Baerenthal, France: Hotel K
The celebrated French chef Jean-Georges Klein and his wife, Nicole, opened Hotel K last spring to make it easier for travelers to experience Mr. Klein's fairly remote Michelin three-star restaurant, L'Arnsbourg. Perched high on a hill in the heart of a dense evergreen forest, the Hotel K is like Mr. Klein's cuisine: modern, sleek, surprising and above all luxurious.
Those who arrive at night will be convinced, after driving unlit winding backcountry roads, that they are in the middle of nowhere. In fact the Hotel K is at the base of the Vosges Mountains outside a picturesque Alsatian village and only 40 minutes from downtownStrasbourg. The majority of diners and hotel guests originate within about 125 miles — a radius that includes parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. Given the cost of eating and sleeping, there is a high proportion of both honeymooners and food critics.
Like a Japanese living room as envisioned by an Italian architect. In our junior suite (an upgrade we hadn't requested), each room was separated from the next by sliding, semi-opaque, green-gray glass doors, built like sturdy shoji screens. The space was designed to maximize the view, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains. Our bedroom was austere and lovely, with light wood floors, a king-size bed dressed in starchy white linens, and little else beyond the plasma television perched, as inconspicuously as possible, in a corner. Hidden behind sliding wood doors were two eight-foot-high closets; between them stood handsome, stark, ceramic sculptural art. A den beyond the bathroom was similarly showroom empty, with a low gray suede chaise designed for watching a larger plasma television and a glass door that opened onto a wraparound stone terrace. In the hall outside, a Chinese terra-cotta warrior stood guard.
Huge. Keeping the color theme of gray, light oak and white, this time in tile, the bathroom boasted two large sinks, an enormous shower that was open to the room, and a comfortable sunken tub. Italian bath products were infused with essence of “juniper and coriander,” a pleasant musky scent.
Oversize luxurious bathrobes can be donned while raiding the free mini-bar — stocked with Kronenbourg beer, water and interesting juices — and listening to the CD player, assuming you brought your own music: the sole provided CD was a peculiar mix of movie soundtracks. Television channels only in French and German, no Wi-Fi and no cellphone service.
None, but all guests are encouraged to take the 25-euro breakfast. No one refuses. The night before diners create a wish list, obsessing over selections including interesting cheese plates, charcuterie, soft-boiled eggs, baskets of fresh pastries, baguettes and preserves, yogurts, omelets, the list goes on. In the morning Mr. Klein works the room, chatting in French and cutting Serrano ham on a mini-butcher's slicer, in a setting more intimate than at his formal dining room across the road. Intimate but not exactly informal: cloth-covered chairs were B&B Italia; the china was by Bernaud.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Dinner at L'Arnsbourg is pricey: 105 euros for the menu saveur, which includes seven courses and countless amuse-bouches. Foams, mixed textures and tastes, it is one of Europe's more avant-garde eating experiences and it is, at minimum, a four-hour affair. Diners tend to be guests at the hotel and vice versa. Mr. Klein — whose grandmother opened a modest auberge on this spot at the turn of the last century and whose mother won the family's first Michelin star — has extended the haute cuisine experience into a sleepover. Prices for the 12 rooms at Hotel K start at 195 euros a night.