The gal wandered into breakfast at the tall, pillared THEblvd restaurant at Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills, a Four Seasons Hotel, and instantly fell in love with the menu cover. It makes you smile. The ambience makes you happy, soft music, lots of good newspapers, good quick coffee and choice that includes Oh-hay, black truffled scrambled duck eggs with fruit and nut bread or, somewhat simpler, a ‘bed and breakfast menu’ that suggests ‘a fluffy pillow’, namely pancakes with berries. Coffee, by the way, comes in big half-pint-sized handless ceramic pots.
There is also enticement to eat upstairs in your room, especially if it is fabulous end-suite 1407, looking out, over its balconies, to Century City. The room service menu is another photogenic gem. The two fronts of the folder close to show a Pretty Woman – yes, here we go again, the 395-room hotel has cleverly used the Julia Roberts theme to advantage. I see that I could watch that view from my balcony while drinking a Pretty Woman cocktail, namely Absolut vodka, St Germain elderflower liqueur, and cranberry and lime juices. No, I will wait for a glass of Schug Pinot Noir 2012 Carneros downstairs.
The Beverly Wilshire is good on brands, by the way. Wolfgang Puck runs a leased-out CUT steakhouse tucked behind the absolutely agreeable THEblvd. The spa, which is world-class, has Natura Bissé – try a Diamond Infusion face job – and Kate Somerville skincare. Hair is by Lea Journo, who does Jennifer Aniston. The outdoor pool is apparently modelled on Sophia Loren‘s. Look outside, or cross Wilshire, and you have every brand you can think of, including one of the biggest Louis Vuitton stores anywhere. It is Philipp Plein, a brand I do not know – turns out he is a would-be German lawyer, but be that as it may, it is his store actually stands out for today’s display, though the watches at several stores are pretty enticing too.
So many memories from this stately luxury grande dame of a hotel, which still manages to keep itself remarkably up to date. As GirlAhead followers know I have eaten caprese around the world but look at this unique version, atop a mozarella pannacotta. This pretty woman could eat it three meals a day.
Pretty Woman was released in 1990 and Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills, a Four Seasons Hotel, the luxury hotel where much of it took place, is making the most of that quarter century. Anyone can pay to pretend to be Julia Roberts and hole up in a Pretty Woman suite, have a Skinny Girl breakfast (poached eggs with country toast, spinach and grilled tomatoes), take a personalised shopper along Rodeo Drive – and why not, asks the gal, add in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce to take you to LA Opera, or the newly-opened Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts?
Beverly Hills is the gateway to Los Angeles, I am told, but I would actually add that Beverly Hills is the gateway to high style in the USA. Nowhere else has such an accumulation of designer cars, as seen here in the hotel’s drive-through entrance. How many driving through, by the way, know that set on the roadway’s cobbles are scarlet letters, ‘Vaya Con Dios’, go with God? In the main everyone in the area drives at snail’s pace, obviously mindful of the famed Beverly Hills Cops… The hotel has its own house-car service, driving you everywhere within a three-mile radius, but personally I love walking around as there is so much to see. Even this hotel has its own inhouse stores that are, well, glamorous.
Escada occupies the entire left hand corner of the Wilshire Boulevard, as you look at the hotel from outside, and to the right, set into a mostly-glass wall looking into THEblvd restaurant, are two double-sided vitrines, one for Rémy Martin and the other for Jason of Beverly Hills, who has a store within. He, Jason Arasheben, is a fine example of the great American Dream. While still in his second, sophomore, year at UCLA he found he had run up $28,000 on credit cards so he started selling trinkets for around $20. That has led to his current $20-million-a-year business, providing bespoke jewels for Mariah Carey, LeBron James, Rihanna and certain members of the Saudi royal family.
Yes, this is a fascinating luxury hotel. It hosted Alfre Woodard’s annual Piper-Heidsieck pre-Oscars dinner last weekend. At all times, it is ideal for the rich and famous and those who love creativity. I meet up with the GM, Ben Trodd, who tells me about so many innovations that my head is awhirl, and we take a photograph in the main lobby with Thomas Krooswijk, who currently heads food here. Ah FOOD, yes, even Pretty Woman has to eat…
Having already raved about the style of the luxury One Aldwych London hotel, the gal has another unique feature to share. Stay here and you can take a truly customized walk with the divine Sophie Campbell – it is worth the cost, ten times over, as you feel as if you have gained a degree in local history in whatever time you specify. All 255 employees of the 105-room hotel have done an hour-long Sophie Saunter and honestly, after even only 30 minutes you realise how much you never knew. This is a walk that any keen travellers can book, and the time, and the interest, will be exactly customised. Interested in theatre or make-up history? Sophie will do it, for Covent Garden, the locale here, or the whole of London or whatever.
It was bitterly cold and I was wearing throw-away socks as gloves, one blue sock from a British Airways flight and one black sock that My Man had thrown out. We had one hour, so we headed for Covent Garden, the tourist magnet that today has the Royal Opera House and top theatres, St Paul’s Church (the actors’ church), Balthazar and other world-class restaurants, and 180 tiptop-brand stores, including the ABCs of Apple, Bulgari, Chanel, going on through Dior. But oh its past. It had a convent (coNvent) in a garden, was to be designed for the Earl of Bedford by Inigo Jones, went on to become a hub of prostitution, fell into the mire but was later resuscitated.
Sophie, perhaps because of the cold – though, being English stiff-upper-lip, she had swum outside this morning – walks at breakneck speed, which suits me. We dive down small alleyways, to see Neals Yard, home of what is now the world-wide Neal’s Yard organic health remedies emporia. Down another alleyway we get to the Lamb & Flag pub, with its Dryden’s Bar. This pub was once called the Bucket of Blood because men used to fight here and the poet Dryden had an all-out brawl with a member of the landed gentry. We get to Seven Dials, which a man called Neal built, originally intending to have six roads converging in a roundabout-circus but he paid for it with a lottery and got so much income he put in another, seventh, radial road, although the central, 30-foot high, sundial still only has six facets.
We saw the global headquarters of the Masons in the distance, and looked at Bow Street Magistrates Court, where Oscar Wilde and others heard their fate. Because of the theatres, there are many make-up shops, heirs of theatrical maquillage, and also ballet supply stores. Nearby is a charming lifesize bronze statue of a ballerina, in front of red telephone boxes – as designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Waterloo Bridge that I look out at from room 210 in the luxury hotel whose warmth I shall quickly return to, One Aldwych London. I am learning more every minute. I love the still-working gas-fuelled street lamps in Mercer Street, where buildings have mermaids above the door to remember the fact that the mercers, who sold English long-yarn wool, were so rich that their livery company is still, to this day, the most affluent of all 180 Worshipful Companies. And on and on, at lightning speed. Thanks, Sophie Campbell, for sharing your erudition and thank you, One Aldwych, for so cleverly putting such bespoke tours in front of your travelling customers.