New York City's Gramercy Park Hotel and Hotel Costes in Paris created a new genre of high-style lodging, making household names of starchitects Ian Schrager and Jacques Garcia, and inadvertently launching the term "starchitect."
The latest trend is chef-run retreats. From Fergus Henderson's St. John Hotel in London, to Provencal countryside inns from three-Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse, culinary travelers can now call on gastronomic bigwigs for satisfying stays worldwide.
The new kid on the butcher block is Las Vegas' Nobu Hotel. Opening this winter, Chef Matsuhisa's 81-key property is currently taking reservations for February stays. (And if getting a room is anything like getting a table, you might want to call in advance.) For hungry travelers heading to Las Vegas and beyond, here is a guide to the world's best chef-owned hotels.
Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VALocated 70 miles from Washington D.C., this 18-room hotel from James Beard Award-winner Patrick O'Connell brings haute cuisine to Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Chef O'Connell's menu focuses on local ingredients (many grown in on-property orchards) accompanied by a 2,400-strong wine list, specializing in bottles from Virginia's best emerging vineyards. Guestroom interiors were conceived by London stage designer Joyce Evans, with canopy beds atop elegant floors made of reclaimed wood from a 17th Century French chateau.
St. John Hotel, London, United KingdomMeat maestro Fergus Henderson opened this long-awaited follow-up to his influential London restaurants in 2011. Amidst the somewhat dodgy cross-section of Leicester Square and Chinatown, St. John Hotel has 16 rooms and an eponymous restaurant serving the innovative, nose-to-tail menu that made Henderson famous and offal acceptable throughout London and the world. Interiors have a clean, almost Spartan look. The white-on-white palate is particularly striking in the exclusive upstairs bar, open solely to hotel guests.
El Garzón, Garzón, UruguayArgentinian celebrity chef Francis Mallmann opened this destination restaurant and five-room guesthouse in a remote, sparsely populated town some 20 miles from Uruguay's bustling oceanfront. It's as though Chef saw elBulli-bound diners braving the bumpy roads along Spain's Costa Brava, and decided to raise the stakes. A dedicated community of international food fiends and Argentinian elite dine on hand-made gnocchi and braised lamb at El Garzón's al fresco restaurant. Guestrooms are decidedly rustic luxe, with exposed brick fireplaces, freestanding tubs and neo-Gothic chandeliers.
La Bastide de Moustiers, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, FranceNo stranger to high-class lodging, Alain Ducasse's restaurants at hotels like The Dorchester and St. Regis are enormously popular with locals, guests and le guide Michelin. But Chef's 12-room auberge in the Provencal countryside gives travelers the full Ducasse experience. La Bastide de Moustiers has its own Michelin-starred restaurant as well as individually designed guestrooms named for the hallmarks of Provence: Lavande, L'Olive, and Framboise. Moustiers is one of two Ducasse inns in Provence; a third is in Tuscany, Italy.
The Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NVThe first of five Iron Chef-approved hotels scheduled to open over the next two years, this boutique property within Caesars' Centurion Tower is now accepting reservations for bookings starting February 4, 2013. The $30 million hotel will have interiors by The Rockwell Group and the world's largest, 12,775-square-foot Nobu restaurant. Guests in the 81 rooms and suites can also sample Nobu dishes courtesy of the restaurant-catered, 24-hour room service menu.
Allez cuisine, indeed.