Aldama 53, Col. Centro, San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Located a short walk from the main square and next to leafy Parque Juarez, Hotel Matilda is nevertheless a world away from most San Miguel de Allende colonial inns. It’s brash, modern, and sleek, looking like it would fit right into a posh neighborhood of Mexico City, but coming off as much more friendly.
It’s clear the moment you walk into Hotel Matilda that this is no Spanish Colonial B&B. From the morphing light display behind the reception desk to the hip furniture in the lobby, the immediate impression is one of being in the here and now, not stepping into a recreated bygone era.
Whether this cool modernism is what most guests really want when they visit San Miguel de Allende—a picture-perfect colonial city in central Mexico—was an unknown when it opened. The owners' instincts were correct though and it's clear that Matilda has single-handedly helped lower the average visitor age and increase the number of creative class visitors from D.F. This fresh alternative in a sea of similar designs has changed the dynamic.
The initial impression is striking, with a fountain crafted from a suspended chain and stone wheel, a large tree, and a staircase leading up to the hip cocktail lounge. Staffers, wearing black and sporting black Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, dispel the fear of too much hipsterism with warm smiles and an impressive command of English. Upon check–in, you can enjoy your cool washcloths and a welcome drink either in the lobby or in the upstairs bar.
The lobby area is a clubby space with modern furniture and artwork, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously: the shelves of coffee table books include ones with names like Boys Book (hunky 20–something men) and Bikinis Book (as you would expect), plus some of the tables are fashioned after hoofs or hands at the bottom.
This whimsical design element continues in the lounge upstairs, where candles rest on casts of human hands and footstools really have feet. The space takes advantage of the eternal spring climate this area is known for, with both indoor and outdoor sitting areas. Bartenders serve up a wide range of specialty cocktails and sipping tequilas, plus a bar menu features small hot appetizers and snacks. Original artwork graces the walls throughout, including the Matilda painting from Diego Rivera that gave the hotel its name.
The main restaurant has done as much for San Miguel de Allende as the hotel itself. With executive chef Enrique Olvera at the helm—probably the most famous chef in Mexico—Moxi is on a level that other restaurants in this city don't even attempt. Try the chef's tasting menu to really get the full-blown experience. Lots of inventive small plates grounded in Mexican ingredients stand tradition on its head. Dishes make use of humble corn, green pumpkin seed mole, chochoyota, chilacayota squash, and various dried peppers, but in new combinations. With local tequila, a good wine selection, and artistic desserts, it's one of those dining experiences you will remember for years.
The restaurant is pretty but not stuffy, with several indoor spaces with different furniture serving as romantic or private group options. Most of the year, however, the weather allows outdoor dining in the courtyard area. The breakfast menu mainly offers slight twists on the expected, with Eggs Matilda being the highlight: sort of an Eggs Benedict with chipotle sauce to liven things up. Service is refined and attentive, but friendly.
This being a designer hotel, everything has to operate by remote control, but the bellmen have gotten good at explaining which buttons do what and which ones you think will do one thing really do another. Once you've got it down, you can use the remotes to control lights, the TV, and climate. Everything is comfortable and functional, but be advised the Wi-Fi signal doesn’t reach many of the rooms: you need to use a cord or take your device down to the courtyard to answer those important e-mails.
The color schemes are subdued, with gray area rugs on white and gray marble, dark wood with sleek lines, and a few mild splashes of color on the accent pillows. Naturally there are plenty of gadgets, from iPod dock alarms cordless phones to large flat–screen TVs, but one of the nicest touches is bathroom lights that come on gradually when you turn them on in the middle of the night. Older guests may have some trouble closing the bathroom door though, which is a sliding thick wood and steel affair. The baths themselves are sumptuous, with deep combo soaking tubs, double vanities, thick towels, and ample Malin + Goetz toiletries. Some are a bit on the small size though, so if you like sharing yours, mention that when booking to get the right configuration.
Rooms come in several classes and layouts, with some of the rooms in the A and B buildings having terraces or balconies. Some in the C and D buildings have frosted glass windows with no view because they would look out at another room. Rates roughly correspond to room size, with suites having 50 to 100 percent more space. The Luxe Suites have a full living room and a separate rain shower in the bath, while the Owner’s Suites have a terrace with a view.
Maid service started out better when Matilda opened than it is now, with the artisan chocolates and filled ice buckets that were automatic at turndown now missing in action. They do still lay out nice heavy cotton robes and slippers.
The swimming pool, shimmering with lights at night and flowing down a two-story wall, is simply stunning. The deck space is limited to a few comfy lounge chairs because of the courtyard’s small footprint, but usually this will not be much of an issue though since it seldom gets all that hot in this city. The pool is heated well to use year-round.
While the 4,700 square–foot spa will not wow anyone used to sprawling beach resort ones, it is one of the best in central Mexico outside of the capital, well–designed and big enough for whiling away a few pampering hours. It has an inviting indoor/outdoor relaxation room with a fireplace, regular treatment cabins, and one deluxe cabin for two connected to a hammam. An good variety of massages, skin care treatments, and scrubs are available, plus pilates and yoga sessions are on tap for interested guests. Products used, which are available for sale, include Natura Bissé, Primavera, and Malin + Goetz. A small gym has four aerobic machines, two weight machines, and dumbbells.
Created from scratch, this is probably the greenest hotel in the city, getting around 30% of its energy from solar power on sunny days, composting all kitchen scraps, and using large toiletry bottles in the rooms instead of tiny disposable ones.
If your tastes run to stone arches, talavera tiles, and colorful courtyards filled with flowering bougainvillea, you will probably be happier at a historic inn or Casa de Sierra Nevada. For those who want modern design and a full range of facilities, however, Hotel Matilda will be a breath of fresh air.
Web Address: www.hotelmatilda.com
Total Number of Rooms: 32
Published rates: $300 to $1,085
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.