The theme of what makes a luxury hotel can run for ever. This is a question that has so many answers that you never come to an end, or a satisfactory conclusion. One essential element, however, is fun. Think of some of the most popular hotels in the world, say The Carlyle in New York, and you might well find Woody Allen jamming with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band. That hotel is owned by the Cheng family out of Hong Kong, and they also happen to own Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills, a Four Seasons Hotel. And, says the gal (after an absence of far too many years), this is one of the most fun hotels imaginable. At the Wilshire entrance there is an Avakian store (Paris Hilton loves its jewellery – when she wore a $500,000 piece at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, it sold out in weeks). Yes, this is fun. Look at the dinner menu, shown…
It does not look fun, from outside. The main block, on Wilshire Boulevard at its junction with Rodeo Drive, was built 1928 by Walter McCary for the then-enormous sum of $4 million. That is now the Wilshire Wing. Separated by a cobblestone driveway, behind you now have the 1971 Beverly Wing, which means a total of 395 rooms. It all looks pretty impressive – but FUN? Actually there is some fun outside. Chairs and Bordeaux heat-lamps on the Wilshire pavement allow smokers, and people-viewers, to sit out there year-round, and they do.
The higher you go, the better the view. The ultimate is suite 1407, which is lots of fun. For a start, L-shaped outside balconies allow you to look right across Beverly Hills and when the sky shows aircraft vapour trails you have art on a blue backgound. Inside the suite you have Matisse-type collages, a reminder that this is essentially a near-century-old structure, but with enough fresh yellow tulips to decorate a Dutch embassy and Alain Milliat fruit drinks that must represent a sizeable proportion of France’s non-alcoholic beverage exports.
Like most people here, I am attracted by the location – wow, all those Rodeo Drive shops (and the hotel’s fabulous concierges can get some of them opened out of hours). The concierges’ own website, by the way, gives so many to-do suggestions, like hiking and museum visiting and heading to the Apple store in The Grove, that I want to stay on, much longer. I love the ogee-shaped second-floor outdoor pool first thing, before too many people arrive (the two-floor gym overlooks this, and the adjacent outdoor café). I should think about joining Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt in having my hair cut at Lea Journo, the other side of the pool, but instead I head for the spa, which offers, on its extensive menu, Kate Somerville face re-dos. Whom do I want to look like? Julia Roberts? This was, after all, where Pretty Woman, with Richard Gere, was partly filmed in 1990.
I head for some more art, like the plates stacked up at the entrance to CUT. Yes, here we have the original CUT-in-a-hotel – it was later copied in London, at The Dorchester Collection’s 45 Park Lane. This restaurant here, designed by Richard Meier, who did the Getty Center, is so popular it is hard to get a table. They have even had to open an extension, Side Bar, for somewhat simpler dishes. Eat in the main CUT and you sensibly have some Eames chairs that enable you to swivel to celeb-watch. David and Victoria Beckham used to be regulars here, before he defected to Paris (what did she eat, a lettuce leaf?). I like getting into the restaurant out of hours, to admire the stunning art, chosen by Wolfgang Puck’s wife Gelila Assefa. There is a drag queen by John Baldessari, and many of the photos are from Studio 54 archives.
It is just as much fun dining, any time of day, in The Blvd (short for Boulevard), a tall, columned and panelled French brasserie that leads off the main lobby. There is a sports bar, with counter, in one corner. You can look at the menu but to be true Beverly Hills you design whatever it is you wish to eat. Say you want the salmon, but not their way. They will do it, and brilliantly, your way (leave space for at least a scoop of the fromage blanc sorbet). At breakfast, coffee comes in half-pint china mugs, no handles, and the butter is real, not that ghastly whipped travesty that is the American norm. No, this is real food. Breads include maximum- rather than multi-grain, preserves are Alain Milliat again. Oh, and you can choose London Bridges if you want the full-Monty fry-up, or a Morning Cure of cold cuts, including a hot coppa, which I now know is cured pork shoulder. Learn something every day in the university of luxury hotel study, gal.