It’s rare that you find a hotel as historically classic and stylishly contemporary as the Grande Colonial. Located downtown in the quaint seaside village of La Jolla—just steps from the beach and 20 minutes from San Diego—this Four Diamond hotel is a luxurious, upscale juxtaposition of old and new.
A few steps through the hotel’s front doors and you’ll quickly know you’re in for quite a unique stay. The posh, bold lobby of the 1913 Colonial-Revival style hotel invites you to gather in its formal space, but does so with a sense of whimsy. Splashy color cues of Mediterranean blue and warm golds play against the polished marble for modern elegance, while Georgian-style arches and ornate cast plaster crown moldings give a nod to the past.
The Grande Colonial, the area’s oldest original hotel, just got fresh interiors that were cleverly crafted by San Francisco-based Warren Sheets Design, Inc. (WSD). Sit and rest by the lobby fireplace with a Monks Retreat martini (of vokda and vanilla cognac), and you’ll definitely get the sense that a team of many spent a great deal of time and money to preserve the hotel’s storied past—but do so with current creativity. The “new-traditional” style makes for a great space to unwind between outings or before dinner at the hotel’s exceptional award-winning, Zagat-rated NINE-TEN Restaurant.
Stroll outside the lobby to head to your room or the pool, and you’ll note endless icons of the Grande Colonial’s almost 100-year-old roots. Traditional chandeliers give light to the past, massive, white rolling fire doors hang with historic chic style and single-file wooden, winding stairways make you wonder how many have walked before you in the same footsteps. With every creak of the floorboards, the Grande Colonial owns its history.The hotel offers 93 European-style guest rooms and suites (18 of which are extended-stay suites with full kitchens and fireplaces), each with a bright, crisp color palette. The rooms all have their own unique layouts—quirky layouts—that may surprise you. For example, some rooms such as Ocean Suite 201 will have you wondering what the original, intended room design could have been with its very little room near the end of the beds, yet a vanity area almost the same size as the beds and a TV/sitting area that is interestingly awkward. Those head-scratcher characteristics of the Grande Colonial all get a pass though, as the place is 100 years old and it’s just admirably awesome that the hotel has stayed true to it’s past. Be sure to ask about the history of your room too, as it’s all very interesting.
The Grande Colonial is comprised of three buildings (the original Suites building, the Main building and the added Little Hotel by the Sea building—much like a hotel inside a hotel). Each building has rich former lives worth recounting, including the daily quarters stories of World War II soldiers, when NINE-Ten was a drugstore where Gregory Peck’s father was a pharmacist (or when rooms were $25/month). The hotel also has some good ghost stories too, if you believe in pans rattling when no one’s there or doors slamming with no one opening them. All of which will make for ideal material next year, 2013, when the hotel celebrates its Centennial anniversary.
Dining at the hotel is quite divine. The spectacular NINE-TEN Restaurant and Bar just won “San Diego’s Best Hotel Fine Dining Restaurant” at the 2012 Gold Medallion Awards. The restaurant is truly a must-visit for culinary aficionados. The intimate restaurant, which just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, is led by award-winning chef Jason Knibb. The cuisine slant is that it’s the best of the harvest from local farmers. The artisan cheeses are rich and satisfying. The Fava Bean & Chick Pea Fritter with barissa red pepper emulsion and cumin-lemon yogurt is creatively delicious. And the Cilantro-Basil Cake with coconut sorbet, sweet milk tapioca and Thai chili gel will surprise you. And as far as wines and cocktails, you can’t really go wrong.
When not dining at NINE-TEN, make your way to the Whisknladle in town and walking distance from the Grande Colonial. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily and brunch on weekends, and it specializes in Gourmet Comfort Food that is honest, healthy, fresh and simple. Whisknladle, like NINE-TEN, is all about local farmers and it purchases all of its ingredients from local organic growers including Chino Farms and La Milpa. Ryan Johnston, Executive Chef and Partner has created quite an appealing farm-to-table menu and a very on-trend eatery. But don’t go ask for substitutions here. It’s not that they’re not eager to please, it’s just likely they won’t have the ingredients on hand; they only cook with the freshest goods and what’s on the menu that week is what they’ve shopped for. You have to respect that committed organic philosophy in this day and age where everybody wants what they want, how they want it. Dinner is always a full crowd, so get a reservation, or sneak in for brunch and order yourself a Cucumber & Honey Mimosa, an Omelet made their way, or try the recommended Suzie’s Grilled Squash Salad. Whisknladle is located at 1044 Wall St.
Finally, a few other things to do outside the hotel? Hit the beach along scenic Coast Boulevard with wind-scarred cliffs, rocky coves and tide pools. Or you can shop the fashionable boutiques of Girard Avenue and Prospect Street. You’re also 15 minutes from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Stephen Birch Aquarium-Museum, the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and more.
Grande Colonial Hotel room rates start at $209 for a standard village view room and $279 for an ocean-view room and go all the way up to $1,500 for an ocean-view suite with full kitchen and fireplace.
Debbie Lavdas is a Southern California writer. She also writes for bask Magazine, Laguna Beach Magazine and more. Keep up with her on Twitter @deblavdas.