Four-Course Luxury

Foodies will find paradise at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

By: Maribeth Mellin

Dieters beware. Don’t even dream about setting a foot inside the Rancho Bernardo Inn without steely willpower. One whiff of the truffle-oil potato chips served in La Taberna Bar just might send you over the edge. You don’t even want to know about the Valhrona chocolate veloute dessert in El Bizcocho, the inn’s endearingly Old World dining room. Breakfast alone is absolute torture for calorie counters.

The Rancho Bernardo Inn, a gracious hideaway surrounded by fairways and eucalyptus groves, has long been one of San Diego’s finest culinary destinations. One wouldn’t dream of driving home after a four-course dinner at El Bizcocho, Zagat’s top-rated San Diego restaurant. It’s hard enough to lumber down a moonlit path to your freshly turned-down bed. In fact, your foodie clients will love you forever if you include a Sunday-night stay in this romantic getaway. That way they can dine at El Bizcocho on Saturday night, get in a round of golf or tennis in the morning and still linger over the inn’s extraordinary Sunday brunch. Trust me they’ll be singing your praises as they walk to their rooms and collapse for a well-deserved nap.

Chef Gavin Kayson, the 26-year-old dynamo who’s been wowing restaurant critics since his arrival at El Bizcocho in 2004, recently described the Rancho Bernardo Inn this way.

“Most hotels have a restaurant,” he said. “We have a restaurant with a hotel attached.”

But one shouldn’t shortchange the inn’s other attributes. It’s been the stately cornerstone of Rancho Bernardo one of Southern California’s first master-planned communities for more than 40 years. The whitewashed buildings with red-tile roofs have settled comfortably within the inn’s 265-acre estate beneath the San Pasqual Mountains. Rough-textured walls are lined with an art collection worthy of a coffee-table tome. Wood-beamed ceilings, hand-loomed rugs, plush velvet couches and wrought-iron sconces provide the feel of a private hacienda. Hallways and pathways lead to cozy salons and outdoor living rooms are buried in vines and flowers.

The first time I stayed at the RB Inn, my suite included a living room with fireplace, a patio beside a secluded section of the golf course, a bathroom with whirlpool tub and a master bedroom with Godiva chocolates. It was the most lavish setup I’d ever experienced, and I loved every moment, almost hating to leave the room for dinner. Since then, I’ve stayed in the more modest digs in low-rise buildings beside the parking lot. Every time I walk into the room, I open the glass doors to the balcony or patio and breathe in the eucalyptus and citrus perfume from nearby gardens.

The rooms have improved considerably over the years always a good sign in a grand dame. The beds are fluffy, befitting the current love affair with pillow-top mattresses and crisp, white sheets. The subtle, earth-toned decor is soothing, and side chairs, tables and a good-sized desk provide plenty of drop-off points for papers and books. Business travelers make up about 60 percent of the hotel’s clientele it’s a great spot for small meetings and incentive groups.

Families love the inn as well. Camp RBI, the children’s program, has been running strong for 20 years. It’s only available on summer weekends and around holidays, but there are plenty of activities for kids even when camp’s not in session. Who wouldn’t enjoy making s’mores at the Veranda’s outdoor fireplace? The family pool is set in a courtyard far from the adults-only pool so kids can play without disturbing anyone’s solitude.

At a courtyard setting, gardeners replace the sod often to create the perfect backdrop for weddings, and the 18-hole golf course is manicured constantly. A 12-court tennis center has all the latest training gear, and the Buena Vista Spa undergoing renovations this year is a serene escape.

The inn is located 25 miles north of downtown San Diego, within easy driving distance of the Wild Animal Park and other North County attractions. But your clients won’t want to spend too much time wandering about outside the grounds. After all, they won’t want to miss a meal.


Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rates: $259-$384

Commission: 10 percent