Croatian contemporary design? No one visits Croatia for contemporary design.
Not until now – for the new Hotel Lone, set in a forest on the Istrian coast, is going to change all that. This is the republic's first high-design hotel and it has just put Croatia on the serious hotel architecture map. Equally gratifying for its owners, Lone is also the first Croatian member of Design Hotels, the holy grail of design-conscious luxury resorts across the globe.
The location of this building, which on first sight suggests an enormous ocean liner, is not a first, however. This stretch of the north Adriatic coast – rocky coves, lush Mediterranean pastures and an impossibly blue sea – is no hotel virgin. Bourgeois Middle Europeans have been unwinding on this peninsula for decades, supping and quaffing in the peasant-style restaurants and wine farms of its rolling green interior.
In fact, the classic Croatian hotel of the Seventies, with its sea-facing terraces and enormous lobbies, was the scheme's design cue, says the firm of architects responsible, 3LHD. Given that the practice and, indeed, the entire creative team, right down to the fashion designers behind the staff's sharp threads, are 100 per cent Croatian, this indigenous inspiration is hardly surprising: recently independent, formerly Communist Croatia is fiercely patriotic.
In this instance, patriotism has served the cause of design very well. From the dramatic Y-shaped floor plan and enormous, six-floor atrium at the heart of the building, to the exquisite interior palette of rich oak and white stone, and the endless mirrors and windows that pull the outdoors in, this destination hotel is a design delight.
If you like guesthouse intimacy and breakfast conversation with fellow travellers, this 248-room hotel is not for you. But if you are a sucker for high-design luxury, you will want to move in. My favourite design feature was the private pool set in the decked terrace at the foot of my room, which cantilevers, after a couple of no-go watery metres, with negligible deflection, off the edge of the building: a very clever flowing space. I was also impressed with the sleek engineering that turned the gargantuan bed, desk and shelving into one seamless slab of Slavonian oak. Plus, it was pleasant to stand in the bathroom and look directly at the horizon – courtesy of two glass walls and some artful wooden slats.
The food and drink
The Adriatic Sea is both the provenance and the inspiration for many of the dishes at the hotel's three rest-aurants: Croatian-Mediterranean fusions such as scorpion fish and shrimp ragout, octopus baked in merlot, spicy oyster, and thick clam and bacon chowder. The other prized local foodstuff is the truffle, which appears in various dishes on the menu. A three-course meal costs around 268 kuna (£31) a head.
It's two-wheels-good, four-wheels-bad, in these parts, and a bike ride on the gladed cycle path that runs along the coast beckons. (Free bike hire from neighbouring Hotel Mulini). The ancient hilltop town of Rovinj is a 10-minute stroll away. Back at the hotel, head for the large spa and its scented-steam unisex sauna. Unless you want to appear stand-out British, wear your birthday suit. Then, float like a water lily in the very still sunken pool.
All areas of the hotel are connected by spacious lifts, making it easy to navigate a wheelchair. In addition, five rooms are fully adapted for people with disabilities. Children are welcome and catered for with a daily kids' club.
Rooms cost from €€102 (approx £89) per person per night, including breakfast.
Hotel Lone, Luje Adamovica 31, Hr-52210 Rovinj, Croatia (00 385 52 632 000; lonehotel.com).