Mattei’s Tavern and Inn Opens With a Bang!

By Leslie Westbrook   |   June 20, 2023

What’s black and white and bright all over? The freshly open (but still in the process of being built out) super-duper redo of The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern – thanks to interior designer/design team AvroKO, par excellence, who has not missed a detail from the bootjacks outside guest room doors to leather tabs on the window shades, cool jute satchels to throw your poolside reading material and sunscreen in (well, maybe some local magazines or newspapers in the room would be nice?), little leather key fobs for your room, super crisp bed linens, and more. 

My lodging for the night had not one, but two warming flick-on fireplaces – one in the room, the other on the lovely outdoor patio (all rooms have an outdoor fireplace or fire pit). Two two-bedroom suites (yet to open, one is temporally being used for massages until the spa is ready) have private soaking spas. Each of the historic cottages facing the town of Los Olivos (all booked during my Tuesday night visit) apparently vary in décor.

The rooms (of a total 67 rooms at the time of my visit) were super ready for guests; the spa should be open by the fall but don’t let that stop you from an overnight stay. Why? Because you probably won’t want to drive back down the pass if you don’t have to after dining at the restaurant, which is certainly fine for lunch, but excellent for dinner with a more interesting/expanded menu.

The Tavern

The Tavern restaurant and bar opened last November and has been wowing travelers, Santa Barbara and Valley residents, and overnight lodgers alike with their vegetable-forward menu (don’t worry, you hungry Ranchero Visitadores, there’s a tomahawk steak on the menu for $185). The terrific menu is broken down into four sections (not counting dessert): Smalls (which are actually large and meant to be shared), From the Garden, Wood Fired, and Mains.

Smalls: Do not miss the “Bread for All” and butter ($10), a hot loaf of deliciousness that you don’t want to fill up on. Everyone raves about the popular crispy cauliflower, a huge terrain filled bowl of florets roasted in garlic tahini, spiced local honey, and almond dukkah (a Middle Eastern/Egyptian spice and nut blend), but the Central Coast abalone with a mushroom confit swimming in a white miso butter knocked it out of the ballpark.

Dine at The Tavern for a table full of iconic Californian fare (Photo courtesy of The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection)

From the Garden (a perfect refreshing choice): Avocado and ogo (seaweed) salad with red endive, Persian cucumbers, and roasted pepitas in a passionfruit ponzu was another winner. I hope they add this to the lunch menu. Trying not to be too piggy, a friend who joined me for dinner and I sadly skipped the “Wood Fired” section of the menu (but did order the pork and clams from the Mains section). However, the couple beside us (tables are set close enough to chat with your neighbors and compare tasting notes – there are a few booths for the less socially inclined) raved about the Peas & Carrots, and the squid ink rice caught my eye.

I’ve often found that “Mains”/main courses are often less spectacular than appetizers, but not the case here. We shared all the dishes including the mains. I thoroughly enjoyed the coconut Thai-influenced large scallops in a butternut squash curry that was a bit too sweet for my dinner companion – who was happily over the moon for the Pernod-infused Pork Belly and Clams with lovely chunks of fennel. The onsite Danish sommelier agreed with our wine by the glass wine pairing choices – LaBarge Albariño, Santa Rita Hills 2020 with the Smalls, and a Chablis with our entrées. 

The waiter suggested we order the chocolate soufflé with crème anglaise and butterscotch sauces for dessert (takes 30 minutes), the only partial miss in an otherwise perfect meal (it needed a few more minutes in the oven). Next time, I will try the sticky mango rice as the Asian-inspired dishes from Chef Rhoda Magbitang’s imaginative menu are surefire hits.

I slept like an overstuffed baby that night – and made it out for a very special yoga/meditation class the next morning, part of gratis activities, with Laura Urquidez,which I highly recommend. Some classes and onsite activities are included in your stay; others – like private wine tours and hot air ballooning – cost extra. 

I missed breakfast (I was on another story deadline) and chose to meditate and swim instead. But I plan to return and check out the breakfast offerings. Pastries and coffees in the almost goth/punk/historic style Felix Feed + Coffee (named for founder Felix Mattei, the black painted room is decorated with historic portraits) – edged by the lovely sunroom, now called the Wicker Room – that many remember as the former dining room.

The bar is a gas – and has a fun menu that includes burgers, wild bison chili, and great bartenders mixing up strong drinks. But I got a kick out of scoping the labeled Los Rancheros Visitadores horseshoes belonging to annual cowboys including Ronald Reagan, Willy Chamberlin, Brad Bartholomay, and their mares/studs, including Walt Disney’s very own Mickey Mouse. Tuesday nights in the saloon are promoted “for locals,” with $2 off draft beers and $4 off the fancy craft cocktails from 5-9 pm.

All in all, a great re-do and a fun addition to our region with more to come when the landscaping grows in and the spa is opened. The staff (all are locals) is terrific and if Mattei’s was good enough for Clark Gable and now is for Vogue magazine (who gave the Inn a 5 out of 5 rating), then I think y’all will be pleased as well.  

The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection
2350 Railway Avenue, Los Olivos,


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