The global capital of glitz, glamour and all things celebrity, Los Angeles walks the knife-edge between modernity and tradition, trend and timelessness. In a constant state of reinvention, pockets of the city battle it out for the coveted, if ephemeral, It status. In early 2013, some clear victors are already emerging and proving why L.A. is a jet-setter’s ultimate evergreen.
After a multiyear facelift of epic proportions, the iconic Hotel Bel Air has revealed a stunning, modern incarnation of Hollywood Golden Age glamour as interpreted by famed designer Alexandra Champalimaud. While the architecture and 12 acres of verdant gardens surrounding the hotel remain familiar, the newly clean-lined rooms and suites are altars of haute living. Interior details, from the oversized bathrooms with heated limestone floors to the precisely matched curtains and throw pillows, merge unapologetic comfort with high style.
Overall, a stay at Hotel Bel Air reads like a “Choose Your Own Luxe Adventure” book. The prologue: deciding among 10 different design palettes and 21 distinct accommodation types. The narrative: a pastiche of ambles around Swan Lake, mingling with the international jet set in the Bar & Lounge while deciphering Norman Seeff’s celebrity photo murals, extended lunches on the alfresco terrace of Wolfgang Puck and a bit of bliss at the Spa by La Prairie in the hotel’s newly constructed spa wing.
Over in trendsetting West Hollywood, on the heels of its semi-centennial the storied Sunset Marquis has unveiled a $25 million upgrade. Following 50 successful years of hosting Hollywood’s who’s who in a clandestine enclave near the Sunset Strip, the hotel has expanded with the addition of 40 Mediterranean-inspired villas, ranging from 400 to 3,200 square feet. These tricked-out villas offer the best of both L.A. low-profiling and high-profiling.
Ensconced within the Victorian gardens of the Sunset Marquis complex, the villas are stumbling distance from WeHo’s hottest lounges, restaurants and bars, including the hotel’s farm-to-table French fusion eatery, Restaurant, and the wildly popular Bar 1200, anchored by the intoxicating “Cocktail Lab” think tank and the stage of countless renowned Hollywood music and film parties (and diva tantrums).
Sunset Marquis’ boutique spa eschews large common spaces in favor of grandiose treatment rooms, lined with iridescent-tiled walls and equipped with massage beds by Porsche. Don’t be surprised to bump into a musical legend on property: The hotel’s recording facility, Nightbird Studios, has hosted everyone from Madonna to Aerosmith to Justin Timberlake.
WeHo also hosts L.A.’s most noteworthy additions to the restaurant and lounge scene. Headlining the neighborhood’s restaurant and bar-centric stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, Tortilla Republic combines authentic Mexican favorites with Tex-Mex delights in an avant-garde setting of dimly lit, tequila-lined glass shelves, rope chandeliers and star-shaped lanterns. The bar pushes the envelope of mixology—L.A.-style—with creations like the jalapeño margarita, the Beetarita and the cucumber lavender margarita. The food menu is equally interesting, with such offerings as a hibiscus flower enchilada and a lobster enchilada filled with shaved black truffle.
Next door to the Tortilla Republic, SUR is such a raging WeHo hotspot it has landed a reality television show. Owned by Lisa Vanderpump of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame and inspired by Lisa’s Asian travels, SUR and its easy-on-the eyes wait staff are the stars of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules. Those looking for a quieter, more predictable WeHo scene seek refuge in the Tower Bar at the Sunset Hotel, with its gimmick-free, classic steak-house menu of French and Italian influences and its exalted wine list.
Farther afield on the border with Beverly Hills, Peruvian Picca Cantina is the reality of your wildest globetrotting foodie fantasies (think Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations meets haute cuisine). Chef Ricardo Zarate, awarded Best New Chef in America by Food & Wine magazine in 2011, helms the kitchen, engineering more than 50 nibbles and a few dozen cocktails that perfectly capture the Peruvian food and cocktail revolution. These include everything from street eats to exotic dishes peppered with Peru’s undeniable Japanese influence. The menu includes traditional ceviches and tiraditos; anticuchos, or skewers, for the daring (gizzard, ox tongue or beef heart) and for less adventurous palates (black cod with crispy sweet potato); and hearty dishes like locro de quinoa, a quinoa pumpkin stew.
To cap off a weekend in L.A., there’s no better place on Sunday Funday than Circa 55 at the Beverly Hilton. Each week, patrons of Circa 55’s brunch live like true Hollywood VIPs, indulging in an endless glass of Champagne to wash down the 70-odd artisanal dishes crafted by Chef de Cuisine Zach Gochin and his team. Gochin’s food presentations are a decadent range of local California cuisine, Asian fusion, Mediterranean medleys and dessert delights, including a full spread for chocoholics. Come hungry, come fabulous and wear your cutest (loose fitting) daytime wear.