December 7, 2023
The Carlin brings a European-influenced restaurant-with-rooms concept to Breckenridge.
The Preserved Trio at The Carlin features pastrami sturgeon, beet-cured salmon and kippered steelhead, best paired with a glass of chablis. PHOTO BY TREY MULLEN
Raw Creative designed The Carlin’s 80-seat open-kitchen restaurant. PHOTO BY TREY MULLEN
As an American Fis Masters Cup ski racer, Phillips Armstrong has traveled the globe. “The concept to do a restaurant with rooms was inspired by my time in Europe,” he says. “As a restaurateur, I would always seek out great dining experiences. Every restaurant I stumbled into just happened to have a few rooms upstairs.”
iFurnish designed the inn rooms, drawing heavily on reclaimed wood. PHOTO BY TREY MULLEN
Armstrong is the founder of Destination Hospitality, the restaurant group that launched The Carlin (thecarlinbreckenridge.com) in Breckenridge last summer. The company spent $6 million to fully renovate a three-story house on North Main that was built in 1980. They took it down to the studs, added an elevator and brought in interior designers to re-imagine the space.
This fall, my husband and I spent a delightful two nights in the hotel’s Royal Tiger suite (each room is named for a local mine). When we settled into our room, we found two corked glass bottles filled with batch cocktails, including a Vesper martini crafted downstairs, dated and hand-labeled “By Amber.” We sat on our private deck, sipping our drinks, with sweeping views of the ski area’s slopes.
Tavern Underground is the spot for an after-hours whisky drink. PHOTO BY TREY MULLEN
Moments before our 7 p.m. reservation, we walked downstairs to The Carlin restaurant, which features a raw oyster bar and an open kitchen with a wood-burning Beech oven. Breckenridge has a reputation as a burger and steak kind of ski town, so having a raw bar as the restaurant’s centerpiece is a bold move. “People have this misconception that you can’t get fresh fish in the mountains,” Armstrong says. But chef Zach Brace has built relationships directly with coastal oyster farmers, who ship shellfish to The Carlin every few days—Malpeque PEIs and Nahcottas from Washington. Along with the oysters, our waiter delivered a bottle of housemade hot sauce so precious you dab it on with a dropper. While the menu is seafood-centric (the hamachi crudo with housemade dashi is divine), we took note of the “cut of the day,” which rotates proteins like bison and steak into the menu. The lamb chop with golden beets was fork tender, cooked to perfection in the wood-burning oven.
Oysters are flown in direct from coastal farmers. PHOTO BY TREY MULLEN
The next night, after ambling around Breck’s main street, we headed downstairs, passing through a heavy blue door to The Carlin’s Tavern Underground, a sophisticated subterranean speakeasy accented in wood and leather. Amber Martinez, a Colorado native and certified sommelier, was behind the bar, deftly conjuring whiskey-forward craft cocktails in cut crystal glasses. I ordered the Vieux Carré, a boozy mix of rye, vermouth and brandy served over a single stamped ice cube. We shared a few small plates, including dynamite shrimp with naam jim aioli, a dish that is not to be missed.
After our nightcap, we headed upstairs. On the third floor, the four luxury suites feature vaulted ceilings, bay windows, reclaimed wood, intentional lighting and a Swiss chalet vibe. Room amenities include Patagonia dog beds, Gaiam cork yoga mats and loaner day packs from Topo Designs. You’ll find Frette linens on the beds and CO Bigelow soaps in the powder room. “I think the little touches that we obsess over is what makes us noticeably different,” Armstrong says. “When you pull a door handle or touch a sink faucet, you get that reassuring sense of quality.”