The fire alarm is going off in the Mitato al la carte restaurant at The Royal Senses Resort & Spa in Crete, but no one is worried. It’s been set off by a slightly larger than usual puff of smoke that’s just been released from the traditional Cretan antikristo grill at the heart of the eatery and it’s a sign that the salted lamb that’s cooking over open flames there is especially juicy tonight. The sound quickly stops, the musician playing the Cretan lyra in the corner plucks a few chords to mimic the noise, the diners laugh, and everyone returns to eating in the golden glow of the restaurant’s lighting. I discover during my stay that the antikristo restaurant is just one of several USPs at this brand-new Hilton. It opened in June in a sheep-strewn swathe of countryside in the centre of Crete’s north coast and its designers have gone to extra lengths to impress. The hotel’s funicular is another talking point. This 178-room resort trickles down a hillside and the main way to get from the top to the bottom is on a 100-metre long cable railway. The sea-view pool area is also something to write home about. Its two infinity pools are landing-strip long and surrounded by a dizzying selection of Bali beds and loungers with crash-mat-thick mattresses. Then there’s the spa. Pooling out for 1,000 square metres, it consists of an outdoor pool terrace and an indoor hydrotherapy centre. I have a Cretan raki and olive oil massage here with an accomplished masseuse called Jenny that leave my muscles soft as a chamois cloth. The local-twist present in my spa treatment can be found all over the hotel. All terracottas, stone, wood, rattan and rope, the décor of both my Deluxe Room and the shared areas reflects the earthiness of the hotel’s hillside setting. I discover that much of the furniture, light fixtures, ceramics and artwork have been sourced from Cretan artisans, too. The food in the buffet restaurant and lunchtime village square-style eatery, Platia, is also allegiantly Cretan. Think dishes like dakos – Crete’s answer to bruschetta – and Cretan-themed pizza with feta. Nowhere is the Cretan influence more present than in the hotel’s second a la carte restaurant, Cretamos, though. Some of the dishes on the menu, like petimezi-glazed pork, date back to Byzantine times. However, the talented chefs Stelios and Moses give them a 21st-century rebirth, with elements like infused oils, savoury popcorns and flavoured crumbs. I personally can’t resist the slightly more modern beef fillet with activated carbon, pickled apple and parsnip puree that is served in a portion as pleasing as the presentation. If the thought of being stuck on a hillside puts you off this place, don’t worry. The hotel has a wow-worthy newly renovated sister resort called The Royal Blue that’s less than 300 metres away and right on the water’s edge. Free shuttle buses run between the two hotels every half hour. Royal Senses guests can make full use of the facilities at Royal Blue and they should – I certainly do. The hotel’s statement saltwater pool is worth a visit in itself. Its lake sized, deep enough to sink a double-decker bus, and you can hear the waves crashing a few feet away as you swim. I swim in here until my fingertips crimp. The adults-only sea-view bar, with its whitewashed terrace and little garden with wooden swing seats, is another excuse to stop by. I sit here one evening with a cold glass of Cretan Moschato Spinas white wine and watch as the sunset makes the sky blush then blacken. Then there’s the hotel’s beach. A protective manmade arm of rocks wraps itself around the sand here to make swimming safe and the Bali beds and loungers come with buttons to press for waiter service. I’m always a bit ginger about pushing buttons like this, worried about looking lazy. There’s no judgement from the staff at Royal Blue, though. Every member of the team at this hotel has a genuine smile. They are Cretan hospitality personified. The rooms, with their lullaby-soothing white and pebble colour schemes, are special, too and I’d recommend booking a twin-centre trip that includes both hotels so you can experience the very intentional yin and yang of the two. It’s also worth coming down here for an additional spa treatment. As with The Royal Senses treatment menu, the therapies reflect the hotel’s setting. The hot seashell massage leaves me as floppy as an unmanned marionette.