On the fringes of Biarritz, overlooking the Atlantic, you’ll find the creatively reimagined five-star Regina Experimental.
Thanks to French designer, Dorothée Meilichzon, this century-old, Art Deco property wears a new contemporary design, one that embodies the essence of the hotel’s timeless French seaside glamour. Yet it remains as unassuming as the Basque country beach town it calls home; its setting and Belle Époque façade no hint of the artistry and magic awaiting guests inside. And, unlike so many hotels in seasonal Biarritz, it’s open year-round.
WHAT TO PACK
Catching sight of the lofty light-filled atrium with its soaring glass ceiling is a highlight of a stay at the Regina Experimental. This 15-metre-high space is the crowning glory of the hotel, and the dramatic setting for the group’s trademark cocktail bar – every Experimental Group hotel has one. It’s also the striking historic canvas on which Dorothée makes a bold mark. Statement sofas, chairs and lamps arranged in cosy clusters are made for slouching and gazing up at the ceiling. Settling into one with a glass of Pastis is an endlessly inviting prospect.
Casually uniformed staff buzz about with relaxed efficiency. Guests in striped T-shirts, linen trousers, espadrilles and beach clothes – hardly a heel in sight – leaf through cool coffee table reads like Surf Tribe, Basque International, and Palaces Basque. All around, historic details mingle with contemporary design touches and references to its Basque Country heritage: shell-shaped light fittings softly light up doors, hung with shell-shaped knockers. On Saturday nights, a jazz band sets up next to the bar.
Headboards are at the centre of the hotel’s 72 spacious rooms. The décor is Neo-Basque, a cool clash of patterns, curves, lines, colours and textures deliberately and carefully chosen, and paired to reflect the hotel’s history and location. Stripes, rope trims and tones of white, light blue and mint green reflect the seaside location. Straw wood cupboard fronts nod to Biarritz’s historic connection to Japan. Above each marble bathroom sink, the Basque cross, or lauburu, hangs – an old mythological symbol that represents the sun. Sea-facing rooms are blessed with dramatic Atlantic sunset views while suites are spacious, with sofas and in some cases, a sauna. Those overlooking the golf course catch the magic of sunrise over the mountains. Whichever room you choose, opening the door onto the expansive atrium is always a joy.
The Food + Drink
Dinner on the Basque-red terrace at Frenchie Biarritz – open to non-hotel guests too – is a special occasion. Impeccably presented dishes are both fancy and hearty, made using the best Basque country ingredients. Come for sunset and start with a spicy, luxurious Old Cuban: Rhum Havana 3, lime juice, white sugar, fresh mint, ginger cordial, champagne and a dash of Angostura. When the sun dips behind the Atlantic, it’s time for a chilled glass of wine from the comprehensive list.
Equally exceptional casual dishes like smash burger with French fries and Frenchie Cesar salad, are served in the atrium. Guests can also dine in The Garage, opposite, the group’s second Biarritz hotel set in Regina’s former car park.
The delicate scent of Alpine fragrance laces the air of the hotel’s serene, low-lit spa. Set in the basement, it’s a peaceful space with three rooms and a hammam. Spa treatments on offer range from the short and sweet 20-minute signature massage to the indulgent two-hour Rituel Atlantique – a full-body exfoliation, body wrap, facial treatment, and full-body massage. Final touches, like manicures, pedicures and waxes are also taken care of.
The Little Extras
Staff can leave confirmation of dinner reservations, or other bookings, for guests in a series of cubby holes by reception, easy to spot from the large, blue-leather tasselled key rings. A growing library of books for guests to borrow is found on the mezzanine level of the atrium. Most in-room snacks and drinks are Basque Country sourced. For example, a little white box of chocolates, made locally by Pariès, is left on your pillow each night at turndown. Next to the espresso machine are pretty bags of snacks such as Pariès caramelised almonds, Mason Arosteguy savoury biscuits and a jar of cocktail nuts. Mini bars are stocked with Experimental Cocktail Club’s Travellers Cocktails range: Venezia negroni, London Vesper, Paris orchard keeper.
The To-Do List
Biarritz is an easily walkable town. Opposite the hotel, follow the sandy path under shady pines for 10 minutes to the historic Biarritz lighthouse. Those who climb the 248 steps to the top are rewarded with rich panoramic views. Stroll 15 minutes in the opposite direction to the town’s famous beach, the Grande Plage to catch local surfers in action – or try for yourself, the hotel can organise lessons. From here, follow the path up to a natural rock formation called Rocher de la Vierge – or holy rock – a popular spot for a photo and taking in the view over the buttery sand to the lighthouse. Elsewhere, shopping for gourmet gifts is a must at Maison Adam. This small sleek bakery founded in 1660 specialises in Basque cakes and chocolates.
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