Beverly Hills like a local
When you’ve had your fill of Hollywood’s headline sights, head west for a flavour of the Beverly Hills lifestyle. Home to just 35,000, this glittery city within a city, famous for having its own police force, is impeccably manicured. I love strolling through the palm-fringed streets, where the grass berms are clipped to precision, and where a discreet network of service lanes between the vast ranks of trophy houses and movie star mansions eliminates the need to wheel your rubbish out to the kerb. Yes, best appearances are everything in Beverly Hills.
Take the opportunity to venture next door to West Hollywood, where the playful street art lends itself to the Instagram age. Put yourself in the picture amongst the parade of snap-friendly murals draping oh-so trendy Melrose Ave. Stand outs include Paul Smith’s pink wall (8221 Melrose Ave) and the Made In LA mural at Cisco Home. (8025 Melrose Ave.)
But LA’s most instagrammed spot is the installation outside the LA County Museum of Art. (LACMA) Chris Burden’s Urban Light brings together 202 cast-iron antique street lamps from across California, which have been painstakingly restored. It has become a regular backdrop for many Hollywood scenes, including most recently, Lady Gaga strolling through in a billowy red dress, looking blood-suckingly menacing in the last season of American Horror Story.
LACMA is a renowned facility boasting more than 100,000 works dating from antiquity to the present day. To further your cultural fill, adjacent to the museum is the La Brea Tar Pits, a world famous Ice Age fossil excavation site. Natural asphalt has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years.
The tar is often covered with dust, leaves, or water. Over many centuries, the bones of animals that were trapped in the tar were preserved.
The George C. Page Museum is dedicated to researching the tar pits and displaying specimens from the animals that died there. The exhibits from 650 species include a tusk from a Columbian Mammoth to the tooth of a baby mouse. Synonymous with LA trendiness, Melrose Ave doesn’t just flourish in the arts, but in fashion and food. I particularly like the stretch of Melrose Ave east of Fairfax Ave, which serves up a vivid mix of indie boutiques, vintage stores, tattoo parlours and lively cafes.
For upscale tastes, head further west, where you’ll run into signature boutiques including Rebecca Minkoff, Vivienne Westwood and Ron Herman. But you’ll really need to hang on to your wallet for the ultimate glamour shopping shrine, Rodeo Drive and the Golden Triangle. It’s a shining reminder why 90210 is still the cachet zip code in the USA. Burberry, Gucci and Saint Laurent have all recently unveiled new or refreshed flagships on Rodeo Drive.
Ascend the stairs into the Italianesque quarter and admire the fine art destination Galerie Michael, while ogling the jewels at Tiffany & Co. Across the road on Wilshire Boulevard, check out the sweep of luxury retail titans that rub shoulders – Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus.
Overlooking fashionable Rodeo Drive, a dream spot to toast your day’s discoveries is to enjoy a cheeky cocktail and dinner at THE Blvd Restaurant and Lounge, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Yes, the hotel made famous by Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
The legacy lives on with the signature cocktail list headlined by The Gentleman and Pretty Woman. Both are vodka-based with cranberry juice, although The Gentleman includes Captain Morgan passionfruit and jalapeno infused Ulitmat vodka. Splendid mixology! Chic and sophisticated, the restaurant’s lofty crystal chandeliered ceiling and large windows complete the sense of grandeur.
The beautiful 18-foot illuminated onyx bar & backlit wine display filled with 1000 bottles is pure art. For dinner, I plumped for the Halibut with manchego & chorizo crust, organic polenta with fava beans, cured tomato, baby arugula and sauce vierge. It was spectacular and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the relatively inexpensive prices. Mains start at $25. What way, what a place to salute the entertainment capital of the world.
The following night, I headed to The Peninsula Beverly Hills. Old world Hollywood charm meets sophisticated contemporary cuisine at the recently refreshed restaurant, The Belvedere. It’s a power lunch favourite, but I plumped for dinner which is a graceful, low-key affair. Monkfish Osso Bucco was my entrée, served with charred Spanish Octupus, Confit Potato and Tanaka.
I couldn’t resist the chance to devour a plate of freshly shucked Pacific and Atlantic Oysters. (The Atlantic boys are definitely bigger.) For my main, I plumped for the 28 Day Dry Aged Bone-in-Rib with Cippolini Onions. It was simply divine. Beautifully presented fresh and flavourful cuisine, and you’ll be royally treated by the charismatic, chatty restaurant staff. It’s a class act.
Hip, high-end and luxuriating in a primo location, AKA Beverly Hills delivers an extraordinary accommodation experience. Occupying an entire block of Crescent Drive, from the moment I walked through the main doors of this chic and sleek property, I felt as if I was living the dream in Beverly Hills. Pitched at long-stay leisure and business travellers, the property is absolutely dedicated to delivering a residential-style experience.
Situated at the Wilshire Boulevard end of Crescent Drive, you’re in the lap of the best of Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive and the Golden Triangle is a very easy, short walk away. Blending contemporary style with impeccable hospitality, you’ll relish the supreme sense of comfort and spaciousness in your fully appointed luxury suite.
No boxy, cramped hotel rooms here – it’s the ultimate home away from home. All suites have fully equipped kitchens where you can channel Wolfgang Puck and whip up your own meal. Enjoy Cable TV with HBO channels in your air-conditioned abode. Suites are fully furnished with elegant dining tables, a washer and tumble dryer and ensuite bathrooms with top-end toiletries.
Pop down to the lobby in the morning for complimentary freshly brewed coffee and tea. The property has just launched its cutting edge fitness centre with next-generation Precor equipment while the Flex Room is ideal for yoga and massages. Business travellers will be impressed by the fully equipped, tech-loaded 24 Hour Business Centre. Another fabulous touch is the in-house 20-seat cinema, fitted out with oversized leather reclining seats, where you can watch a film of your choice.
My favourite space is definitely the terrace lounge, an al fresco elevated affair, clad in palm trees and cosy outdoor fire pits. It’s the perfect spot for a cheeky sundowner, as the twinkling lights of Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood sign spangle the skyline. Beverly Hills’ legendary Spago, from master chef Wolfgang Puck, is right next door. Spago’s recently recreated menu is winning plenty of accolades.
Whether you wish to dine in the restaurant or in-suite, Spago’s culinary experience is a must. They’ve recently introduced a small plates menu adding to the high-end conviviality. For fuss-free fare, their pizzas and pastas are a massive hit. But I highly recommend the Steamed Atlantic Salmon “Hong Kong” style with Jasmine Rice and Stir-Fried Bok Choy. Savouring cuisine from Spago while staying at AKA? Now that’s really living like a local. AKA Beverly Hills is a proud member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
By Mike Yardley.