Strolling into the lobby of the Montage Laguna Beach, the tension melted from my body, as I stood at the balcony of the elegant lobby lounge and looked out to the resort’s mosaic tiled sunburst pool with over 500,000 colorful tiles and sparkling Pacific Ocean beyond.
Checking into room 526, on the same level as the lobby, we had marvelous views of the walkway leading down to the beach and dramatic rocky cliffs at the edge of the ocean.
The feather-top king size bed was dressed with 400-thread count bed linens. In the closet, two 100% Fila Casa Egyptian Combed Cotton bathrobes and a child-size robe await for guests, while plush white monogrammed “M” slippers rest on the floor.
In the full marble bathroom is a deep soaking tube with back loofah brush, bath salts, and soap. There is a separate large shower and Egyptian Combed Cotton towels.
Since, this room faces the West, it’s an ideal spot to watch the sunset in the late afternoon. We popped open the champagne before heading down to an elegant tasting dinner at the Studio restaurant on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
Studio is an elegant Craftsman-inspired restaurant reminiscent of a beach cottage you would love to own. Guests can sit below rich, dark browns and rustic wood beams at an indoor table with elegant linens, fine Raynaud china, and classic Riedel glassware. Another preferable dining option is sitting outside on the paved dining patio to hear the waves crashing over rocks creating waterfalls into sea water pools. At twilight resident bunnies nibble on the tender grass. Look up and see a multitude of stars illuminating the sky above the ocean.
Executive Chef Craig Strong creates an elevated tasting menu with meat and a vegetarian tasting menu nightly. The menu also offers a la carte specialities. He has been creating award-winning dishes here for over 7 years. This esteemed chef was kind enough to welcome us to his restaurant as we sat below two palm trees names Desi and Lucy. We learned that growing up in San Diego, his parents had a great garden and Strong enjoyed helping their garden grow.
When he was hired to take over Studio, there wasn’t a chefs garden. The General Manager talked with Strong about gardens and within six months created a garden with beautiful raised planting beds next to the kitchen for the chef. “It’s fun to harvest flowers, herbs and vegetables,” Strong said. “The smells of the seasons provide inspiration in creating my menu.” This talented chef also has a great relationship with local organic farmers, and changes his seasonal menu often based on the artisanal products he receives.
The tasting menus can be paired with a few of the 3,000 bottles of wine featured in the custom-built wine vaults flanking the entryway. The resident sommeliers will present each selection to you, plus educate you about the soil, region and taste profiles.
What makes this dining experience so special is the staff. They gather in unison at a table with a dish in hand. On the count of three, each waiter places a dish in front of the guest at the exact same time. It is such a formal affair, one feels as if they are dining at Downton Abbey.
Start with three different breads – brioche, wheat with pepitas and sesame sourdough with three different butters – cows milk, goats milk, and Meyer’s lemon garlic butter.
My first course after a chef’s poached shrimp amuse bouche, was a vegetarian beet and goat cheese ravioli. The bright red beets were flower cut, stuffed with goat cheese that turns pink with the beet juice, and smoked almonds before being decorated with mircogreens and lovely miniature pansies.
Nina Rosas was our personal sommelier and paired the beet dish with a dry Reisling that was not too sweet. It’s one of her favorite producers in Germany. the wine is floral, with a brightness glowing from the core. We learned that GG on a Reisling means dry wine.
With my chestnut agnolotti with braised radicchio, brown butter crumble and spaghetti squash and parmesan with arrow spinach and shaved truffles, the sommelier recommended DuMol “Ryan” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir offering a deep red color with brambly huckleberry and blueberry on the nose, along with hints of black cherry and earthy spices. Sappy, juicy and sweet, with a suave grain and lovely inner-mouth perfume to the flavors of wild berries, cola spices and sexy oak. Very supple Pinot with a long, ripe, rising finish perked up by a peppery accent.
In the morning, make coffee or tea in your room of visit The Loft for complimentary coffee and tea at the bar counter. It’s a beautiful all-day dining restaurant on the fourth floor, offering panoramic ocean views. The Loft has a six-foot wood-burning rotisserie and an interactive cheese gallery featuring over 150 cheese selections from both regional and international cheese makers. Sit inside or outside to breathe in the fresh sea air.
Afterwards, take a walk along the garden lined pathways to the beach. Examine sea life in the tide pools, as you put your toes in the sand and dip in the refreshing Pacific Ocean. Watch the surfers skimboard along the shoreline. Lifeguards from Laguna Beach created this fun sport. They took a thin and short board to surf along the shorebreak too shallow for surfboards. It’s similar to surfing, as skimboarders perform aerial maneuvers and pull into the barrel of small waves.
Walk up the path near the palm trees named Lucy and Desi by the Studio Restaurant. These trees were featured in the 1953 movie, The Long Long Trailer with movie stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They are a signature to the resort with a smaller tree growing nearby.
Don your bathing suit and visit the Mosaic pool. Attendants will greet you and find you a lounge chair in the sun or under an umbrella. They drape it with a plush towel cover and offer to take a drink or food order. Nearby is the hot spa offering elevated seats, so you can sit for a warm soak, and gaze out at the ocean.
You can enjoy lunch by the pool while soaking in the sun at the nearby Mosaic Bar and Grille. The restaurant offers California-inspired beach fare with choices of salads, grilled sandwiches or fresh daily seafood. They even have a spa menu offering low-calorie and healthy choices. In the summer, there is daily live entertainment and the staff offers beach food and beverage service.
Before dinner step into the spa and fitness center. The 20,000 square foot spa offers a variety of rejuvenation treatment packages. Relax in the eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, and state of the art fitness center overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Take a swim in the lap pool or curl up with a good book on a lounge chair. When you leave, go for a walk down to the beach and notice the enormous sea life mural below the spa pool area. It’s an exquisite glazed ceramic art piece by Dora De Lorios that she made in 2005 and named Life Force.
Be sure to enjoy an afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge or cocktail before dinner. Live music is performed by two talented pianists Steve Sio and David Allen Baker. Sit back, listen to music and watch the soul of the resort come alive with guests entering and enjoying the views.
Once you feel you have had enough exercise and sun, go back to your room and repeat the above – soak in the bath, don your comfortable robes, sip some champagne and watch the sunset from your balcony.
When you check out to leave and the valet brings your car to the front, they offer guests complimentary bottles of water and blue Montage baseball caps as a souvenir for staying at one of the most elegant beach resorts in California. You drive away with a smile on your newly sun tanned face.
To make a room or dinner reservation, log onto: Montage Hotels – https://www.montagehotels.com
Montage Laguna Beach https://www.montagehotels.com/lagunabeach/
30801 SOUTH COAST HIGHWAY, LAGUNA BEACH, CA 92651 | 866.551.8244