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—remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that this is a fresh new alternative in a sea of similar designs.
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 several indoor spaces with different furniture, including a private dining room for small groups, but most of the year 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. The dinner menu is more inventive, with dishes like a mole glazed beef short rib with coconut potato puree or a peppered duck breast with bacon studded chard. Service is about as refined and attentive as you’ll get in Mexico.
This being a designer hotel, there has to be something in the rooms seemingly set up just to perplex the guests. In this case it’s three temperamental and confusing remotes to control lights, the TV, and climate—we had to call for help twice since there are no manual controls. Once you get past that 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.
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.
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 is a cut above most inns in town, with nightly turndown including handmade artisan chocolate truffles from local shop Johfrej and a filled ice bucket for mixing cocktails while draped in the 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.
While the 4,700 square-foot spa will not wow anyone used to sprawling beach resort ones, it is 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: $215 to $835
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.
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