San Jose’s most elegantly charming hotel: Grano de Oro is not to be missed.
As I stepped through the doors of Hotel Grano de Oro, the porter carrying my bag behind me, I felt as though I’d been transported into the lobby of an enchanting, New Orleans, French Quarter hotel. I was greeted with a glass of freshly squeezed carambola juice and given a quick overview of the hotel and its offerings. Between the in-room spa services, an intimate Jacuzzi garden, the hotel’s rather renowned restaurant, and an exceptional wine cellar, I knew I was in for a pampered existence during my one day stay.
I’d arrived earlier than my partner, as I had some writing to do in the afternoon before our Friday night on the town in San Jose. So, after check in, I settled in to our very comfortable, spacious room; there, I fired up my computer at the small desk in front of the French windows, which opened onto an outer corridor overlooking a small courtyard fountain. Looking around the room for inspiration, I found plenty in the wrought iron bed, classic ceiling fan, and classic teak wardrobe. I made myself an espresso in the handy machine on the corner table, and got down to some writing.
Soon, between the sounds of the tinkling fountain below, and the afternoon green-season showers above, my eyes began to grow heavy, and I decided a long hot bubble bath (Grano de Oro graciously provides deliciously scented, organic bath products) and an afternoon nap would be just the ticket before our evening out. Having made reservations for a 7pm dinner at the restaurant, I settled down, and closed my eyes.
My partner arrived in the early evening and we quickly got ready to go downstairs for dinner. We were eager for the evening’s meal, having heard so many rave reviews of Grano De Oro’s famous restaurant, and its award-winning wine list; a 4-year winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards recognizes restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine, and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. We were not disappointed. The list was as excellent as it was extensive, and the pricing was comfortable, as well.
The food, ambiance, and service were impeccable. Merging French, European cuisine with Costa Rica’s tropical ingredients, chef Francis Canal Bardot has created a menu to die for. To backdrop his spectacular food, candlelight, soft music, and quiet sophistication serve to create a feeling of transportation into the elegance, and grace, of days gone by.
Starting out with appetizers of Vieira y Foie Gras (an amazing feat of seared scallop, foie gras terrine, almond crumble, and white wine jelly with a beet reduction) and Curado de Pescados (a Trio of house cured seabass, marlin and salmon, with shrimp tempura complimented by lemon and extra virgin olive oil), we knew immediately we were in for a meal full of creative culinary delights.
Our expectations were not only met, but exceeded.
Our entres were so beautifully presented, it felt almost a shame to eat them; of course, there was nothing to be done for it but indulge! I had the grilled salmon, perfectly complimented by oyster mushrooms with tapenade, dill beurre blanc, and sautéed asparagus, while my partner enjoyed a beautifully rendered chateaubriand; a beef tenderloin with three sauces: traditional béarnaise, gorgonzola béarnaise, demi-glace béarnaise. The flavors were a perfect medley of herbs, fresh produce, fresh fish, and meat, all pulled together with perfect intricacy by one of the finest chef’s in the city.
We finished our wonderful dinner with a shared Crème Brûlée; the traditional French custard, made with Costa Rican organic vanilla bean (my partner, who is a chef, says this is the very best Crème Brûlée in San Jose), and complimented by a digestive of Courvoisier VSOP. It was all, very simply, sublime.
After dinner, we ordered an Uber to take us to the nearby historical district of Bario Amon, where we enjoyed the live music of Dr. Soul, as they covered the classic jazz of Chet Baker at an intimate jazz bar called Sotono (Basement). The young, hipster crowd, the eclectic furnishings, the brick wall, cheap wine, and phenomenal acoustics all came together to create an experience that was like something out of a movie. What a perfect way to top off a, thus far, perfect evening.
Back “home” after midnight (and, yes, this beautiful boutique hotel makes one feel as though one is a personal guest in a very lovely, very old, and well moneyed, private estate), we settled in for a good night’s sleep. I wondered if we’d be woken early by the street noise of downtown San Jose, or the sounds of other guests coming and going. I shouldn’t have. We slept in peacefully that Saturday morning, in the very comfortable king size bed with its top-shelf linens, in perfect darkness assisted by blackout curtains, and in absolute silence.
Of course, after the previous evening’s phenomenal feast at Restaurant Grano de Oro, we were really looking forward to a wonderful breakfast. Having finally rolled out of bed around 10am, we wandered downstairs to the courtyard of the restaurant, where we dined, al-fresco, on a late morning brunch.
I stuck with a lighter vegetarian omelet filled with sundried tomatoes, onion, and avacado, while my partner went for Grano de Oro’s famed Eggs Benedict. Wow; we were equally as pleased with breakfast, and the friendly service, as we’d been with dinner the night before. Rich, Costa Rican coffee, fresh fruit, freshly squeezed mango juice, artisan baked pastries of banana bread and magdelenas, all complimented our perfectly prepared main dishes. Best of all, the surroundings were quite as elegant, classic, and lovely as the rest of the hotel and the restaurant. I said to my partner, “you know, we should come here for brunch more often!”
Sadly, our night in San Jose had come to an end and we had to check out, and back into reality. Checkout was made easy, and our statement emailed to us (No wasted paper! We love that!).
For taste of the past in all its opulence and grace, Grano de Oro is the quintessential, old, grand estate; an elegant escape, right inside in the city. One of the most distinctive properties in the exceptional portfolio of Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica, if you’re in need of a place to stay in San Jose, there simply is no other like it. And, if you’re a foodie like I am, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in heaven on earth.