When designer Robert Polacek was gathering inspiration for the renovation of Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay’s The Club Room, he looked nearby to the rugged Pacific Coast, specifically Point Pinos, and studied its rich sea-faring history.
The area possesses a distinct maritime feel, ideal for inspiring a nautical design with a true sense of place thanks to the rich craftsmanship of ship building and the historic Point Pinos Lighthouse that not only aided navigation but was once a social hub in Pacific Grove. Polacek’s eye was also drawn to the purple ice plant flowers that carpet the coast of the Monterey Peninsula in a striking shade of magenta each spring.
Ultimately, the goal with the renovation was to give conference attendees an authentic feel for Monterey from within The Club Room, a 4,500 square-foot space that can accommodate 270 seated guests and that has an intimate, fireside dining room.
“There’s beautiful millwork and model ships,” said Polacek, Creative Director and Partner at RoseBernard Studio. “You really feel like you’re in the belly of a ship.”
The Club Room is among a number of unique meeting and event spaces at Portola, which also has its own brewery, Peter B’s Brewpub, a historic garden with an Old Monterey feel, as well as bocce courts. In addition to getting a feel for Monterey in the meeting spaces, though, meeting guests also get an authentic taste of the region, with chefs sourcing a bounty of produce from local farms.
The Club Room’s nautical-inspired renovation is just one reason to consider Portola Hotel & Spa for meetings and events. Portola recently achieved designation as a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite. Blue Zones Project is designed to enhance the plant-based menu offerings for guests, making healthy choices easier through permanent changes to the built environment, policy and social networks.
Renovated Meeting Spaces with Monterey Flair
Colors, textures and lighting in The Club Room are reminiscent of an era of sailing and exploring the peninsula, explained Polacek. Crashing waves, he said, inspired the carpet’s patterns and the bronze lighting fixtures are a nod to the kind of lanterns one would see on a ship with a flame flickering from behind.
The renovation in The Club Room included new carpet, unique furnishings and the removal of built-in booths to add seating for 70-plus guests. The design team also incorporated existing artwork.
From the polished woods to the natural lighting and an open floor plan, The Club Room space provides meeting planners a warm ambiance, said Terri D'Ayon Joyce, Director of Sales and Catering at Portola Hotel & Spa.
“An additional crowd pleaser is the seamless flow for guest interaction and convenient access to glowing outdoor fire pits on The Club Room Patio and Jacks Terrace overlooking the Monterey Harbor," D'Ayon Joyce said.
The Club Room renovation follows the completion of the hotel's efforts to renovate 379 guest rooms and six meeting spaces throughout the property.
"Meeting space renovations and property upgrades continue to contribute to overall efforts to offer a premier experience for our guests and conference attendees," said Janine Chicourrat, Portola’s Managing Director.
In total, the hotel has 60,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, including ballrooms, an executive boardroom and meeting rooms.
Some standout spaces include Jack’s Terrace—an outdoor event space ideal for dinner parties, receptions and banquets and it has a casual vibe with charming bistro lights, fire pits and seating—and The Memory Garden, a historic outdoor event space that can accommodate up to 500 guests, where flowers are always in bloom and an adobe wall and fountain add charm.
At the Upper Custom House, an outdoor space that can host up to 300 guests, planners can incorporate bocce courts into their events.
Fresh, Local and Healthy Eats
There’s plenty more reasons to visit this modern coastal hotel in the heart of Monterey beyond the unique meeting places you’ll only find at Portola, which is steps away from popular attractions like Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Other attractions include the region’s many wineries and the surrounding outdoor playground—during downtime, guests can go whale watching in the bay or hike at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
Meeting planners also love the fresh and healthy meals that keep guests fueled, with an entire organic section on the catering menu that includes offerings like seasonal frittatas, peak-season fruit bowls, seasonal salads, sustainable fish dishes and grass-fed ribeye steaks.
“Our produce is second to none here in Monterey County,” said Brian Hein, Food and Beverage Director at Portola. The hotel sources everything from berries to heirloom tomatoes, beets, arugula, and cilantro from nearby farms.
The same fresh produce is used in the hotel’s non-alcoholic beverage program, Hein said, with zero-proof libations like a Raspberry Basil Lemonade crafted with raspberry puree, basil and agave nectar and a Mango Mule with mango puree, cucumbers, fresh lime and mint honey.
Portola, which recently achieved designation as a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite from Blue Zones Project; Monterey County has partnered with Blue Zones to enhance the plant-based menu offerings for guests. Based on principles developed by Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author of "The Blue Zones" and "The Blue Zones Solution," Blue Zones Project is designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to the built environment, policy and social networks.
One of the plant-based dishes that’s quickly becoming a favorite, Hein said, is the Garden Bowl that features locally sourced produce like zucchini, onions, bell peppers, Pico de Gallo, avocado, black beans and brown rice.
Next up, the team is creating a Portobello Stack with mushrooms as bun substitutes, and a stack of eggplant, tomato, red onion, spinach and bell pepper warmed in the hotel’s pizza oven. The idea here? Eating local food isn't just healthy, it’s also tasty.