Heading west from the heart of Hollywood, sample the salubrious flavours of Beverly Hills like a local. I love strolling through the palm-fringed, gently curved streets, where the 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 bin out to the kerb. Yes, best appearances are everything in Beverly Hills.
Take the opportunity to venture into the glittery neighbourhood of 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. 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’s 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.
Synonymous with LA trendiness, Melrose Ave doesn’t just flourish in the arts, but in fashion and food. I really like the stretch of Melrose Ave east of Fairfax Ave, which serves up a heady 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 hotspot in glamour shopping, Rodeo Drive and the Golden Triangle.
It’s a shining reminder why 90210 is still the most prestigious 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 Italian-esque 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 stand shoulder to shoulder – 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 vodka. Splendid mixology!
Chic and sophisticated, the restaurant’s lofty crystal chandeliered ceiling and large windows create a sense a grandeur. The beautiful 18-foot illuminated onyx bar and backlit wine display filled with 1000 bottles is pure art. For dinner, I plumped for the Halibut with manchego and 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 a knock-out. Enjoy beautifully presented fresh and flavourful cuisine, and you’ll be royally treated by the charismatic, chatty restaurant staff.
Hip, high-end and in a primo location, AKA Beverly Hills delivers an extraordinary residential-living experience. 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. A 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 cozy 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. Savouring cuisine from Spago while staying at AKA? Now that’s really living like a local. www.stayaka.com
Airport Connection? For over 30 years, Super Shuttle has offered ground transportation services to and from LAX. Their shared-ride van service is a cost-effective, reliable and efficient way to get to and from the airport. One way rates are $17. ExecuCar is Super Shuttle’s sister brand, offering a higher-end, private service, direct and door-to-door between your accommodation and the airport, as well as point-to-point and hourly charters. For best rates and bookings, head to www.supershuttle.com
Mike Yardley is Newstalk ZB’s Travel Correspondent on Saturday Mornings with Jack Tame.