You’ve landed in LA either on holidays or to catch your break and move here. LA–the US in fact–is not known for its coffee so you’re in search of a good cup of coffee. Maybe you’ve lived in LA for five years and are still searching. Where to get the best coffee in LA? Just ask an Aussie. And Discover Los Angeles who put together a great round up of Aussie institutions. I shared it on my Facebook page but I thought it was time I did my little summary here for you.
The Great Aussie Invasion
The great Aussie invasion of LA is not a new thing, nor is it a phenomenon that’s going anywhere anytime soon. From Olivia Newton-John’s Koala Blue stores to G’day LA (now G’day USA) to the Hemsworth brothers (Mel Gibson before that) Australians have made their mark.
Doing the Rounds: where to get the best coffee in LA?
This Blog might seem cutting edge and up with the trends … well we are but we’re never first with the breaking news. It might have taken me a little while to support my fellow Aussies but thanks to a fellow Countryperson (shoutout to you Chris!) one weekend at a time we are carefully but surely doing the rounds of some great Aussie cafes and restaurants.
Long live Bluestone Lane and thank you for opening up in Studio City (although truth be told I would have preferred you open up in walking distance to me).
A small joint (place) with great coffee, welcoming smiles and lots of happy, beautiful people hanging around.
The Avo toast is great (of course) and the banana (on) toast was not at all what I expected (ie not banana toast) but so so yummy. The coffee is good and the Aussie style iced coffee is my absolute fave.
Avo Toast from Bluestone Lane Studio City
There’s also a location in Santa Monica and one in La Brea and a full-on cafe offering dinner now in Venice if you’re a tourist or live that way. Either way, good coffee = Bluestone Lane.
I love this place. In Australia we get coffee shops scattered on every second street corner all pumping out fabulous coffee–none of that Frappuccino stuff (well OK maybe now they are succumbing to culture blending and adding it to their menus). Little Ripper reminds me of said Aussie coffee shop (minus the Frappuccino–thankfully). And, a must on every Aussie coffee shop menu is the Babyccino (a cappuccino sans coffee–ie the froth) and the Little Ripper ones look like”little rippers”.
Little Ripper Coffee
Little Ripper has a loyal following and we’ll hope they’ll be here for many years to come.
Also love this place although my daughter and her friends have been here far more than I have. The vibe here is Aussie meets LA with healthy dishes and my favourite Aussie-inspired-Middle-East-influenced food. I had the Avo Toast with Halloumi and Dukka. The kale salad was also very yum and actually makes you like kale rather than hate it.
Avocado, Halloumi & Dukka Toast at Bondi Harvest
Tucked away in a groovy part of Santa Monica parking can be tough on the weekends but it’s worth the trip imho (in my humble opinion).
This place reminded me of growing up with the kids in Sydney. Every weekend we’d go out for breakfast with equal parts of joy and stress.
Pollen reminds me of some of the neighbourhood eating establishments we’d frequent during this time. Set in a fabulously hipster part of LA Pollen has a great menu that is nicely tweaked to be LA friendly without drawing gasps of horror from us Aussie expats.
Brunch is great but I want to come back for Happy Hour (Thursday to Sunday).
There are huge differences between eating out in America compared to Australia. And it will pay you, both as an Australian in the US and as an American in Australia, to learn what those differences are in order to enjoy a fun night out. Otherwise you might just do your head in.
Five differences in dining out in America compared to Australia
1. Time limit
It’s time for a catch up with friends so you pick a date and a venue (hopefully that hip new restaurant that’s all the buzz) and you head out. That’s about where the similarities between eating out in Australia compared to America ends.
In America eating out is on a time limit. The time restraints are both cultural and the way restaurants work here.
In Australia the time limit is how long you want to hang out with your mates enjoying the food, wine & company.
Here’s where the Americans have got spot on. Greet the guests, serve water, take drink orders then come back for food orders. There’s nothing worse than being without a drink. Nothing.
Sometimes in Australia this little detail can often be overlooked. Once when we were home we were seated at a restaurant for lunch and it took ages to get menus, drinks or even waters. We were all a bit antsy. This is the exception though. Usually drink orders will be taken and served and the waiter will give you time to catch up before bothering you again. I prefer it this way–unless I’m hungry of course! But I have to have a drink in my hand–the “event” doesn’t start until you have a drink in your hand.
This approach makes a huge difference to the happiness of those dining. When Americans don’t get served straight away–even if it’s just a water serving–they start to get antsy. They see it as bad service because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to expect. And rightly so.
Often us Aussies feel a bit rushed when orders are taken too quickly–we like to settle in and take our time. Except of course for drinks–can’t express the importance of drinks!
And speaking of service. The thing that really gets Australian’s goats is the fact that servers or bus people here take your plates away when your mate hasn’t finished eating. That’s right, if one person has finished their plate is gone leaving you to continue eating. We find that so rude (um, manners please) but I’m sure my fellow Americans don’t even notice it.
To an Australian there’s nothing worse than ordering your meal and the meal coming out five or so minutes later. What the …? We’re just settling in. Conversation is now moving from “Hi how are you?” to “What are you having?” to “It’s time to catch up on the goss”. No, take that meal back and wait until I’ve had a chance to shift conversation gears.
Conversely, Americans are generally happy with the pace.
4. The Bill & Tipping
You’re done with the main meal, you push your plate aside, order another bottle of wine and it’s really time to shift conversation to another gear. There’s no more eating to worry about, you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and you’re relaxed.
In America the waiter comes up to your table and asks if there’s anything else you need. “No thank you,” you reply, lucky to make eye contact you’re deeply engrossed in conversation. Within minutes the bill comes. Wait, what?
In Australia it’s the same scenario except the bit about the bill. Getting the bill is a process: you have to ask for it.
When the bill doesn’t come American start to get antsy again. They’ve been conditioned that the bill comes to the table with a “No rush” dropped by the waiter (yeah right bullshit!) And that’s fine. But the exact same scenario and you’ve pissed the Aussies off.
And, tipping. You might have caught the guest post from a fellow Aussie Blogger based in San Fran on what to tip here when (& how much). In Australia (for you Americans planning holidays–or living there) we’re talking around 10% of the bill, at a cafe it might only be a case of rounding the bill up. Our minimum wage isn’t shit like yours so you don’t need to actually pay their salary.
5. Lingering–especially for lunch
Therein lies the very important difference number five: the linger. This is possibly the most important step in Aussies eating out 101. You’re too full for dessert at the moment but that’s not to say you won’t have room in 10 minutes. Maybe more. Depends on the company and how the wine is going down. The most important thing is the end of the meal is not the cue to go home like it is for Americans.
No, in America, even if the bill doesn’t come straight away service just … well … stops. The waiter is nowhere to be seen and you’re not asked if you want or need anything more.
And if it’s lunch–especially a nice long Sunday lunch–then we’re talking another hour at least. Australians ideal scenario; the Americans not so much–especially in LA!
I miss those long lunches so much!
Like everything in life the lines are blurring. In many Australian restaurants it’s getting harder to spend three or more hours at a table for dinner. Australian restaurant owners are trying to get multiple sittings from their nights too. In many cases restaurants are only offering two sittings: 6:00 and 8:30pm. Others stagger them just the same as they do here in LA. I get it, restaurants need to make money–it’s a hard business with high overheads. But I hope our culture stays the same as I love that laid back, casual dining feel, it’s good for the soul.
But you’ll still have to ask for the bill, and service continues and you still get some time to order another bottle of wine. Or a nightcap.
What’s dining out like in your part of the world? Share your comments either on Facebook or below.
xx It Started in LA xx
Edited 7/12/17 to add feedback from other Australians in LA/USA
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People complain about coming to the US and getting sick of eating hamburgers, hot dogs, salads with mayo all over them and fries, fries, fries. That’s not America’s fault people: it’s yours. You can’t use that excuse here in LA. The only excuse you have is ignorance—of not knowing where to go. But thanks to Google and blogs like mine you can find great restaurants to eat and with a bit of planning ahead of time you can check out some of LA’s great dining spots.
(Don’t forget to tip between 18-20% though—10% or rounding up the bill doesn’t cut it here! Blog post to follow).
Let’s start with the fabulously located The Church Key.
It’s on W Sunset in West Hollywood right amongst some of the popular hotels.
Firstly you’ll thank me the minute you walk in as the décor is LA hip. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar and take advantage of the tapas/dim sum-style carts that wheel around specials with anything from tuna to mini shepherd’s pies and samosas to popcorn to deep-fried & breaded bacon!!! (I know sounds kinda too much but nothing in this place was terrible so I imagine it was anything but, still we weren’t game to try!).
We had friends in town over the weekend (yes again!) and the whole family loved being out and about showing them “our LA”.
Like me when I first came to LA many people who holiday here are a little nonchalant about it. LA is where most of us fly into as a gateway to US and with its theme parks and Hollywood it’s on the “must-however-reluctantly-do” bucket list. As a tourist you come in, may or may not rent a car, do the tourist stuff then go again. If you stay at Disneyland or Hollywood it’s hard to get a sense of what LA is really all about. When I first came to LA we stayed in Westwood on Wilshire Boulevard. It was central but without a car it was useless and definitely impossible to get a vibe read on LA.
I hopped on that plane, looked at my boyfriend at the time (who actually was Mr H!) and said in all seriousness, “Been there, done that, never coming back.”
Never say never.
On Sunday my friend’s 16-year-old daughter announces, “I love LA”. Sure, what’s not to love? We’re sitting in the uber trendy Urth Cafe (in the stifling heat might I add–only in LA are you complaining about a heat wave in mid September), had a great dinner the night before at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants, mixed it up with the groovy people in Venice and hung out with the trendy beach crowd in Malibu.
Oh, and at dinner we saw Joel Madden, Rebel Wilson, Emmy Rossini and Andrew Dice Clay. All walked in and out separately. We even witnessed a couple of back-door exits. How very Hollywood.
The gorgeous Emmy Rossum
It’s true of any city but especially in LA it’s pretty bloody cool to do it with someone who knows their way around.
Each time people come we (obviously) tailor their visit and do the things that interest them. So, I got to thinking about the different agendas and thought I’d share them with you.
Here is LA in a day, a weekend, a week or a month.
LA in a Day
God no, don’t do it to yourself. There is too much to do in LA to limit your time to a day but if you absolutely have to, here goes.
Get in, check into your hotel then get the flock out and about. If it’s shopping you’re after head to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, The Grove or Century City Mall–depending on where you’re staying. They are all close to the action and you’ll use your time wisely. Plus there are good eating options so you can stay safely in the one spot.
Bring your purchases home, freshen up and get ready for drinks and dinner. Don’t waste your time at American chain restaurants, plan in advance (ie book before you get here) and dine at a nice LA restaurant. If you’re after ideas check out my Pinterest board on LA Dining. It needn’t be over-the-top expensive but it can be a good experience.
For drinks try Cecconi’s on Melrose. It has a 4-7 menu where from 4:00 to 7:00 they serve nibbles that cost between $4 and $7 each; match it with drinks, take in the ambiance and you’ve got a great afternoon unwinding.
I’ve decided to update this post as I had a friend that I used to work with come into town wanting to know what to do with his 24 hours in LA. The “brief” was he wanted to stay close to LAX and be able to walk around.
There are very few areas where you can walk around LA and even when you can walk you don’t. It’s also hard when you’re lugging luggage around to get around town. Anyway, here are two approaches as to what to do in LA in a day.
Whatever you do don’t make the mistake my mate made and stay on the Boardwalk at Venice and get in late at night. And expect to feel safe. Venice is as grungy as it is groovy and as scary as it is a place to be seen. You want to stay in neighbouring Santa Monica and explore Venice by day.
Start with brunch in either Santa Monica or Venice. I’d opt for brunch at Gjelina on Abbot-Kinney in Venice. It’s great people watching, has good food and most importantly (for Australians) good coffee.
Now it’s time to walk off that yummy food and check out Venice. I’d do a spot of shopping in Abbot-Kinney then head over to check out the canals. It’s not Venice Venice but it’s serene and not something you’d expect to see in LA.
Great. Done. Tick. Now for what Venice is renowned for: the Boardwalk and Muscle Beach. You’ve got to do it. My daughter hates it and my son is used to it. There’s a lot happening, it smells of weed but it is interesting. Epitomising LA, it’s like a show put on for the benefit of the tourists. Except these people are entertaining you for the sport it.
There’s always something crazy that happens. One time we were there we saw a woman chase her (I guess) sometime boyfriend all the way down the boardwalk hitting him one minute and yelling at him the next. She would chase him a few metres down the boardwalk, hit him then yell at him to leave her alone. The repeat it. She even went to the policemen begging them to get him to leave her alone all the while yelling so everyone around her could hear her. In this case I had to feel sorry for the guy who really was trying to stay away from her. Ahhh Venice …
Walk towards Santa Monica and watch the boardwalk change. Here you can soak in the pier, take some pics, see the end of Route 66 and grab a churro (if you haven’t already).
If you’ve got a bit of shopping to do, head inland and check out Third Street Promenade.
After all that walking and shopping you’re probably ready for a drink or a bite to eat. There are lots of places to eat in Santa Monica, ever-changing and too many to mention here. That’s where my Pinterest board comes in handy. Check it out.
When I’ve got friends here I like to go to Shutters–on the boardwalk and always open to take you. If it’s dinner you’re after I love Chinois on Main Street. You’ll need to book and don’t forget they eat early in LA so if you’re going at 5:30 or 6:00 thinking you’re beating the rush think again–that is rush time.
If you’re like my friend, and you’ve got a 10:00(ish) flight then it’s time to scoot back, pick up your bags and head to the airport. There’s so much more to do but after that you should have a better feel for LA and, unlike me when I first came to visit, will actually like it.
If West Hollywood is more your thing I highly recommend it–there are heaps of cool hotels, bars, restaurants and uber cool shopping.
Start your day with brunch at Urth Caffe. Like I said before, it’s a good place to people watch and, if you’re lucky, spot a celeb or two. For more people watching, window shopping and real shopping keep heading down Melrose and watch it change landscape and vibe as you travel down–from upmarket to designer funk to grunge.
If you’re a Kardashian fan stop in at Dash at 8420 Melrose Ave. And for uber cool and a little taste of LA stop in at Fred Segal at 8100 Melrose Ave (be sure to look out for the paparazzi stalking the carpark). There are lots of boutiques inside and be sure to check out Ron Robinson–just love it.
If you’re into shopping, head into Hollywood and pre-book yourself a tour of the Paramount lot. I love the Paramount lot. It’s one of the oldest in Hollywood and also one of the few major studios actually in Hollywood. Personal tours run all day.
I’ve already suggested drinks at Cecconi’s and I reckon it’s a must do. By now it might be time to head back to the hotel, grab your bags and hot-foot it to the airport.
If you want to create your own itinerary you should check out my Pinterest board: 24 Hours in LA for more inspiration.
LA in a weekend
It really depends where your priorities lie. My advice to you is to mix it up as much as you can: a spot of shopping, out at a funky restaurant, a stroll in West Hollywood and take in a Studio tour.
If you’ve got a car cruise down Rodeo Drive–mainly to check out the Bugatti Veyron. I prefer Beverly Drive (parallel) or Robertson and Melrose (but that’s also to avoid the tourists!). Also be sure to cruise Mulholland.
If you have kids (frankly even if you don’t) and you’re only here for the weekend I’d go to Universal Studios. It has the backlot tour plus rides and is a lot of fun. If you go when the park opens you can be out of there mid afternoon and still have time to do other stuff. We’ve got an annual pass, have been so many times we’ve run out of fingers and toes to count but still love it.
Here was our most recent three-day weekend with our friends:
Century City Mall
Beverly Hills cruise around
Drinks at home & dinner at our “local” in Beverly Glen, its position means you could see locals like Gene Simmons, Jon Voight, Mark Wahlberg, Eddie Murphy, Harry Hamlin & Lisa Rimma or Paris Hilton going about their normal lives
Bel Air & Beverly Hills cruise around ogling the houses.
Bearing in mind they’d done LA before so it was great not to “have” to do all the tourist stuff. We’d also never done the boys one way girls the other thing but it meant each of us got to do something we enjoyed and made for the whole LA experience.
LA in a week
That’s more like it: you can hang out, take it down to a cruise speed instead of full throttle.
Check out my must-do things in LA, that’ll give you a great variety of things to see and do. Here’s seven things for seven days.
Shop. LA is shopping. It’s pretty hard to come to LA and resist shopping. So don’t. And because you’re here for a week you can head out to the outlets or one of the Malls where you can knock yourself out with the choices available to you.
Tour Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills. Snoop/ gork/spy/have a sticky/check it out–say it how you like but if there’s one thing that many of my guests have in common (especially the girlies) and that’s checking out all the houses. There are some beauties. And if you really want a good snoop buy one of the Star Maps sold around the place. There’s a fat chance you’ll see anyone but it’s fun to see where they live/lived. Disclaimer: it’s pretty hard to see inside any if not all of the houses.
Do something cultural. There are actually plenty of cultural activities here in LA. One of the favourite places is to head is to the Getty. We’ve also got a great museums and galleries. We’re not all just about beaches and shopping you know.
Head down to Orange County. Try Newport Beach, Laguna or Huntington Beach. If you’re staying at Disneyland it’s not far to venture out for a while for a change of scenery. If you’re heading to Newport Beach be sure to grab an ice-cream from B Candy. Try the chocolate-covered potato chips and caramel ice-cream. Heaven.
Brave Disneyland. It depends on what sort of person you are but the first time we went we were dreading it but embraced it for all it is and had fun. You can do it in one day but to make it more enjoyable–rather than a race around the world so to speak–take two or even three days.
Spend a day in Santa Monica and Venice Beach. And I don’t just mean the boardwalks and pier. Venture up Main Street Santa Monica or the Third Street Promenade. Better still head up to the Montana Avenue area.
Venice Beach is a great spot. For far too long we thought of Venice as the boardwalk and muscle beach. Head to Abbot-Kinney and grab brunch, have a shop and soak in the atmosphere.
Head downtown. And I don’t just mean to the Staples Centre to see the Kings or Clippers/Lakers. In recent times LA has worked hard to lift the image of Downtown. There are great walking tours, groovy bars and cool things to do–none of which I have done. So, having told you to head downtown I’m going to too.
These are on top of the other suggestions so don’t forget Universal Studios or a Studio Tour–Paramount runs great tours in small groups.
When you’re eating out for a week you’re going to want some healthy options. Sushi in LA is great (once you know where to go) so take advantage of it. Also check out Lemonade and Urth Cafe for great food and healthy options. Four Seasons Beverly Hills also has healthy options at its Cabana Restaurant and Culina Restaurant.
If you’re looking for fast food you know California is renowned for In-N-Out Burger. Ask for the Carb-free version if you’re like many other LA-ers and watching your weight. Frankly if I’m going to have a burger splurge I like it the traditional way ;-). When you’re here for a week you’ve got time to try it.
LA in a month
OK, now we’re talking. I’m guessing if you’re spending a month in LA you’re here as a backpacker or maybe you’re here to sus out whether you can make the move to Hollywood and get discovered. Either way you’re going to want to hang out.
My top five places to hang out:
Venice Beach–anywhere on Abbot-Kinney
Malibu–because you can
Joan’s on Third or a well-situated Starbucks–you never know who’s going in and out or having a coffee.
West Hollywood (WeHo)–because you can.
One of my favourite sights is hunky spunky boys jogging along Sunset in WeHo (in the stifling heat) with no tops on. Think they’re looking for someone to discover them. In the meantime it’s a great perve.
When my friends were here for a few weeks (just short of a month) here was our bucket list. We got most of them done.
Walk of Fame
Santa Monica boardwalk & pier
Dash (on melrose)
Vintage shops & markets
La Brea Tar Pits
We never spend much time in Hollywood or the Walk of Fame. Some people are really into it but it’s hot and crowded and hassly. Get in, get some pics and get out again–there’s much more to LA than that!
Hope that helps. We’ve managed to turnaround all of our LA doubters into LA lovers. I hope you will love LA too by the time you leave. There’s really not much to hate after all!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Let me know how you go, what you enjoyed and could have given a miss. Would love to hear from you.
updated September 12, 2015 @ 5:00 LA time with more to do in LA in one day
Did you say Shopping in LA? Let’s face it, if you’re in LA you’re going to want to shop. The shopping here is pretty amazing and you can pretty much spend your whole time shopping if you’re that way inclined.
Strip shopping is great along Melrose Avenue (West Hollywood), Third Street (WeHo), Robertson (Beverly Hills) and of course there’s always Rodeo Drive. Westfield has come to America and revolutionised Mall shopping and with most of the malls outdoor you don’t have to sacrifice sun time–and don’t worry it “never rains in LA”.
So here it is a run-down of your shopping options. Whether you want to get it done quickly or randomly browse and enjoy all LA shopping has to offer, this post is for you.
Seen as a must-visit shopping destination in LA the Grove certainly gets busy. It’s easy to get to by Uber, taxi or car. If you drive be sure to check out for validations around the various stores. And if you want to get into the LA thing there’s Valet parking at The Grove. Do watch it though as validation is different for the Grove and the Farmer’s Market so watch where you park depending on what you’re after. (I usually park at the Farmer’s Market–if I’m lucky enough–especially if I’m going to pick up some fresh produce for dinner. I also found out that Nordstrom validates for The Grove parking so that’s a bonus).
LA’s idea of sightseeing: a shopping mall
Not only is it pretty but there are great places to eat and (of course) shop. There’s a massive H&M and you have to let curiosity get the better of you by visiting American Girl. For a complete shop/store listing click here.
After a multi-million dollar facelift and expansion Century City is making itself a must-do destination while shopping in LA. A Westfield Mall, it follows the recipe of destination shopping in Australia like Chatswood and Sydney City.
So convenient to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and the westside there are great restaurants, good shops and very popular (you never know who you might spot).
Speaking of restaurants it has Shake Shack and our ultimate favourite from our Shanghai days, Din Tai Fung [shriek].
It has Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s AND Nordstrom’s, a HUGE Apple Store, Tesla (in case you want to buy a car) and high-end brands. It also has the usuals like Victoria’s Secret and Zara. More exciting for us Aussies is the Cotton On sighting as well as Typo. For a complete store listing click here.
And if that’s not enough Century City is very dog friendly.
If you’re staying in Santa Monica you really don’t want to drive up to LA to shop. And you don’t need to because there’s great shopping right where you are.
Check out Third Street Promenade–the famous pedestrian-only shopping strip with great brands and a great vibe. (I have to say I never shop down here because when you’re in Beverly Hills you don’t need to but it’s great shopping none-the-less).
Montana Avenue has upmarket boutiques and coffee shops but still offers a laid-back beach feel. If you’re in Santa Monica it’s well worth meandering along–you never know who you might spot.
And, for something a little more hip check out Main Street.
Like all people in Santa Monica, you’ll never have to leave :-).
At 45 minutes from Beverly Hills it’s a bit of a drive to Camarillo but I can tell you you won’t be disappointed. As far as outlet malls go this one is a beauty with some great brands and a decent place to shop. There’s everything from Kate Spade, Converse and Cotton On to BCBG Max Azria and Armani and Tori Burch.
Citadel outlets are just south of Downtown on the I5 and really convenient if you’re staying in Orange County (Disneyland or the beaches–there’s an Express Shuttle from select Anaheim Hotels) or LA.
The first time we went here we had a field day (and so does everyone else we bring). First stop for the Aussies Converse, Vans and Nike then you can branch out to H&M, American Eagle, Guess, Michael Kors, Banana Republic and Billabong. There are heaps of other shops too. If you’re out for bargains and have a big shopping list be prepared to take up most of your day.
It’s not bad people watching too just quietly–you get a better cross-section of LA than you do in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood.
LA doesn’t do mega malls like we have at home in Australia but Topanga is the exception to the rule. It’s not handy if you’re staying at the Beach but if you’re staying in Beverly Hills it’s pretty easy to get to. This mall is it has it all: Forever 21, Brandy Melville (not in very many Malls), Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neimen-Marcus, Henri Bendall, Bath & Body Works, Wet Seal–the list goes on. It’s a one-stop shop. Beware though you’ll need the day–there’s a lot to get through if you’re a thorough shopper, you might need to take advantage of its late-night trading.
I haven’t been a big fan of the Beverly Centre but I’m getting used to it. Like all the other malls it has good brands to choose from including New York’s Henri Bendel. It’s convenient and close to Melrose, Third Avenue and Beverly Connection across the road has Target and Nordstrom Rack if you don’t have time to hit the outlets but are looking for a bargain or two.
I just love Melrose Avenue. The best thing about it is keeps changing. It starts from being designer boutique paradise to vintage shopping paradise to grungier hipster shopping. There’s a lot to look at, great street art and great photo opps. Here’s a great site that details what’s on offer on Melrose. And while you’re there don’t forget to cover off Melrose Place. You might like to lunch at the Fig & Olive it’s great food & wine (and great olives and olive oil).
Robertson is another great street for people watching and high-end boutique shopping. Celebs and those in the know prefer to shop here than Rodeo Drive because it’s slightly less conspicuous. Having said that it’s where The Ivy is and there are tour buses that travel along this strip hoping to spot a celeb (I wonder if they ever do?! One time my son & I were coming out of The Ivy a tour bus came past and we waved to them, probably not the celebs they expected to see!)
Another great strip with groovy boutiques and great places to eat including the uber-popular star-spotting eatery Joan’s On Third.
You might notice I didn’t mention Rodeo Drive. It’s more of a sightseeing destination than a shopping destination–unless of course you have come with your Black Amex and are ready to do some damage. By all means head on down there and check it out. But if you’re that way try Beverly, just one street over. It has great shops and a little more kind to your credit card.
Universal Studios City Walk
If you’re really short on time there are actually a few good stops at Universal Studios City Walk. Of note are Abercrombie & Fitch and a huge Billabong shop. And there are a number of different restaurants to choose from if you’re exhausted from your long day there.
Getting around LA
It’s pretty hard to get around LA in anything other than a car. If you’re going to brave driving in LA drive fast and be decisive. Other than that here’s a post on driving in LA.
Have you heard of Uber? We love it and use it here all the time. Here’s a link to sign up (with a promo code for up to $30 off your first ride). Give it a go, you won’t regret it.
“Curtis Stone has brought Australia’s flare for food and flavours to LA in what goes down as one of my greatest dining experiences to date in a city with dozens of celebrity Chefs and amazing restaurants. Who knew the Coles guy was THAT good? Bravo.”
I heard a couple of months ago that spunky Australian Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone opened up a 25-seat restaurant in Beverly Hills to rave reviews and he was personally there to make sure everything goes exactly to his plan.
And what a plan it was–or is. Nothing is left to chance, from the single-fronted front door with nothing more than the signature “M” and a gorgeous lime tree to let those in the know know where they are. To the exquisitely styled and very warm feeling you get when you walk through the door. To the toilets and the gorgeous coconut-scented body and hand lotion. To the “party favour” raspberry tea and copy of the menu left with us as a take-away. To the eclectic china and featuring Australian crockery given to Curtis as a gift by Australia’s Consulate-General in LA the warm and lovely Karen Lanyon. To the fact that the gratuity is added taking the hassle out of that pesky tipping thing that goes on here.
Nothing is meant to be easy
Getting a reservation at Maude’s is not easy. And I have to say that the trouble it caused me was bugging me and I had a nervous feeling about whether this was going to be worth it or not.
In Australia we’re used to stupid booking rules like you must call three months in advance on a full moon when the restaurant is open and someone is there to fill up the next three months’ worth of reservations in 20 minutes. But not here in LA where you depend upon your Open Table account or personally knowing the Maître D’ (usually the later). Click here to book.
What I was stressed about was booking two months in advance not knowing whether we’d be in town, who’d be around and whether we could make the 5:30pm reservation which is the only one I could get for a table (party) of four. First-world problems when you’re stressed about a restaurant booking and being slugged with a $100 cancellation fee if the table is not rebooked.
Alas it all came together: my husband was in town and fellow Australian friends were free to join us. We were on our way.
Classic styling inside Maude’s–you just know you’re in for a treat the minute you walk in the door
The first thing we had to do was take in the meticulous styling: modern French Provincial with an enviable collection of old jugs, bowls and champagne buckets. The next thing I noticed, at our table for four, was the table was big enough to accommodate us all really comfortably despite the intimacy of the restaurant. All goes to suggest that rather than cramming in a couple of extra tables Curtis was focused on his aim to provide “equals parts comfortable and luxurious”. And the staff were warm and welcoming, knowledgeable and not at all snooty as you might imagine they could have a tendency to be at such a special place. I imagine this is not an accident and that warm, friendly Australian way shines through so much so you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Melbourne or Sydney.
So not LA
The food. Oh the food. I’m not a food writer but I am an “enjoyer of fine food, restaurants and wine”. I died and went to heaven.
A bit like an episode from Masterchef Curtis chooses a core ingredient and prepares a nine-course tasting menu around that. Our core ingredient was berries–and you’d be surprised what falls into the berry family.
Gazpacho served from Australian-emblemed crockery
We started with Gazpacho, enjoyed a meticulously prepared lobster that was a textural delight and savoured the crepe with gooseberries, stracciatella and truffle that was one of our favourites for the evening.
Crepe | Gooseberries, Stracciatella, Truffle
Each taste was the perfect size to savour every mouthful and hang on every bite providing multiple orgasms per round–wanting more but being satisfied with what you had. As our friend put it, “there were lots of ‘oh my gods’ proclaimed”.
At the doughnut round (three exquisite round balls one each filled with custard, strawberries and apple) we were satisfied but agreed we could go again.
And as if it was a deliberate strategy out comes the mouth-watering peach melba with berries and “blah, blah, blah”. He had us at that peach melba and we were lost for words, say what you like we had officially died and gone to heaven.
The final orgasm: peach melba
Bravo Curtis Stone. You are pushing the envelope for LA Dining. I wonder if others will follow suit and bring the fresh food and flavours to LA that we miss so much from back home. It is absolutely Ausmerican where LA and Sydney collide to provide nothing short of perfect.
I’ll be on that phone again on the first of next month trying to book a table stressing about whether we’ll be in town and who’ll be around and whether or not I’ll have to forfeit the booking and face the possibility of the cancellation fee.
Except next time I’ll advertise my reservation on Craig’s list as the most coveted and available reservation in LA those in the know would kill to have.
Hail Curtis Stone, the new king of LA dining.
xx It Started in LA xx
Psst: There is no Valet Parking (which I joked would be its biggest fail before arriving there) but there is a parking station right next door and I think you should book an Uber anyway to take advantage of the wine-pairing menu.
Are there four seasons in Beverly Hills? But of course. The Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills to be precise.
Stay at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for five-star treatment without pretension. If you don’t know LA you might think the location is not for you but actually you’re right in the middle of great shopping, amazing restaurants and have my two favourite areas, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills at your doorstop. With 100 of the 285 rooms being suites there’s a room for everyone but don’t be fooled the standard rooms are roomy and well kitted out.
It Started in LA rating: 5 ticks √√√√√
How a hotel makes you feel is so important: it can make or break a stay don’t you think? Absolutely I say. Let’s face it if you’re not Kim or Kanye or JLo you still want to be treated like you are. You’re important. You’re special.
Well it’s no secret yours truly believes in that premise: I want to be treated like I’m a VIP (and understand to most people I’m not damnit). When I visited the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills I felt like the red carpet had been rolled out for me and so here I am telling you all about it.
Unlike the Beverly Hills Hotel where I walk in and immediately take on a strut (with swag) you don’t feel the need to do that here. It’s comfortable and unassuming.
I didn’t realise the Four Seasons is reputed to be the number one hotel in LA for the entertainment industry. (Hmmm truth be told had I known this I probably would’ve been in a bit sooner so I’m telling you now). Apparently it’s the venue for the majority of Hollywood’s press film events. You get that sense when you see a mini version of the Marilyn Monroe statue as you pull into valet.
Marilyn statue as you enter Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills
Guests are anyone from pop stars (there was a very well-known one staying there the day I visited) to celebrities to agents. (In the leisure category it’s popular with us Aussies so it must be good.)
This was my first visit to the Four Seasons. As I said had I known what it was known for I probably would’ve visited sooner. It makes sense that one of the families from school (who ran one of the top Studios) nominated the hotel as their favourite staycation location. I immediately popped it on my list but it’s taken until now for me to get there. Better late than never I say.
The first thing that hits you is the impressive display (and aroma) of flowers. Not just a centrepiece in the lobby but throughout the hotel and gardens.
Those lillies are stunning and positively fragrant–not even Pepe le Pew could upset you
Beverly Hills-renowned florist Eric Buterbaugh’s inspiring displays made me feel like I was back in the flower markets in Shanghai: so many flowers. And that smell of perfectly scented lillies was powerful enough that not even Pepe le Pew the skunk could spoil it.
Flowers anyone? Simply stunning
The flowers are no accident. The property’s owners (it’s managed by the Four Seasons), the Cohen family, were in the flower business so their passion is reflected in the hotel’s design and mood.
The next thing I notice is that, despite its five-star rating and smartly dressed staff (rather than the preferred dress-down approach of many local hotels) it’s not stuffy or snooty. On the contrary it’s welcoming and unpretentious.
What are the rooms like?
OK. I love them. The standard room is really spacious, not at all claustrophobic. Nice touches are the floral theme (in the most tasteful way) through the bedheads and carpet (some of the nicest carpet let alone hotel carpet I’ve ever seen). A vase with fresh orchids in the bathroom showed that nothing escapes the detail put into the rooms. Toiletries used are Bvlgari which also makes for a nice touch.
There are many different categories of Suites catering for the breadth of guests the hotel attracts.
There are about 20 adjoining rooms ranging in category from suites to standard rooms offering different combinations of sleeping arrangements. If you’re anything like me the most frustrating thing about booking via an online travel company is finding or securing adjoining rooms. I get that they’re limited and cannot guarantee but help us out guys and give us a guide as to what’s available. If you fall into this category call or get in touch with hotel direct and make the booking. Less headaches and a better chance of getting what you want.
Naturally suites can also provide the option you’re looking for too. The Executive suite has a pull-out couch in the main room and the Luxury Suite offers two full bathrooms (and a wrap-around balcony). If you happen to have a huge family the Presidential Suites, Royal and Luxury Suites are all big enough to cater for larger numbers.
Rooms at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills feature lush carpet and beautiful flower motifs
If you’re looking for that LA feel the Four Seasons Beverly Hills has nailed it. There’s no mistaking it caters for entertainment clients and is in touch with what LA is about.
The pool is stunning with obligatory cabanas (for Beverly Hills anyway) and plenty of room for sunbathers.
The pool at the Four Seasons is quintessentially LA with that vintage look and feel (love the green & white)
I work out
It wouldn’t be an LA hotel without great workout facilities and the Four Season’s is outdoors. That’s right, Muscle Beach comes to the Four Seasons. Check it, it might even encourage me to work out!
Being LA you can line up a personal trainer to make sure you’re not slacking off while you’re away from home.
The outdoor gym at the Four Seasons is temperature controlled giving the best of both worlds
If all that doesn’t scream: “So LA!” then the dining options will. LA has sooo many fantastic places to eat. Here in LA people go to the hotel restaurants to eat. If it’s good. (I don’t know why we don’t go to them much in Australia, you certainly do in Asia). So you better make sure your restaurant is good–or offers something unique–to bring the people in.
The Four Seasons Beverly Hills has its own little secret known as the Cabana Restaurant, tucked up behind the pool and open to the public.
Culina at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills
I just love that the menu is broken down into four categories: indulgence, antioxidant, energy boosters and comfort food. How LA is that?!
Don’t believe me? Check out the lunch menu here. Did you click through and notice the smoothies? Antioxidant (Goji Berry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Papaya) and Jet Lag (Orange Blossom Honey, Nonfat Plain Yogurt, Orange Juice, Banana, Strawberries, Bee Pollen). Can’t get more LA than that.
I’m so impressed that the Four Seasons knows and understands its clientele and market. It attracts a younger clientele (think celebs people). You can’t be offering burgers, burgers or burgers to a dieting Kim Kardashian (not that I’m saying she comes here. And not that I’m saying she doesn’t). But if that up-and-coming Blogger Gwen John goes to visit as much as she wants to be good and go and antioxidant menu there’s a good chance she’s going for comfort. So you’ve still got to offer it. Right? Right.
I was treated to breakfast at Culina–its destination restaurant aimed at keeping guests in and Los Angelenos coming. Word is the Sunday brunch is to die for so we’re checking into that one ASAP. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which is June here and not September–you’re welcome) are big ones so book early.
I was so impressed by the breakfast that I’m going to blog about that separately. Watch this space. Really quickly though there are healthy options and your traditional fry up options and lots in-between. OK I had the sinless Eggs Benedict which was to die for. If eating healthy was this good and this easy yours truly might be a skinny fashion model rather than a Blogger. The other highlight for me was the freshly squeezed juice bar. You can order one from the menu (I had the Antioxidant Booster–it was Monday morning 🙂 ) or you can create your own.
If you’re an LA local you’ll be pleased to know there’s a fully kosher kitchen. So LA.
Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel if:
you want five-star Beverly Hills luxury without the snootiness or pretension
you want to feel part of the “younger Hollywood” crowd
you’re looking for healthy yet yummy dining options that are so un-American yet proudly Los Angeleno
you want to be centrally located between West Hollywood, Third Street, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills (never mind Rodeo Drive, you’re right near the boutiques on Robertson)
you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are cars to drive you within a two-mile radius of the hotel).
I said it for my last review and I’ll say it again. I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (I think the words were “been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA. And I don’t mean which theme parks you might visit. Understand what LA is all about and it will be your friend, expect something it’s not and you may as well give it a miss. Thankfully I’ve grown up now, made that rather naive mistake and fate took me back here. I count my lucky stars everyday.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Again I’d recommend you compare prices online but try booking through the hotel direct. Rack rates are becoming a thing of the past (I have absolutely no proof of this except through my own booking experience) and hotels offer competitive online rates. Sometimes it’s so much easier to get exactly what you want when you book direct.
All pictures with thanks to Four Seasons Beverly Hills.
To find out more about Beverly Hills Hotels visit my Pinterest board. I’m pinning to it faster than I can blog!
Stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel if you want to pay homage to Beverly Hills. It may not be the hotel Pretty Woman ‘debuted in’ but it’s as good as it gets. The rooms are uniquely Californian old-school glamour. Take the journey as you’re transported back in time while you walk through the elegant lobby and meander through the hallways. Then, when you dine at the Polo Lounge and/or hit the pool you’ll remember exactly why life is just so, so good.
It Started in LA rating: 3 ticks √√√ (it will go back up to five ticks when the politics are sorted out but in the meantime I mourn the gaping hole as one of my go-to places)
Can you get any more Beverly Hills than the Beverly Hills Hotel? Absolutely not. Especially because–if you’ve been paying attention to my Fact or Fiction section–the Beverly Hills Hotel was here before Beverly Hills. Here’s a link to catch you up. Next time pay attention, you might miss something.
How many hotels can you think of that people base the interior design of their house after?
And seriously what person in their right mind would style their house like a hotel? Well the answer to that question is simple: this ain’t no ordinary hotel. Timeless elegance is worth being inspired by.
Check out this bedroom transformation featuring the Martinique wallpaper (in lay terms Beverly Hills Hotel wallpaper). Who wouldn’t want a room like that? I have a few more designs to show you on my Pinterest board, always trying to value-add for my Blog (insert halo). (If you visit you’ll see Nicky Hilton’s very own homage to the Beverly Hills Hotel–jelly). Why not follow the board because I’ll keep adding to it as I come across more.
What’s not to like?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the Beverly Hills Hotel. It is something else and iconically Beverly Hills/LA. I’m not sure whether it’s the lush, 12-acre sprawling grounds in the heart of primo Beverly Hills mansions, the Palm Trees, the logo, the red carpet as you enter, the Polo Lounge, that pool or even the fact that you never know who you might happen to see.
* That* Pool
But to me it’s how you feel when you walk in: your head lifts, your shoulders go back, your walk turns (somewhat) into a strut and into your wallet a Black American Express card automatically appears and just enough Greenbacks to be comfortable for the day without looking too Real Housewives or Rich Kids of Beverly Hills.
It’s a busy hotel but not in the traditional busy hotel sense. Because essentially you have to drive to get there you don’t just go for a “sticky”. You go with purpose. That’s one of the things that makes it so alluring: You belong there.
I’m transformed in another world and for the next few hours (days if you’re staying there) you’re king of the world: top of the heap with not a care in the world.
There’s always something happening at Valet, there are people coming and going and it’s incredibly difficult to concentrate on what you’re doing because you’re too busy cranking your neck to see if it is indeed Harry Styles, Joan Collins or the Olsen twins (all of whom I’ve spotted there). Or indeed that new Blogger Gwen John (isn’t she always Instagramming pics of her being here?).
Wandering through the hallways you are taken back in time: the signature banana leaf wallpaper, the green and white stripes, the pop of pink. Vintage. Hashtag Gold. The Beverly Hills Hotel knows exactly who it is, sets its own agenda and isn’t ashamed to put itself out there. A timeless classic.
Where should you stay?
One of the reasons I thought I should provide an insider’s view into Beverly Hills hotels is because unless you’ve been there before or you know someone who can give you the inside tip you’re just booking a room. Sometimes you actually want to book more than just a room at the hotel, you want to book a particular room: you need to know your options.
The first choice is to Bungalow or not to Bungalow. Uh huh, there are 23 bungalows–standalone mini-houses–located on the grounds of the hotel. It’s separate from the main building and if those bungalows could talk … Warren Beatty lived in one for years, Marilyn Monroe had her favourite and Elizabeth Taylor had more than one or two (or even three) honeymoons here. These are an experience in themselves. There’s the Presidential Bungalow (23 & 24). Bungalow 5 has its own private pool and you can book a room within the Bungalow or book multiple rooms to book it out. And there are many other suite options to choose from in the Bungalows.
Bungalow 5 at the Beverly Hills Hotel
Go a Suite
It is the Beverly Hills Hotel after all so while the standard rooms are anything but standard the Suites are something else. And there are quite a few to choose from. I checked out the Rodeo Suite, still in the more traditional design but I’d “settle” for it. Don’t you love the piano?
A new level of decadence
If you want to stay within the hotel’s main building and a splurge is what you’re after (or you have a Beverly Hills budget) then why give Suite 100–The Golden Age of Hollywood Inspired by Marilyn Monroe Suite– a test drive.
A suite redecorated, inspired by Marilyn Monroe and the Golden Age.
Quick catch up: To celebrate/commemorate Beverly Hills 100-year anniversary five Beverly Hills hotels designed a suite to honour a decade gone by. Beverly Hills Hotel decade was the 50s saluting iconic frequent-guest Marilyn Monroe.
If you really feel like indulging and a trip back in vintage time is what you’re after you can upgrade to the Norma Jean experience. This includes (but oh so not limited to):
Vintage car airport transfers
Welcome amenity including Marilyn Monroe-themed gifts and a bottle of Dom Perignon
Bottle of Chanel No. 5
Not one but two Diamond Perfection body treatments in the hotel’s Spa by La Prairie.
At this stage Suite 100 and the additional Norma Jean experience can be booked until December 31, 2014.
Eating and drinking options:
The Polo Lounge. It goes without saying. One of the most popular dishes is the McCarthy Salad. Try to sit in a booth (inside) or the elegantly decorated patio. It’s also apparently renowned for its Mothers Day lunch.
My little secret? Don’t let me live to regret this. I love the Cabana Cafe. It’s casual, it’s great people-watching and you feel like you’re in LA. I mean really in LA. I’ve said enough already, I want to share I really do but I need to be able to get in whenever I want. I’m going to leave it to you and my Instagram account to see for yourselves. I will say this though, the subtlety of design with green and white stripe, a pop of pink, the fabulous banana leaf wallpaper and the crispness of the white is a winner for this nostalgic vintage lover. Picture perfect.
The Cabana Cafe: my little secret
The Beverly Hills is most definitely on my top five things to do while here in LA. While I’m here I want to book a bungalow and hang out by the pool for the day (no doubt feeling extremely sub-conscious with those other hot bods around) and strut my stuff. Because I’m in the Beverly Hills Hotel. And I belong there.
Stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel if:
you want to be transported back in an era oozing style and class–this hotel is wasted on people who don’t appreciate its look.
you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are shuttles to downtown Beverly Hills and cars provided).
you can afford it–if you’re going to do, do it properly; and enjoy it.
Don’t stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel if you’re looking for a slick, modern hotel. After all you don’t come to Beverly Hills for that.
I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit . I know better now. Understand what LA is all about and it will be your friend, expect something it’s not and you may as well give it a miss. Thankfully I’ve grown up now, made that rather naive mistake and fate took me back here. I count my lucky stars everyday.
Have fun and remember: Head. Up. High. Shoulders. Back.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Book rooms direct with the hotel, here’s a link to its website. If you’re after something specific give them a call, that way you can ask for exactly what you want and they can talk you through availability and what you need to do to achieve your desired result.
All pictures with thanks to Beverly Hills Hotel.
PPS: Unless you don’t follow the news many people including high-profile celebrities the likes of Ellen & Richard Branson are calling for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel. I’ll leave you to decide how you want to proceed but I thought I should let you know that it could affect your decision to stay. Sadly the boycott is necessary to show that we live in modern times in a global society and you can’t do things that have no regard for basic human rights. More sadly though the hotel’s owner, the Sultan of Brunei, has so much money I’m not sure he cares. Nor will he miss the money. This blogger wants the hotel off the boycott list so we can all enjoy it the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed. I also strongly encourage the Sultan to get with the 21st century!