel

What do you do when you’ve got a three-MICHELIN-Star restaurant, but it’s in Zwolle, a hundred kilometers to the east of Amsterdam? How about a place where diners can bunk for the night? The story of Librije’s Hotel is a little more complicated than that, but only a little: long story short, the proprietors of the original De Librije installed their second restaurant, Librije’s Zusje, in a magnificent old 18th-century prison building just around the corner from their first — and with all the space left over, they created Librije’s Hotel.

mark

Mark Fedeli is the hotel marketing and editorial director for Tablet and Michelin Guide. He’s been with Tablet since 2006, and he thinks you should subscribe to our newsletter.