Destination: California: Los Angeles
This nearly eighty-year-old landmark, now a Four Seasons property, emerged from a $35 million extreme makeover in the fall of 2006 not only looking younger and refreshed but with real style. That’s only fitting, since it’s situated at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills’ shopping headquarters. Though the original Italian Renaissance–style lobby is, thankfully, intact, just about everything else looks different. The most obvious change is the arrival of Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s new steakhouse, open for dinner only. On nights when he’s not at another of his far-flung restaurants, the famous chef can be spotted walking the block and a half between this place and his flagship, Spago. Envisioned in a minimal style by Richard Meier (of Getty Center fame), Cut boasts Eames swivel chairs, an open kitchen and sky-high prices, including $160 for eight ounces of Wagyu beef from Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan; sauces are extra, at $2. It’s also one of the toughest reservations around unless your name is TomKat, Eddie Murphy or Jennifer Aniston. Sidebar, the more accessible lounge, serves Puck appetizers, including three mini Kobe sliders on brioche buns ($20). Also new is a stunning 8,500-square-foot spa that manages to look expensive and Zen at the same time, with walnut, etched-glass, alabaster and limestone details. Before you reach the ice fountain or the aromatherapy-crystal steam room, you pass a massive amethyst geode poised in front of a water wall of changing colors. If you book four or more hours of Personalized Time, putting yourself in the hands of a therapist who guides you through the menu of treatments and rituals, lunch is on the house.
The other eye-popper is the transformed rooftop pool area, serene and modern, with two Moroccan beds and six new cabanas (complete with flat-screen TV, iPod and two fifteen-minute foot massages for the $175 weekday, $250 weekend daily rental fee). A state-of-the-art gym with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks the pool area. Rooms in the original Wilshire Wing have been completely overhauled and now have all-marble bathrooms that include flat-screen TVs and furniture that is surprisingly au courant. Accommodations across the way in the newer Beverly Wing were updated two years ago and are a tad less spiffy, but their larger windows bathe the rooms in sunshine. Rooms from $525.
Montage Beverly Hills
Entrances in LA are closely observed, and when the Montage Beverly Hills made its debut on the scene in 2008, it did so with a dramatic flourish. Everything at the resort is done on a grand scale, from the no-expense-spared spa (a palatial 20,000 square feet) to the hand-painted ceilings in the public rooms, to the rooftop pool, which features arcing jets of water. The property’s Spanish Revival architecture, meant to evoke the 1920s, creates a dignified ambiance. Women may find the look slightly masculine (the earth-tone aesthetic extends to the coffee-colored bathrobes), but captains of industry will feel right at home. The 201 rooms and 55 suites are spacious and well-appointed, with overstuffed furniture and plenty of lavish touches. Even the smallest room (at 480 square feet) boasts a mosaic-tiled bathroom and a 42-inch flat-screen TV. My suite had Pratesi linens, a stocked wine rack in the living room and a shaving mirror inset into the wall of the marble shower. Under the leadership of managing director Ali Kasikci, formerly of the Peninsula Beverly Hills, the staff offers extravagant service. (When I got in my car, the valet offered to help me on with my seatbelt.)
The top coup may be the resort’s Golden Triangle location on North Canon Drive, just off of Wilshire. Although LA is not much of a walking city, this is one spot where you’ll feel inclined to embark by foot—perhaps to Rodeo Drive (a few blocks away) or simply to the newly opened Bouchon (just across the landscaped courtyard). But for a city resort, there is also plenty to do on site. The spa is so vast it is almost overwhelming. In addition to the 17 treatment rooms and the state-of-the-art fitness center, there are saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, Vichy showers, a Pilates and yoga studio and a full Kim Vo salon. Be sure to visit the coed relaxation area, which has a mineral pool and a stunning two-story, mosaic-tiled Moorish skylight. On-site restaurants include Parq, the fine-dining Muse, and the rooftop Conservatory Grill, which is a wonderful spot for breakfast or an alfresco lunch. Rooms from $450.
Peninsula Beverly Hills
The white-uniformed pages—delivering faxes, walking dogs, fetching Starbucks—Chinese porcelains and objets d’art remind you of the hotel’s legendary Hong Kong provenance. The bend-over-backwards service and many public amenities also set the five-story, French-château style Peninsula apart, even though it’s a relative newcomer to the Beverly Hills scene, built from the ground up in 1991, a few blocks from Neiman Marcus.
Afternoon tea is served on hand-painted china in the lovely Living Room. On weekend nights from September through April, a dark, clubby bar buzzes with patrons and live jazz. And the formal Belvedere dining room is one of the few places people in L.A. actually “dress.” The best-kept secret is the alfresco Roof Garden restaurant, offering “Spaja” (low-cal Mex) cuisine and just regular burgers. Even though the Peninsula is primarily a business hotel, its sedate rooftop pool, snazzy cabanas with flat-screen TVs and Evian misters ($225 a day) and luxurious spa lend it a resort feel. Decorated with sea-blue glass tiles, a Venetian glass chandelier and African cork floors, the elegant spa offers every rubdown known to mankind, including a Precious Diamond Massage. What really takes your breath away is the weight room, done in marble. All the traditionally decorated, sunny guest rooms were redone in shades of aqua and light green within the last two years. If you check into a suite, the “aah” moment comes when you see the initial of your last name monogrammed on one of the bed’s Italian cotton pillowcases. Another aah: suite guests (with U.S. driver’s licenses) are offered complimentary use of a Lexus. The sixteen garden villas, including two two-story villas, have fireplaces (some also have Jacuzzis) and a residential atmosphere. Every bathroom is rose-colored marble. For further coddling, the hotel stores frequent guests’ luggage at no charge until their next visit. When they arrive, their clothes have been laundered and pressed and are waiting in the closet. Rooms from $495.
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