Story and Photos by Lee Daley
For a soul soothing stay in San Miguel de Allende, Hotel Matilda, the “hotel different,” is an eye-opener. When you travel to a Mexican colonial city that has been designated a World Heritage Site, you might expect to stay in a well-preserved restored mansion turned hotel. And, in San Miguel, you would have your choice of some of Mexico’s finest examples of Baroque and Neoclassical architecture.The city’s historic center is filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, many lovingly restored.
On the other end of this spectrum, Hotel Matilda, a boutique hotel, is utterly counter to the city’s past and yet is so elegantly reminiscent of its reverence for art and architecture, style and substance, it has become a haven of serenity and a gathering place for many.
Style: Looking out over our 2nd floor balcony past the pool at bougainvillea-covered walls, we were repeatedly reminded of the architecture of the Greek isles: all sleek white Cubist shapes softened here and there by flowering vines in brilliant hues and intriguing staircases leading to mysterious doorways. While the exterior of Hotel Matilda with its inviting entry was completely different from the surrounding colonial Mexican haciendas, once we entered the inner courtyard, the visual atmosphere, artwork and overall ambiance uniformly bespoke of a different time and place that was refreshingly clean, clear, uncluttered and uniquely enjoyable.
Service and Ambiance: After an overnight flight, we arrived exhausted. Passing through the small courtyard to the reception desk and into the Library Lounge beyond, an intimate space with its fireplace, sofas and chairs in soft neutral tones, coffee table stacked with art books and soothing candles, we felt we had arrived in the private sanctuary of a gentle soul, a collector and connoisseur of fine art. During our visit Carlos, one of the front desk staff, gave us a tour of the hotel’s art collection. Staff, overall, were extremely gracious, attentive and helpful, even offering to run out to a local pharmacy to purchase toothpaste when we inquired.
Artworks: Diego Rivera painted the portrait of the hotel’s namesake, Matilda, (the owner’s mother) which is on permanent display in the Library Lounge. Books turned with their spines to the wall invite investigation. Views of creative photographic art, murals and eclectic pieces, while contemporary in theme, seem to evoke the feel of a bygone era, resembling the elegance and decadence of the Roaring Twenties.
Restaurant and Bar: A new chef is on board in Moxi, Hotel Matilda’s acclaimed restaurant. Francisco Ibañez comes to Moxi from Pujol, where he was executive chef of Enrique Olvera’s internationally celebrated restaurant that has long been rated the best in Mexico. Francisco has introduced a new menu at Moxi that highlights his love of authentic Mexican flavors, organic ingredients and simple but sophisticated preparations. (Moxi, translates to “cravings” in the local Otomi lingo.)
Restaurant Decor: Echoing the contemporary theme and adding natural elements with a waterfall and greenery, diners can choose from well-spaced indoor seating or al fresco patio tables. The upstairs bar boasts a showcase of collector tequilas. Off to one side, an adjoining patio provides a lively evening scene mixing quality wines,appetizers and multi-cultural exchange with locals and visitors from the US, Europe and Mexico. Exhibits by noted artists, gourmet dinners, art festivals, DJ dance parties, and tequila tastings add to the mix.
On a recent Friday evening we tried out the new menu and found the Mexican-fusion creativity in the kitchen to be as palate pleasing as we’d heard from friends. We visited on a night when Executive Chef Francisco had the night off, but the rest of the kitchen didn’t miss a beat. My spouse opted for the five-course tasting menu when our waiter indicated the portions were on the modest size; it didn’t disappoint and impressed us with the range of the kitchen’s creativity: Queso burrata/salsa verde – not overpowering; Panucho relleno de frijol negro – really interesting blend of flavors; mahi mahi with a chile sauce: excellent, not overdone, just right; Mole rojo con tocineta (red mole with pork belly)mouth watering blend.) I ordered the the pork hock which was almost fork tender after its slow three hour roast; excellent but so generous that I could finish only half; we meant to take it home for left overs but sadly forgot. I remembered about 7 blocks from the restaurant and wanted to go back because it was so good (My hubby talked me out of it – and later wished he hadn’t). The wine list features an excellent intro to mostly Mexican wines, many from Baja. We shared a Halley “El Cielo” from Valle de Guadalupe and it was excellent.
With its indoor/outdoor design, on a warm evening, guests can dine on the covered patio overlooking the pool or retreat to the adjacent dining room that exudes a sense of calm serenity. The overall ambiance, the extraordinary service,the very reasonable prices for an innovative menu, the art on the walls all make dining at Moxi an event we will long remember.
More Dining Out: Hotel Matilda Director Bruce James has teamed up with Australian Celebrity Chef Paul Bentley to create their 18-month old brasserie concept top-floor bar and eatery with the moniker, Bovine. Cook, baker, pastry chef, entrepreneur and visionary, Bentley along with partner, James, has created a comfortable, yet sophisticated, eatery that serves comfort food with complex and layered flavors and an atmosphere that’s both chic and down to earth at the same time. My spouse and I shared hearty dishes starting with appetizers of French onion soup. Light and tangy, it was the perfect opening for two hungry diners. My spouse tried the octopus risotto as his main course, bathed in a creamy tomato sauce accented with mild chiles. My grilled salmon -wild and fresh- was accompanied by a wonderful cauliflower dish. Service was attentive and professional. We paired dinner with a very nice Spanish Carramimbre 15 Crianza, topped off with a slice of the mandatory chocolate mousse dessert,
The brasserie’s banquette lined wall hosts about ten tables with a few more scattered tables for four filling the ample space in between and in front of the bar. Our banquette table afforded
a view of the glassed in kitchen as well as the bar so it was great for people watching. After tasting the salmon dish, I was able to give a high sign to the kitchen staff when one cook happened to look in our direction. All in all, service was attentive but not intrusive. At both Moxi and Bovine, we really felt we were treated as special guests who had the honor of enjoying a meal that was prepared with the utmost of care. And that’s a rare treat.
Bovine, Canal Street # 16 in the heart of historic downtown San Miguel de Allende. www.bovinerestaurant.com.mx/
Hotel Matilda and Moxi are located on Calle Aldama, close to San Miguel’s central plaza and the Parroquia San Miguel, walking distance to shops, boutiques, and art galleries as well as the shaded Parque Juarez. On any given day or evening, one festivity or another takes place here, with wooden flute players or mariachi musicians serenading those out for a stroll.Hotel Matilda, Aldama 53, Centro, San Miguel de Allenda, Mexico. www.hotelmatilda.com
Note: This article updates and reviews current information. The original post ran on June 19th, 2018.
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