by Andrew Chalk
EGO - WHO WE ARE
I stumbled into the hotel lobby around seven o’ clock in the evening. Physically exhausted after a long day of driving and interviewing winemakers. I was grateful that the valet let me leave my rental car in the driveway while I checked in, that way I could choose where to park the car, aware of the costs.
I gave my name and pre-prepared to present my driver’s license and major credit card. It becomes a ritual after a time. But wait, this time, the wrong time, my name wasn’t on the list of patrons checking in this Thursday night. My reservation had been made for me, so I couldn’t even recount all the usual breadcrumbs like reservation number or reception staff name. The hotel could, and at some hotels would, figuratively throw their hands up saying there was nothing they could do.
Only they didn’t. They doubled-down on solving my problem for me. We contacted the folks who had made my reservation, she knew the GM, and she, in turn, announced that, with a vacant room available, I could check in and her staff would resolve where the snafu occurred when the work week resumed. Furthermore, I noticed her focus was on enabling me to check in right away, a response that can only come out of a deep sense of empathy, a value that may be the carotid artery of hospitality, but something that is so often missing today.
In the incredibly complex business of hospitality, hoteliers labor incessantly to invent systems that ensure things don’t go wrong. Technology is a major part of the solution. But things still do go wrong and, really, the test of the values of the establishment, and of the people at the establishment, is how they handle those ‘exceptions’. I will always remember Hotel Cerro for this.
In the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. Likely, there is no better-located hotel to savor the richness of San Luis Obispo (SLO to the locals) nightlife. It could be one of countless restaurants, the local beer (maybe from one of the two breweries within walking distance), the atrociously underrecognized pinot noir, chardonnay and albarino wines of the SLO coast, or the complementing cabernet and Rhône blends from Paso Robles, in the same county but “over the grade”, as they say. Or one can go for a sloppy night of revelry at the pub named after a sketch by, what Stephen Fry called, “the funniest man who ever drew breath”. The legendary Frog and Peach.
Few fellow occupants of the streets of SLO that night know how fortunate they were that Hotel Cerro’s showers are so enjoyable. I languished in the space that was large enough for two as the showerhead peeled off the grubbiness of the day. Baths are available too if you wish.
The furniture has the solidity of a fitted kit. Designed in, rather than added to an empty shell to a carcass of a room. The heavy use of wood gives a comfortable, sustainable ambience. And the best things from the old world, massively encompassing sheets and bedspreads, impossibly soft thanks to their thread counts, that you just want to fall into.
Of course, all of the modern luxury hotel amenities: large TVs, minibar, and in-room coffee makers can be taken for granted.
Brasserie SLO sounds like an educated play on Paris’ Brasserie FLO. Which of course it is. The menu, however, is Alice Waters rather than Auguste Escoffier. I chose the Roast Carrot and Coconut Soup ($14) to start. I make carrot soup, but this expression with coconut was in a higher gear. The earthy carrot flavors were there, but the coconut added a southern islands exotic enhancement that was a lasting memory.
For my entrée, it had to be the Lamb Two Ways ($46). Grilled lamb chops, fire-roasted spicy lamb sausage, spinach couscous, zucchini & tomatoes, and mint yogurt. A big hearty red meat immersion in heaven that invited a red wine pairing.
Fortunately for me, Brasserie SLO’s wine line was target rich in suitable wines, whether from SLO, Paso Robles, or Bordeaux. Great wine list, room upstairs, great lamb, meant that it was time to go to wines by-the-glass and spend some time savoring the great local wines. Things could be worse!
My overnight stay was too brief to enjoy a couple of the best things about Hotel Cerro. The spa and the lap-length rooftop pool give a whole new view of SLO, one that everyone will love.
THE LOGICAL CHOICE
Putting it all together, the traveler who values their accommodations will find everything they need at Hotel Cerro. Just go and enjoy it!