A stylish, design-driven resort, SO/ Sotogrande endeavours to introduce guests to new ways of enjoying Andalucía and its culture, through gastronomy, design, fun, and fashion. I checked-in within the first few days of the much-anticipated opening.
This is first property in Spain from SO/ Hotels & Resorts; and this is what I discovered, writes Andrew Forbes (The Luxury Editor).
SO/ Sotogrande brings some much needed flair and personality to the discreet and private luxury destination of Sotogrande. The resort aims to bring together the essence and vibe of Andalucia with the flair and soul of the hotel, which has been a labour of love for architects, designers, artists, and artisans. Everywhere you look you see evidence of thoughtful, creative, and fun design.
The resort is also a tempting new hub for bars and restaurants including IXO, the tapas cocktail bar; EL CORTIJO, a contemporary Spanish restaurant; MARXO, an outdoor terrace restaurant with custom wood-burning grill; and also, SOCIAL-CLUB, the elegant café bar in the adjacent golf club house. During high season guests can also opt for an all-inclusive package.
In addition to the dining options, SO/ Sotogrande offers a sophisticated wellness and spa centre open to visitors as well as guests.
Sotogrande is a high-end, planned lifestyle community on the very western edge of the Costa del Sol, 30 minutes’ drive from Gibraltar and about 45 minutes’ drive from Marbella. It’s a chic, luxurious destination, set between quiet beaches and countryside of olive groves & oak forests. Development is predominantly upscale villas. Residents and visitors have access to elite facilities such as the famous golf courses of Valderrama, and La Reserva Golf and Country Club, an exclusive ‘inland inland beach club, complete with magnificent, manmade freshwater sandy lagoon, and Sotogrande’s prestigious Santa Maria polo club. What Sotogrande didn’t have ‘till now was a truly 5 star hotel. So that’s why I was SO excited to visit SO/ Sotogrande:-)
The elegant check-in at SO/ Sotogrande sets the scene for a stylish guest experience. Leaving the car for the valet, one is invited into the Arrivals Pavilion, a strikingly modern light-filled, double-height open space that blurs the boundaries between exterior and interior. Contemporary glass walls, huge glass pivoting doors, and a unique custom build terracotta lattice screen design define the area. Uniformed staff, wearing bespoke designs by fashion designer Dolores Cortes, greet you and invite you to take a seat. I was also met by the SO/ Guru – the hotel’s host and concierge.
Seated on the luxurious S-shaped sofa, sipping a mimosa while waiting for my room keys to be prepared, I looked up and saw an exquisite, sculptural light installation of a flock of birds in mid-flight over the entrance – a beautiful reminder that this area is renowned for migratory birds that pass between Europe and Africa, visible on the horizon.
From the Arrivals Pavilion the gardens, punctuated by water features and sub-tropical plants, lead out to the guest cottages and social areas. In the height of summer it’s a good idea to take advantage of the guest transfers in the golf buggies!
At the heart of SO/Sotogrande is the ‘Revolutionized Cortijo’. After we’d settled into the suite, this is where we headed to have a cocktail and dinner. It looks set to be the place where guests and local visitors from Sotogrande can mingle and socialise.
Originally the historic Santa Maria de la Higuera, a typical Andalucian country house with land over-looking the Mediterranean, it has been transformed in signature SO/ style into the gastronomic and social heart of the resort.
The reimagined cortijo, at the heart of SO/ Sotogrande
SO/ Sotogrande brings together a choice of places to enjoy the flavours of Spain, the Mediterranean, and beyond,
IXO is at the centre of the Revolutionized Cortijo, within the original central patio. Service is throughout the day, from a morning coffee, to evening cocktails. The bar sits right where the original patio courtyard was, with cool seating areas around it, that spill out onto a terrace shaded by mulberry trees.
Then, take the staircase up to the restaurant level. As you climb, you’ll notice that the classic Spanish hand fan has been captured in the sculptural chandelier of crystal fans that appear to cascade down through the spiralling staircase that leads from IXO up to El Cortijo.
El Cortijo is the gastronomic soul of the hotel resort, a Mediterranean restaurant with an elegant, contemporary simplicity. This is where we enjoyed breakfast each morning, with a choice of small plates freshly prepared in the buffet area, complemented by a la carte hot dishes.
There’s also ‘jamón bodega’ where Spanish ham tastings are planned. Again, here design features echo the destination – classic ‘botijo’ clay water jugs of Andalucía are referenced in the modern rustic charm of the terracotta lamps in the restaurant.
In the evening the ambiance changes. Dinner is on the subtlety lit terraces with views out across the property, the Sotogrande countryside to the Mediterranean.
Our dinner was evocative of the traditional Spanish kitchen, with dishes like salmorejo and local Atlantic almadraba tuna, yet the presentation, and service was contemporary and refined. Our server was elegant and knowledgeable and paired our dishes with local and national Spanish wines. There were design touches that elevated the experience, like the mineral water served in bespoke aluminium bottles that sported the SO/ Sotogrande emblem created by fashion designer Dolores Cortes.
MARXO is the other side of the signature swimming pool. An alfresco restaurant that plays homage to the lively international chiringuito; with tables set on shaded poolside terraces with sea views. This is the place for relaxing aperitifs and local dishes that celebrate the season.
During our lunch, Executive Chef Leandro Cabellero was at the magnificent custom-made 5-metre long wood burning grill preparing grilled fish, seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes like the delicious cauliflower ‘steaks’.
Gardens & Pools
Garden designer Rocío Sainz de Rozas has created densely planted, meandering gardens that unite the old and new architecture. These bold natural spaces are abundant with sub-tropical, architectural planting.
There is a main adults pool with sea and countryside views. Set further back, is a secluded family pool; whilst on a lower terrace is a quiet, meditative garden with designer sun loungers and a large tranquillity pool.
Spa & Wellness
The Wellness centre is set below this garden and appears to seamless blend with the landscape, thanks to its living roof. Although the spa was not open during my stay, I did have a tour, to see inside this modern, innovative space. Set to open late summer 2021, guests will find a pool, thermal circuit, and treatment rooms, each an architectural statement, a private oasis of zen tranquillity. Design motifs, traditional materials, and artistic touches combine with clean architectural lines to create a calming space.
SO Lofty suites
Guest rooms and suites are positioned around the landscaped property in cottages and contemporary lofts. I stayed in one of the newly constructed SO LOFTY suites.
These contemporary loft rooms have a living space with sliding doors onto a private terrace, a master bedroom with doors onto a garden, and huge bathroom with sunken tub and outside private terrace.
Arch motifs run throughout the design, echoing the classic arches in the cortijo. There are custom art canvases by Dolores Cortes, designer rugs, and artisan ceramics.
There are lots of thoughtful design touches, from the leather note pad, the bespoke room key cards and the leather coasters.
SO/ Hotels & Resorts
SO/ was first conceived a decade ago, a notion developed from the ideas of Design, Playfulness and Fashion. It has since evolved into a distinctive hotel brand that is the epitome of rebellious luxury, a new kind of upscale hospitality. Having opened the first SO/ property in Mauritius, there are now projects extending across the world.