THE EASY-PACED DRIVE UP... to a fine resort, the kind of property that sits among some bucolic, beautiful-vista'd hills, is apt to be filled with nature. But, very often, a hotel's natural surroundings, be they wild or carefully tended to and sculpted, are there for gazing at and not grazing. That's absolutely not the case, however, at Carmel Valley's Lucia Restaurant & Bar, located within Bernardus Lodge & Spa. The "earthy and ethereal" eatery recently underwent a refurbishment, but its reach extends beyond the heated terrace; there are some 150 fruit trees on the property, and guests can bet that the leafy orchard shrubs they admired on a walk or from their room window are doing more than simply adding charm to the setting. That fruit is in the food, as are the good things grown in the extensive organic gardens (think lavender, olives, herbs, and more). Look for citrus touches in recently unveiled cocktails like The Purittia, The Paper Plane, and The Green Tea Collins, as well.
OFF THE PLATE AND AROUND THE RESTAURANT... look for several new reveals, all updates that took place during Lucia's four-month renewal. There is the heated terrace, yes, which looks upon the Santa Lucia Mountains. Inside find a "contemporary dining room" which boasts both white leather accents and more in-the-country details, like reclaimed wood, oxidized copper, and French wooden floors.
ON THE PLATE AND FROM THE KITCHEN: The relaxed-back-ness of Carmel Valley, and its farm-ranch mojo, are present in the meals, from Roasted Nectarine Salad (arugula, prosciutto, and Parm-Reggiano at the spicy/creamy notes) and a sweet potato pasta made in-house (a dish that includes the aforementioned herbs). It's pure poshness with an away-from-the-city feel, a sit-back experience that isn't about volume, speed, or who's in the room. Consider discussing the fruit trees and lavender fields with your dining companion, and how the sun hits the Santa Lucias, rather than numbers and dates and calendars. As for Lucia's full menu, and more peeps into its full-scale re-do? Stroll, at a gentle, Carmel Valley-style pace, in this direction.