Forget your passport. La Torretta Del Lago is just a short drive away.
By Leigh Bell • Photos courtesy La Torretta Del Lago
We’re all tightening our belts, cutting out one luxury or another as pundits warn the economic sky is falling. So, maybe it’s poor timing for a luxury resort to open—unless that luxury resort is sumptuous, indulgent, and about 45 minutes from Houston, meaning you don’t need to buy a plane ticket or a weeklong stay.
La Torretta Del Lago Resort and Spa on Lake Conroe is a place for Houstonians to whisk away without fiscal guilt, but with most of the carnal pleasures found in international hotspots. Consider the newly opened La Torretta Del Lago (Spanish for “tower of the lake”), a compromise between financial sensibility and the inherent desire to “get away from it all.” It’s not exactly cheap, but hey, it’s less than a week in the Caribbean.
The resort stands out as a modern oasis on the 22,000-square-foot Lake Conroe. From afar, La Torretta’s 20-story main building towers over marshy, lakefront land peppered with lavish homes and boat docks. Otherwise, La Torretta is quietly nestled within a wooded, high-end neighborhood, which secludes its posh spa, 18-hole golf course, 70,000-square-foot meeting space, state-of-the-art fitness center, and 6,500-square-foot aqua park (adult infinity pool included).
The accommodations—all 445 of them, ranging from oversized hotel rooms to villas and cottages—eschew the “Texas lodge” look with sleek and contemporary design. Our standard room in the tower was a 600-square-foot suite: a sitting room leading to a bedroom leading to a double-sink bathroom with a spacious shower. More space than two of us needed, but just enough to spoil us.
The cottages and villas, similarly decorated with a 1950s revival flare, are a short walk from the tower, which also houses the front desk, a glass-encased lobby, Yoi Sushi Bar, Sonata Piano Bar and Mokka Café. Those are just three of seven places to nibble at Del Lago.
A buffet-style Italian brunch at Prime, the resort’s main dining room, was plentiful and satisfying—but pricey at $44 per person. The crown jewel of La Torretta dining is Chez Roux. Located several hundred feet from the tower, this upscale restaurant is the first-ever American endeavor by renowned master chef Albert Roux, who has been voted one of the U.K.’s most influential chefs. The aging, robust and round, French-born chef is best known for opening Britain’s first Michelin three-starred restaurant, La Gavroche in London, more than 40 years ago.
We had dinner at Chez Roux our first night at Del Lago. The service was superb, and the food was well above average but not quite excellent, especially considering the price: $75 for two courses and $95 for three. If nothing else, skip dinner and go to Chez Roux for dessert, which was the highlight of our evening—this, coming from someone without a single sweet tooth.
The Vanilla Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb was rapturous, only topped by the Pear Tart Tartin with Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream. And coffee was accompanied by a thin dish of sweets, including truffles that melted in our mouths and in our pockets when we tried to carry leftovers to our room.
On our way, we wondered why an internationally renowned chef would set up shop at Lake Conroe, of all places. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice area, but it’s still Texas. Roux certainly has the world on a silver platter. Turns out the chef is close friends with La Torretta owner and developer Ronnie Ben-Zur, CEO of French Quarter Hospitality. Six months after the former Del Lago resort closed down in 2007, Ben-Zur sold off his property and bought the tumbledown resort, according to LaDonna Pettit, director of sales and marketing. Less than two years and roughly $130 million later, he opened La Torretta Del Lago.
The resort fully opened this spring, but its soft introduction was last November, when the economy was obviously in a downward spiral. Not the best timing for a resort boasting indulgence, high-dollar food and, an opulent spa, where a massage costs about $2.50 per minute.
But La Torretta is banking on locals traveling the short distance for a quick getaway or “staycation,” and it certainly has appeal for such occasions. A romantic weekend. A family-focused respite. A weekend of solitude outside of the city.
La Torretta isn’t cheap, but this kind of splendor and indulgence is rarely so close by. And remember how much you’re saving on those plane tickets.
La Torretta Del Lago Resort and Spa
600 La Torretta Blvd., Montgomery, TX 77356
Located about 55 miles north of Houston
Approximate nightly rate (varies with time of year and day of week)
$200, King Room in the Tower (600 sq. ft.);
$400, Cottage (1,100 sq. ft.);
$600, Villa (1,700 sq. ft.).
Cost includes the resort fee, which covers wireless Internet, phone calls, newspaper, and access to the pools and fitness center.