United States: Hollywood holiday

By Holly Byrnes

You don't need to be Jay Z or Beyonce to live it up like a star in West Hollywood. Holly Byrnes checks out the coolest addresses in WeHo on a stay with celebrity style.
The Hollywood sign in California. Photo / Wikimedia Commons
The Hollywood sign in California. Photo / Wikimedia Commons

It was right there in black and white. Not so much the fine print, as one of those bold-typed documents you add your jet-lagged scribble to at the reception desk and only think about what you signed later.

Say, at 1am, when the guests you were drinking with in the famous Bar 1200 of West Hollywood's Sunset Marquis hotel are now sprawled about your room - some talking on the couch, others looking for more refreshments in the mini bar, while somebody has anointed themselves DJ "in da house" and is shuffling through the lame collection of Sad FM hits and Taylor Swift songs on my iPhone.

That's the time you remember, just vaguely, the house rule you agreed to earlier in the day: STRICTLY NO PARTIES IN HOTEL ROOMS.

Given the hotel's reputation for hosting some of the biggest names in world music (there's a recording studio in the basement), who in turn added to the legend by famously reconfiguring some of the furniture into the pool, it's safe to say our impromptu after-party barely registered a blip on the fun police's radar.

But when Ozzy Osbourne, Courtney Love and the Beastie Boys have rocked out here before you, you understand why some people might take that party ban as a personal challenge.
If These Walls Could Rock, the coffee table tome left in each room for guests to peruse, is almost a "how to", tracking the hotel's 50 years in business and the famous folk who have played and stayed there.

When I was there, actor Benicio Del Toro was holed up in one of the private villa suites, doing interviews for his 2015 film, Sicario; and rapper and TV host Queen Latifah was booked into Nightbird Studios to record music.

Benicio del Toro. Photo / AP
Benicio del Toro. Photo / AP


If you're expecting all this to be posted on a lobby noticeboard or written in neon lights like some of the flashier places to stay (and be seen) in LA, that's not what gives Sunset Marquis its cool: this is a full-service hotel experience, with the privacy and discretion of home.

The hotel's main building was renovated in 2004 but the basic rooms are just that. The common areas and restaurant Cavatina are modern and relaxed, surrounded by lush gardens.

Situated just off Sunset Boulevard (1200

Alta Loma Rd, West Hollywood), it's the perfect launch pad to experience Hollywood in true celebrity style, sunglasses non-negotiable. Download the car-sharing Uber app and roll with an Uber Black vehicle (think Jay Z in an Escalade); or save your dollars for happy hour cocktails at be-seen-bars around town (from $4 at Dominick's, 8715 Beverly Blvd, from 5-7pm weekdays).

Where to eat

E.P. & L.P.
603 N La Cienega Blvd
Voted one of the hottest new spots in LA last year, this restaurant and bar are part-owned by Australian DJ, Grant Smillie, and models Ashley Hart and Buck Palmer. Former Longrain chef Louis Tikaram is behind the Thai fusion menu (don't miss the abalone appetiser or Lou Dogg's crispy skin chicken). The rooftop view is amazing at night and a fire pit and dazzling neon art add extra sparkle.

Gracias Madre
8905 Melrose Ave
The burgers and buffalo wings can wait while you make a righteous date at this vegan Mexican eatery. It's a super-sexy space (you'll want to Instagram the toilet tiles). It's great for brunch in the al fresco area, and the food is tasty and good for you. I spotted Mandy Moore, and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are said to be regulars.

Langham Pasadena
1401 South Oak Knoll Ave, Pasadena
Make a day trip out to this older part of Los Angeles, where the staff of this grande dame hotel will spoil you silly over high tea. Walk off the berry cream puffs and brulee tarts with a stroll around the extensive gardens, or sit for a while in The Tap Room bar where many a Hollywood deal has been done. If you're still peckish, order the lobster corn dogs and a craft beer.

Urasawa
218 N Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
You basically have to sell something before you can pull up a seat at the sushi bar here, but it's well worth every penny. It has about 10 seats so the space is intimate and exclusive. Head chef Hiroyuki Urasawa is a true master of his craft. It's an exquisite dining experience.

WHERE TO DRINK


Sunset Marquis Hotel Bar.
Sunset Marquis Hotel Bar.


Laurel Hardware
7984 Santa Monica Blvd
As the name suggests, this former hardware store nails LA's love of industrial design chic. Get in early for a table (ask to be seated out the back); or be prepared to shoulder your way to the crowded bar for one of its (free pour = potent) cocktails.

The Nice Guy
401 N La Cienaga Blvd
Expect the paparazzi to greet you outside this hot bar, just down the road from E.P. & L.P. It's a favourite with young Hollywood. Best reserve a table online (theniceguyla.com), then enjoy the Italian-esque menu (try the homemade pumpkin ravioli or pea crostini) with any of the delicious cocktails.

1886 bar at The Raymond
1250 South Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena
Sydney bartender Peter Lloyd-Jones makes the trek out to Pasadena worth it with his heady mix of cocktails and old-fashioned service. This 100-year-old-plus converted bungalow is tight on space but makes up for it with an intimate, cosy lounge feel.

WHERE TO SHOP

Book Soup
8818 Sunset Boulevard
A few blocks' walk from Sunset Marquis, this literary icon is a must-shop for the latest magazines, signed copies of new-release books and, if you keep an eye on its website, regular author signings and book clubs hosted by stars.

The Grove
189 The Grove Drive
This open-air mall is perfect for the time-poor tourist who can hit up the big brands (Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Top Shop, JCrew, Zara, Nordstroms). Ask for a patio table at La Piazza for delicious food and the best people-watching. Aim for dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy for fun food-themed nights like Painting and Pinot (check its events listings online maggianos.com).

XIV Karats
314 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
One of the best-kept secrets of the stars. Take the mirrored lift to this hidden jewellery store gem. Who doesn't want to bag a bit of bling in Beverly Hills?

WHERE TO STYLE

Blushington
8595 Sunset Blvd
Whether you're just hitting the town or getting red-carpet ready as I was for the Golden Globes, this beauty bar is a glam go-to. From US$50 you can choose from a menu of makeup looks, then let one of the lovely makeup artists go to work.

Dry Bar
8951 Sunset Blvd
Next door will take care of your hair needs, from a simple blow dry to an elegant up-do. From US$40, it's another point-at-the-pretty-picture service and you can be in and out in under an hour.

Kinara Skin Care Clinic and Spa
656 N Robertson Blvd
If you've had a late night, say at the Sunset Marquis, and need to shift the puffy evidence from your face, this A-list haven is a must. Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway head here for their pre-Oscars facials; but it was Kinara's custom massage (US$150 for 50 minutes) that brought me back to life.

WHERE TO GO

Soul Cycle
8570 Sunset Blvd, WeHo
Apparently there are people who like to exercise when they're on holiday. If that's you, grab a green juice and your active wear and stride into Soul Cycle for this 45-minute power spin class. Vanessa Hudgens was spotted getting her sweat on (in a panda onesie) and Oprah, whose offices are nearby, loves it so much she apparently had a birthday party there. US$20 for first-time riders.

Au Fudge
9010 Melrose Ave, WeHo
This new kid on the block is the retail baby of celebrity mum Jessica Biel (aka Mrs Justin Timberlake) and the perfect place for families to eat and play together. The best part is that parents can socialise while the kids are supervised by professional au pairs.

Actress Jessica Biel. Photo / AP
Actress Jessica Biel. Photo / AP


Art Walks, around WeHo
LA street art lends itself to the Instagram age, so put yourself in the picture at the following snap-friendly spots - Paul Smith's pink wall (8221 Melrose Ave); Made In LA mural at Cisco Home (8025 Melrose Ave); the Retna mural (8826 Melrose Ave); and the Butterfly wall near John & Pete's Liquor (621 N La Cienega).

Need to know

Getting there
Air New Zealand offers daily flights to Los Angeles with return fares starting from $900. See airnewzealand.co.nz

- news.com.au

- Spy.co.nz

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