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Maistra Ltd. Opens the Euro 27 million Hotel Monte Mulini
on the Adriatic Coast in Rovinj, Croatia

by Barry Napier, April, 2009

April 2009 - Croatia’s Istria region still has very few five star hotels, so the latest – the Monte Mulini -  is a welcome addition, at a total cost of Euro 27 million.  Its owners hope it will be the first of several they wish to build in the same area.

Monte Mulini is sited in an area of the same name, overlooking a sheltered bay of ultramarine blue, edged with forestry and a nature reserve. To its right is the ancient, picturesque town of Rovinj, said to be the most beautiful on the Mediterranean. The units in the main building all have a sea view. Suites have both a sea view and a view of Rovinj.

The owners want their hotels to be iconic of all five stars in Istria, leaders of a luxury brand, believing that by positioning themselves as the best five stars, the whole of the region will benefit. This is not arrogance – all the Croatian hoteliers I have met over several years are the most unpretentious business people I have ever met; their aim is quite feasible.

The hotel is a new build, by leading Croatian hotel group Maistra Ltd. Architects are WATG (Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo), and their interior design input is modern yet within the bounds of credibility. I particularly liked the very clever use of mirrors covering what would otherwise be heavy structural parts, and their use of lightweight roof struts rising like flower stems out of conventional vertical beams. Outside, several pools look out onto the bay.

Opened just a few days before I got there (mid March), the Mulini has an upswept entrance roof made of wood. This is matched by a similar roof on the opposite side facing the sea. The entrance foyer, set on a mezzanine marble floor overlooking a lower level (a coffee/bar area), fascinated me. It provides a view from entrance to back, of huge floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out over the lovely bay. The total effect on the foyer floor space is of shimmering water. So, the very first view guests get is the sea, not a closed front desk.

Marble is used throughout, as is usual in Mediterranean hotels. Winter guests will be warmed by large fireplaces. In summer cool air will come through balcony doors and windows. Croatia is a still undiscovered historical and cultural goldmine and if you want to avoid summer crowds, winter is a good time to visit and the Mulini has plenty of features. 

When I first went to Croatia in late winter I discovered a small unused church in an old village, containing a medieval four-wall fresco and oil paintings leaning against the walls… even the tourism folks knew nothing about it. The walled towns on top of mountains are superb ancient places, still with cobbled streets. Rovinj itself is literally a stunning place to be, with old houses piled one on top of another all the way up the cobbled hill to the brilliant-white Church of St Euphemia and amazing views. The Monte Mulini could not have chosen a better place to be. That goes for its conference centre, too.

The hotel contains original Croatian artworks, with fabrics and environment of suitably luxurious quality, and it has an ambience of relaxation, created by use of colours – burnished gold, purple, cream and aubergine.

In front of Hotel Monte Mulini are Marketing Manager Ivica Vrkic and assistant, Vanja.
Hotel address: A. Smareglia 66, 52210 Rovinj, Istria-Croatia
Rooms are airy, spacious and yet intimate, with wonderful views. No back walls or pipes, just great views! For me, much can be gleaned from the small details most never bother with, such as the same careful attention given to air vents and minor factors as to rooms. The furniture has been sourced internationally, to make sure everything is just right… and I certainly liked the exterior furniture touch, where chairs fitted into the corners of the tables.

Manager, Executive Chef & Sommelier

Manager of the Mulini is Mladen Babic.

The executive chef, Tomislav Gretic, born in Zagreb, opened the Asia de Cuba in Dubai, and also worked at the Dolder Grand in Zurich, and now heads the two gourmet restaurants at the Mulini. He has worked at a number of luxury hotels in Croatia, Egypt and Poland. He says that his menu is a “window to his soul, his creativity”.

You get, for example, pan-fried goose liver coated with thyme and honey, served with caramelised sour cherries and figs. Or, confit of duck leg on a bed of sautéed leek and black truffles. Or, maybe duck breast with apple and walnut salad.

Try another offering – pepper seared tuna with braised chicory, or tea-smoked prawn with chardonnay jelly, or oyster with keta caviar and sepia vinaigrette… and very much more. I have got to say that the pricing of all the dishes is reasonable for a five star and that Tom has much more up his culinary sleeve!

The sommelier, Emil Perdec, has an extensive wine cellar containing a worldwide selection of over 560 wines, including the very best from Croatia. There is also a private wine-tasting room.

The two-level spa fulfills the Istrian remit of ‘wellness’ with an extensive program of fitness and spa treatments… I loved the burnished gold mural in one spa area and the gold settee at the wellness centre entrance. Swarovski crystals adorn walls and other sections in an understated way and there is a separate cosmetic shop. And if you want a preview, just ask Maistra to send you a copy of their latest magazine.

Maistra Hotels
Maistra owns a number of luxury hotels and resorts in Croatia, and the company has been awarded prestigious awards by large travel operators, Thomson Holidays (of the TUI Group) and Neckerman. One of its hotels, the Eden, has won the gold award nine times. Croatian tourism has also awarded the group awards for its tourism efforts and modern approach to the industry. Maistra’s three star hotels also won awards, as did its four star Hotel Istra on St Andrew island, said to be the best four-star in the Adriatic.
© Barry Napier


 Barry Napier
Hotel/Travel Journalist &
Tourism Consultant

Monte Mulini

Maistra Ltd:

Also See: Porto Mariccio - The Development of Luxury on the West Coast of Istria, Croatia; A Kempinski Hotel and a Nicklaus Golf Course at Center of Development / February 2007

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