Contributing editor Christina Ohly is no stranger to the world's best hotels, but she just may have had her mind blown during a recent stay in Beverly Hills.
LOS ANGELES – For anyone interested in mingling with Hollywood's industry elite there is no better place to be than the Peninsula Beverly Hills — on any given day of the week, at any time of day or night. But it's during awards season — the period from January through March that includes the Golden Globes (early January), the Screen Actors Guild Awards (late January), and the Oscars (late February) — that this particularly special Peninsula really shines in all its star-studded, high-wattage glory.
From its power position in the heart of Beverly Hills (it never hurts to be next to CAA headquarters, after all) to its relaxed rooftop pool setting, to two of the best restaurants in town, the staff at the Peninsula Beverly Hills never makes a false step. The attention to detail begins at check-in, when I was recently greeted with a thoroughly rare and endearing question: "Would you like a late check-out?" First question! Every service touchpoint from there was over-the-top in the best possible way, and my quiet garden view allowed for the most restorative sleep I've had all year.
Claim to Fame
Ridiculous food and people-watching. First and foremost is the Roof Garden, where healthy SoCal cuisine meets comfort food in the form of egg white omelets, pressed juices made with goji berries and yuzu, the signature cobb salad, and crispy frites — all served under chic umbrellas. The adjacent tables will invariably be packed with hitters: agents, actors, and yoga-toned beauties all call this their canteen. The Roof Garden is quintessential California fabulousity.
The recently opened Belvedere, a Mediterranean restaurant with one of the most beautiful patios in town, adds to dining delights. The mezze-heavy menu begins with fattoush salads and Greek-inspired taramasalata for dipping freshly baked pita and stars delicious lamb tagine and a monkfish osso bucco that I won't soon forget. The portions are enormous and satisfying, but I fell on my sword (all in the name of research…) and went for the dessert sampler of compotes and artistic creations that rival the restaurant's world-class art collection. The work of Yayoi Kusama, Sean Scully, Josef Albers, Alex Katz, and Robert Indiana enliven the walls and add to an incredible experience for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
What's on Site
The Peninsula is a tech-focused hotel company, so you'll find the best here in terms of TV, seamless WiFi, state-of-the-art telephones, and bathroom technologies. The amenities are similarly top-notch, and The Peninsula Spa is destination-worthy — particularly leading up to any awards night, so book well in advance if you want to jostle the nominees out of their appointments. Two treatments are of special note: Precious Ruby Massages ($410/120 minutes) include dry body brushing followed by a gardenia- and ylang ylang-scented scrub, topped off with a hydrating rose clay wrap and a killer foot massage. The Organic Oxygen Facial ($285/60 minutes) is a lovely post-flight pick-me-up, turning complexions from dull to dewy.
The food, and the lively Living Room bar scene, the spa, the pool with its secluded cabanas, and the curated shops (including 100% Capri for that forgotten bikini) ensure that you really don't need to leave the premises. Unless, of course, you've been nominated in the film or television category or are holding tickets for the red carpet extravaganza.
As discussed, the food is excellent in all restaurants and lounges, but the Roof Garden is my favorite for California classics. The views of Century City beyond, not to mention the industry titans quietly talking shop at the surrounding tables, add to the breezy vibe. The dinner wait staff at Belvedere couldn't be more attentive and animated. (The waiter/actor factor in LA ensures meals are lively).
In the Room
The 195 rooms and suites range from standard guest rooms to private villas placed around the property gardens. There is nothing "standard" about this category at The Peninsula, where the thread counts are high, the heavy wooden furniture feels regal, and the welcome amenity includes a lavish fruit platter, chocolates, cookies, and more. This isn't an afterthought, but rather an appreciated meal at the end of any long day.
Best of all are the bathrooms. Even in a basic room category, the lavish marble set-ups are bigger than most NYC apartments. Deep soaking tubs, spacious showers with all kinds of settings, plush terry robes, well-stocked vanity kits (with extras such as hand sanitizer), and a television stream mean that you can blow dry your hair and listen to CNN at the same time.
This Place Is Perfect For
Anyone with red carpet tastes — and a budget to match. Villa suites (from $1,900) work well for families, superior rooms (from $575 per night) are ideal for business travelers. The Beverly Suite (from $1,500) is spacious, with a separate sitting space and scenic views. I stayed in a deluxe room (#209) that was quiet and a little dark (in a good way), overlooking palm fronds.
Set in the heart of the Golden Triangle, this is the place to get your shop on: Barneys, Neiman Marcus, and Rodeo Drive are just steps away. No one really walks (anywhere) in Los Angeles, so don't be shy about taking advantage of the hotel's fleet of complimentary cars for area trips. The Rolls Royce is the swankiest; the Minis are more ego- and eco-friendly.
Speaking of Cars
It's all about Uber in LA. It's much cheaper than taxis, though those are plentiful, too. Just don't rent a car. When you factor in the valet costs, parking tickets, and traffic headaches, and the nightmare that car rental is at LAX, calling a ride is a no-brainer. That said, a rental car can be delivered and picked up at the hotel for approximately the same daily rate.
What to Do Nearby
The Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA) is always a highlight for innovative exhibitions and for its permanent James Turrell installation; ditto the Hammer Museum and MOCA which are within a small radius. Further up the coast, The Getty Center is a must (use of the hotel's Infiniti cars for the scenic journey), and book ahead at Nobu in Malibu, one of his best spots anywhere in the world.
Beverly Hills is home to classic, old-school restaurants like the Polo Lounge and the downstairs soda fountain at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the original Matsuhisa, Nate n' Al delicatessen, and Spago. I also loved Curtis Stone's Maude and Republique. It's in Hancock Park, but worth the drive for the castle-like setting (it was once home to Nancy Silverton's beloved Campanile).
Good to Know
Don't be afraid to ask for upgrades. They are so accommodating at this particular Peninsula that they'll happily oblige if space allows. I speak from experience.