Too many times when a hotel rebrands, the website and marketing materials get the bulk of the remodel, without much change to the property itself. But at the Kimpton Alma San Diego—formerly the Hotel Palomar—they stripped it down to a blank white box and reimagined the property from scratch in collaboration with studio Indidesign.
Back in February of this year, the hotel began a property-wide redesign which was completed this month, and I was given a first look at its fully renewed digs. All 211 rooms and suites, including four two-story penthouses, were completely overhauled, along with three new dining concepts and the pool deck. Guestrooms have been overhauled with new furniture including Insta-worthy nooks with beanbag chairs, spa bathrooms with standalone tubs, and Mexican-inspired textiles and decor. The hotel also ensures that guests can focus on wellness aspects during their stay with in-room yoga mats and Japanese tea sets available in each room.
Carmine Iommazzoo, general manager of the Kimpton Alma, shares that even though the physical changes are pronounced, the renovation isn’t only aesthetic, but a deeper look at the entire guest journey. Iommazzoo believes the modern traveler is looking for something different from today’s hotels such as prioritizing communal gathering spaces, modern technology, and exceptional dining.
“The experience within the four walls is completely different. It’s not just the decor, it’s the music they’re hearing, the lighting levels, the connection from inside to outside” he explains.“The lobby renovation created bifold doors… The lighting is maneuvered throughout the day so that it’s never too bright or too dark; in the evening you’ll sense a glow coming off of the lobby and at the cafe.”
Of course, as locals, one of the things we tend to care most about with hotel openings are their food offerings (we’re a city that loves to eat). The hotel’s new signature restaurant, formerly Curadero at the Hotel Palomar, is now The Desmond. Like the rest of the hotel, it has been completely reimagined, including a move from the ground level up to the second floor as a destination eatery. At the helm is executive chef Jason Neroni who got his start at Club 33, Disneyland’s private restaurant.
His vision is to take great local ingredients and prepare them simply in order to enhance their inherent textures and flavors. Small, shareable plates will be the focus of the menu along with homemade pasta crafted through a peek-a-boo window.
“The food scene changes and evolves. Where we are right now, food quality is at the forefront—bringing out the best of the textures and flavors of really good produce and products is an art form,” says Iommazzo. “Chef Neroni is passionate about the food products [and has been] obsessed with Chino Farm since he worked here in Solana Beach last in 2009.”
In addition to Chino Farm, Neroni is tapping other local purveyors like Polito Family Farms and Weiser Farms as well as Baja fisheries like Pacifico Aquaculture. Look for menu highlights like bluefin tartar with smoked tomato water jelly and pickled jalapeño, quail with blackberry and black garlic reduction, and ricotta gnocchi with white bolognese of rabbit and guanciale.
The entrance to The Desmond is a vivid splash of fruits and vegetables by local muralist Celeste Byers, a visual amuse bouche of the seasonal dishes being served at the restaurant. Byers also used Neroni’s body art as inspiration. “The mural incorporates my own versions of his heirloom tomato and bee tattoos with abstractions of some of his other favorite ingredients,” says Byers.
The Desmond isn’t the only new restaurant either. The first floor is home to an all-day café where, aside from guests, residents can also grab their daily injection of espresso and avocado toast each day.
Probably the buzziest thing about the hotel for locals, though, is its pool deck which has been completely transformed. The bulky central pool bar has been demolished, giving way for lunch spot L.O.A. (Leave of Absence) and its new pizza oven spitting out wood-fired flatbreads. Avocado print sunbeds and a mosaic tile, free-standing fire pit give a fresher feel to the pool deck, which will be open for locals to day-cation through Resort Pass.
“The design is inspired by San Diego as a border city and its eclectic mix, moving away from the stereotypes associated with surfing and beach lifestyle,” says Beatrice Girelli, co-founder and design director at Indidesign of the remodel. “We wanted the design to reflect the sense of humor and edginess of the city that is rarely showcased as one of the unique qualities of the city. Mexican heritage, street culture, and obsession with comics are some of the main elements that we layered, juxtaposed, and fused together to create Alma’s unique personality.”