A Review of the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern

The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos is the biggest new hotel in this area since the Rosewood Miramar Beach, with nothing comparable on the horizon. All the glossies have written up the property, and the Auberge Resorts Collection has been generous with invitations to influencers, including me. But I prefer to travel incognito and pay my own way, in order to give a more accurate impression of what a hotel is really like. So my husband, Adam, and I booked a night and wrangled some friends to come along.

You know what heightens the mood when you’re anticipating something fun? A waiver. Before our stay, the hotel emailed and texted a link to one (read it here and here)—something none of us, all well traveled, had ever encountered. I ignored both requests, figuring we’d have an interesting conversation about the matter at check-in, but the staffer didn’t bring it up. Our friends, however, were asked to sign (and did), with the explanation that it’s akin to what you might see while visiting a resort’s fitness center. Weirdly, the hotel only requires one person per party to sign, which would seem to offer limited legal protection. Why bother?

The building with the big “Mattei’s Tavern” sign that greets you upon arrival is the historic tavern, but you check in at the more modest structure next door, which has an outpost of Santa Ynez General inside. The “welcome drink” included in the $50-per-day resort fee is serve-yourself lemonade with an optional splash of vodka.

While booking, we found it difficult to tell the room categories apart—most are the same size (450 square feet), and the photos are limited. There appear to be two main types: the six Cottages, some of which are original to the property…

…and the new “Guest House” rooms gathered in quadplexes. Our friends booked a ground-floor Patio King Studio ($953 after fees and taxes for a Wednesday in mid-May), while we went for an upstairs Balcony King Studio ($1,129). On one hand, the design elegantly allows everyone a different entrance, so you don’t share stairs. On the other hand, it can feel like a condo complex, and the red roofing comes off as cheap.

The architecture would be much better served by more mature landscaping—and more landscaping in general. I don’t want to see fully exposed HVAC units while walking the grounds, and I can’t imagine anyone enjoys staring at one while sitting on a porch.

The property’s position along Highway 154 is what it is, but surely some sort of barrier between hotel and road would be welcome. The traffic is a constant presence, and while I would have guessed the noise would be my main issue, seeing it out of the corner of my eye bothered me more. A hedge, a row of trees, even a split-rail fence with climbing roses on it—anything to soften the border would be welcome.

Our friends’ room was adjacent to the road, but the windows all faced the opposite direction, and the road noise wasn’t a problem. Our room overlooked the pool, where the music coming from speakers grated on me after a while, but at least it stopped when the pool bar closed at 5 p.m.

Inside, the room was truly lovely, with enough character to be interesting, but not remotely fussy, and the windows on two sides allowed a lot of light.

The bathroom was spacious and pleasant, although I would gladly take a smaller sink if it meant more room for toiletries.

Nice touches: a bowl of tasty olives and nuts; cowboy hats and a blanket you can use during your stay (for Ennis-and-Jack role play?); and—something too few hotels do—complimentary half-and-half in the minibar, which goes a long way toward making Nespresso coffee palatable.

The balcony, however, was a dud. It was too spare, and the parapet is so high that if you sit down, you stare at walls.

We all agreed that the close quarters throughout the property could be a concern on weekends, during school holidays, and/or if a large group (wedding, bachelor/bachelorette party, corporate retreat) rolls in.

The voyeur in me was intrigued by our view of the pool area, although the handful of guests willing to brave the glum weather stayed on the far side. And again, why not use landscaping to hide the storage unit?

Everything in our room worked fine, with one exception: we couldn’t get the door handle to budge from inside. The bellman came and opened the door—and then, without thinking, I encouraged him to shut it. As a result, the three of us were locked in. (We were quickly rescued and the handle fixed.)

The restaurant building is the heart of the property. You enter into a vestibule with a host’s stand, and directly beyond is the coffee bar. I can’t thank management enough for opening it at 6 a.m. daily. Those of us who get up early need somewhere to go—our companions don’t appreciate the sound of a Nespresso machine while they sleep—and we need there to be coffee.

And you can enjoy that coffee in the Wicker Room. It’s the prettiest moment of the entire resort (even if cars and trucks can be seen whizzing along behind the diaphanous café curtain).

Across the board, interiors at the hotel are excellent. Take the bar, which has plenty of charm and its own food menu.

The main restaurant, called The Tavern, is also quite handsome, whether you’re inside or out on the terrace. The grass paint on the lawn is less successful, but maybe preferable to brown.

Adam and I had lunch at the Tavern, and the four of us ate dinner there. Lunch was fine and dinner was very good—standouts included the chicory salad in an anchovy dressing, the octopus with squid-ink rice, the crispy cauliflower, and the chocolate soufflé(s).

I mean the restaurant no disrespect when I say that the highlight was when we noticed a fellow patron brought a pet Silkie chicken in her purse. Its head poked out of the top, and she fed it water with her straw. And eventually she let it out for a walk. So many questions went unanswered: Does she take it everywhere she goes? Was she staying at the hotel? Did she mention the chicken at check-in? How did the hotel respond? What does the bottom of her handbag look like? Did she order the chicken salad for lunch?

Gin’s Tap Bar, a little building off to the side of the restaurant, is currently open Thursday through Sunday, so we weren’t able to try it. I did peek inside, of course. It serves wine and beer, with food service launching this summer.

The property is set up nicely for events, with a structure called the Barn and a large courtyard. It’s sure to be very popular for weddings.

After booking, the hotel sends an email saying “our Itinerary Designers will contact you shortly to build a bespoke program filled with convivial culinary moments, holistic wellbeing experiences and one of a kind adventures unique to this wine country region,” which I was excited for, because I’ve always wondered what there is to do in the area besides day drinking wine tasting. Alas, we never heard from anyone. Our friends, meanwhile, got a call about activities the morning of our arrival and were sent a PDF of “experiences” that includes renting bikes, hot-air balloon rides, horseback riding, touring a llama farm, golf at Alisal, and a knife-making workshop (“$700+ per person, includes knife”).

Had the weather been better, we would have sat by the attractive pool. Instead, I blogged while Adam used the gym, and in the morning, the four of us hiked the Lover’s Loop trail near Grass Mountain. It was terrific, but I couldn’t help but think we should’ve remained at the hotel to maximize the value.

Another pre-arrival email touted “the Lavender Barn, our world-class spa,” so I assumed it was open and booked a 50-minute deep tissue massage ($195 plus a $39 service charge that includes an 18% gratuity). Had I paid closer attention, I might have noticed that the website lists the Lavender Barn (below) as “coming soon.” A staffer said it’s expected to open by fall.

Until then, there’s the Cottage, which the website describes as “an exploration of simple pleasures […] offering two well-appointed treatment rooms with soaking tubs and private facilities.” The waiting area is comfortable enough, but the experience is more like being at a day spa than at a resort spa: there’s no locker room (you change out of your clothes in the treatment room, kind of like at a doctor’s office), steam room, or sauna, and if the Cottage really has a soaking tub, no one mentioned it to me.

If I had to boil our stay down to one sentence, I’d say that the interiors are fantastic, time will be kind to the grounds, and there isn’t much to do but eat, drink, and loll by the pool. If that sounds appealing, keep an eye out for special offers. While factchecking this post, I came across several deals on the website: 1) three nights for the price of two; 2) “children 10 and under enjoy all meals on us from our complimentary kids’ menu” through September 30; and 3) “save 30% and enjoy daily breakfast for two when you stay between Sunday and Thursday.”

P.S. Dust is omnipresent. An employee told us that it’s because the hotel’s many decomposed granite paths and roads got damaged by all the rain, so they were replaced with gravel. I guess no one has hosed it down, because dust gets tracked in everywhere, including your car.

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Previous travel coverage:
••• Another quickie in L.A.
↓↓↓ Sitting Pretty at the One & Only Mandarina
••• The Mysteries of Istanbul
••• Palm Springs: Midweek at the Oasis
••• A Summer Swing Through the Northeast
••• Why Is Everyone Going to Portugal?
••• Patagonia Made Easy
••• A Quickie in L.A.
••• From Penthouse to Pavement in Mexico City
••• Do Greek Islands Live Up to the Fantasy?
••• Splendid Isolation at Utah’s Lodge at Blue Sky
••• Three Reasons to Visit Paso Robles Now
••• The Rebirth of the Cuyama Buckhorn

Comment:

31 Comments

B

Sadly we had the same experience at Mattie’s.. I really wanted to like it but we won’t be staying there again… I realize in the early stages of hotels there are “kinks” but it was kink after kink after kink. We could have stayed at SYR at that price and it would have been perfection. Best of luck Mattie’s!!

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ES Corchero

Very similar experience there. I realized that’s the risk of a newly opened establishment, but the restaurant staff kept mentioning the ‘wonderful landscaping’ and while yes, I see many new plant starts, it will be some time before the grounds are lush or private. You are very aware of HVACs, construction and the highway — and have to be okay with people wandering freely about past your cottage or dining table. This is not the hotel for secret love affairs or a celebrity hiding out. This felt like a place to have a wedding or big party and that was about it. God help you, if you’re not a guest when that happens — as there will be no way to avoid it. Overall, I found the whole property a little disconnected. I found the pool very modern, the paths and rooms to feel a little AirBnB like and the restaurant to be the highlight, but also infinitely confusing to walk around and find the host at first. The outdoor dining area is nice, but way too exposed to the rest of the property. It needs hedges or established bushes. And the indoor is charming at night, but a bit… smokey. I dunno, we left confused by the property and our mini-staycation felt like we should have maybe chose somewhere else for the price. We also were never contacted about things to do and honestly felt a bit ignored after check-in as well. We also spied a guest with three Newfoundland dogs in her room. Much like the gentlewoman with a chicken in purse, we had so many questions that remained unanswered about what those three dogs did to the room. Sadly some of the grass paint, might have been due to this guest.

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Christine!

Having lived in SYV for 47 years- the dust is something one gets used to- and once you do, you brag about being able to write The Declaration of Independence on a book shelf! The landscaping is pitiful- the traffic sights & sounds will only get worse and its proximity to the ever popular Foxen/154 crash zone triangle. Sold to highest bidder in under 2 yrs- tell me I’m wrong

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Christine!

-the Foxen/154 crash zone has a horrible accident every weekend, if not more often- the sirens & gawkers will no doubt add to ambience of outdoor space at Tavern

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Jamie

Our experience exactly – except our meals at Mattei’s were less than pleasurable. The best part was getting coffee in the morning. (Which anyone can do, you don’t need to stay there.) The staff seemed not to know what was going on. Kinks to work out for sure. More landscaping to hide EVERYTHING. And there is no privacy. I don’t need to stay there again.

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Andy

Feel like it was almost worth the price to see a chicken in a Louis Vuitton bag in a restaurant?

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Penelope Bianchi

I burst out laughing! I have and love chickens. My friend Adrienne brought her only chicken every time we evacuated during the Thomas Fires. We went to the Ojai Valley Inn. I thought she was the only one who brought her chicken in her purse. (it was not a Vuitton). I adore your critique. I stayed at Mattei’s as a child on the way home from Douglas Camp in Carmel to Pasadena. It was so charming.

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Megan

As a local, they’ve ruined an historic landmark we were proud of. I worked there years ago when it was a pleasant place for all to eat and enjoy the history. Totally ruined it for all. Go back to LA please and leave us alone..

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Christine!

The way Chef Maili was treated (by the Malibu crew who still own it), after her amazing and heartfelt refresh of the historic venue is KEY to what is currently transpiring for Auberge. And that equals to KARMA always wins

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Penelope Bianchi

I am afraid they won’t. But they won’t like this. It is unfinished. If they had bought bigger plants, and had a better “aesthetic director” it would have made it. It may after awhile. But the tiny plants, and the red roofs, and the bad furniture outside……it really missed the bulls-eye. I am fearful for its success. Oh well.

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BW

The faux wood ghostship tiles on the outdoor patio are really cringe. They’re ugly enough on their own but outright offensive in a $1000+ a night hotel. The lower patios visible from your perch looked charming, on the other hand. Agree about the red asphalt shingle roof. It is literally the cheapest roof you can get and looks like crap. I have the same roofing on my house and I look forward to upgrading one day! It looks like the best parts of the resort can be enjoyed by non-guests. Unfortunately most of us will probably not be so lucky as to see the silkie chicken when we visit. I’d love an interview with her owner! For $1000/night I’ll be staying put under my own cheap roof. When did luxury start feeling so… flimsy?

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Penelope Bianchi

You are so right! the red asphalt roofs……omigod…..who decided that? It was a leftover someone thought would be a good idea to do again? No. It wasn’t. I was so hopeful for this place with such happy childhood memories. (there were probably red asphalt roofs, but that was no reason to repeat it). Sob.

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Coleen

As a local, I’ve watched Mattie’s Tavern change over the years. I recently checked out the facility without going inside anything. It felt drab, uninteresting, lacking in interesting landscaping, lacking in landscaping in general, a condo complex atmosphere and utterly charmless. It could be a wonderful place, but I cannot see anyone visiting it now being a return guest or recommending it to friends.

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Chris

All the reviews make you sound like residents of pettyville. More reason to disregard forums where everyone needs to have an opinion and be a smartass. If you don’t like it, stay home. Don’t bash a business working the kinks out after big investment.

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S

$1000+/night is also a big investment.

It looks like a nice hotel, but I would rather wait until after the kinks are worked out before visiting.

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George

Im a local and REALLY wanted this to be on par with Auberge in Napa. Food is excellent, but aesthetically what the hell were these designers thinking?? Unfortunately looks all crammed together in a condo like mish mosh. Hoping landscaping will cover many tough edges !

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Bill Tomicki

A very informative and well done review
How refreshing to read a very professional approach and not the typical sophomoric gushing prose that is usually published in other media

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Penelope

What do you think?? You are the best reviewer I know in the entire world!!!

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Lee

My birthday treat was a weekend at Mattie’s. Our experience was pretty much as you have described, minus the live chicken….which would have been a welcomed highlight! Our stay was complicated even more by cold temperatures, and the heating system in the rooms leave much to be desired. Long and short – a very fair review. They have much work to do. The check-in obligatory waiver should have been a tip off. We chalked it off to having an “interesting adventure”….. one best not repeated any time soon. Thankfully my darling friends made the rest of the celebration one to remember.

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G_in_SB

Thank you for the wonderful review. The comments endorse the validity. We received a mailing list offer of a discounted stay for several nights. While expensive, we will willing to pay that but not willing to book when we learned that the stay was not refundable–too costly for us to lose all if we could not make the visit. We have enjoyed a drink in the bar, though and were told that corkage is an affordable $25. The burger of the patron next too us looked very good.

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JR Gordon

Mr. Torkells I truly enjoyed reading your review. I found your perspective broad and fair and throughly enjoyed the humor. I’ve stayed at the Los Olivos Grand Hotel on many occasions (just slightly less expensive) and wlll probably continue with that choice when passing thru to Paso Robles.
What made the valley so popular originally was the rural, western flavor that gravitated to a more sophisticated wine tasting cliente after the movie Sideways became famous circa 2005. Paso has assumed much of that same allure over the past 20 years though they’re headed in the same direction.
I’m sure Auberge Resorts has accumlated a sizable amount of debt creating this project, I’m just not sure their pricing is sustainable. We shall see….

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ElizabethW

We’ve booked a visit for our 20th Anniversary at the end of June, even after hearing the reviews. We stopped by the Inn a few weeks ago after lunch at SY Kitchen on a cold and rainy day. The fireplace was not lit and another couple who had just come from Cold Springs Tavern where they said the fire was blazing and wonderful were asking for the fireplace to be lit and the staff said it’s not turned on until 5PM but they would see what they could do. 30 minutes later, it was still not lit. IMO that fire should be going 24/7 when it’s cold weather! Mattei’s Tavern has a soft spot in my heart as it’s a historic landmark and I think they did a wonderful job with the actual Tavern and an authentic historical restoration. I’ll add my review after our visit there.

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Robert David

I thought the Hotel was delightful. The Owners have obviously worked so hard to get everything right – I am prepared to overlook some ‘teething problems’. I am sure everything will improve and improve. Kudos to management. This has been no small feat. I hope the reviewer returns in a few months and notices all the improvements – including landscaping maturing. Give them a chance !

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CJ

In 1911 when my grandfather immigrated from Ireland he spent several weeks in Los Olivos working for his uncle who rented a large hay barn from Mr. Mattie. In my grandfather’s diary he refers to Mr. Mattie’s “rustic resort”. I lived in bucolic Los Olivos for over twenty years. Every gorgeous morning I woke to the Valley’s magnificent beauty and felt its illusive serenity. There’s something in the light, the air that you will not find anywhere else. You need to slow down and breathe. I hoped that eventually the Mattie’s property would return to its original roots, an inn, to let others experience what I was fortunate enough to experience when I lived there.

On May 16 and 17th my husband and I returned to Los Olivos and stayed at The Inn at Mattie’s Tavern in cottage 11 in an upper king bedded room. I found the room thoughtfully designed in understated elegance that combined the old with the new. We weren’t bothered by road noise. The native plant landscaping will take some time to mature. I’ve stayed at SYR and found it snobbish. I felt welcomed by Mattie’s young staff. They were kind and compassionate. They were not totally polished but they were genuine and seemed to really care about my well being.

While we were there we enjoyed several delicious meals. We also enjoyed one of the best yoga classes I’ve ever taken at a resort. The pool area is a serene oasis surrounded by stone walls. Our cozy guest bedroom offered a window seat by the fireplace where I was able to read several of the books left on my nightstand. We borrowed one of the Mercedes loaner cars free of charge to surprise our friend as we drove up his driveway in a snazzy blue convertible.

Of all the Santa Barbara resorts that I have visited The Inn at Mattie’s Tavern is my favorite. It feels like Los Olivos, my former home that I miss so much living here in busy Southern California.

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Ray Baura

I used to eat at Mattei’s as a kid and there was still an old feeling to the place, as though it hadn’t been that long since stage coaches were rolling through there. This was also before the zootification of the downtown. I recall the flagpole in the middle of the street but not much else. Look folks, it’s the hipsterfication of everything: the ubiquitous white with blacktrim, the steer hide on the floors, the vodka in the lemonade. In and of itself it’s “nice” but we lose some kind of connection to the past. It’s the same at the Ojai Valley Inn when the stylists got ahold of the historic Neff Lounge and made it into a hipster bar. Egad old California becomes a theme park. I’d heard talk about tearing Mattei’s down and was heartened to see it still standing–certainly it’s a beautiful place but as we sanitize everything we lose a piece of our soul…

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