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West Hollywood

West Hollywood by Donna Demaio

Elton John and Lada Ga Ga recently saw fit to descend on West Hollywood, Los Angeles for an impromptu outdoor free gig. The locals were elated and Sunset Strip hosted yet another momentous, celebrity-laden extravaganza. Often referred to as WeHo, the neighbourhood and its surrounds have abundant and interesting offerings for visitors. Here’s a checklist for those considering meandering through the diverse, interesting and fun place. By the way, not all places are smack bang in WeHo but close enough to count.

EAT

You will find classic American fare, such as ribs, macaroni and cheese and the biggest ( it’s about two feet high) fairy floss dessert , coupled with adventurous entertainment, otherwise known as a bucking bull at the Saddle Ranch Chop House ( 8371 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood)

Don’t knock it until you try it. Gracias Madre ( 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood) lures those wanting to munch on vegan Mexican in a relaxed, outdoor courtyard . There’s also a beautiful bar inside and loads of indoor seating.  I wasn’t mad for the fake bacon but most of the creations impressed.

I stood in the queue at Pampas Grill for nearly an hour at Farmers Market (6333 W 3rd Street) , inspired by the look of satisfaction on the faces of those carrying plates laden with Brazilian BBQ. It had succulent cuts of meat including chicken, beef and lamb on giant metal skewers and an array of salads. If you don’t (refuse to) queue, the selection of food and drink and confectionary and sauces etc at Farmers Market is overwhelming.

I may be accused of judging a place by its calamari salad. Happy to report that Chateau Marmont ( 8221 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles) which is steeped in Hollywood history, serves a delicately flavoure calamari salad that took me about an hour to eat. The reason?  I was mesmerised by Leonardo Di Caprio sitting in the very same courtyard restaurant and extended my stay accordingly.

Classic.  Mel’s Diner (8585 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood) is happily residing in yesteryear, offering big breakfasts and buckets (well,  large receptacles) of coffee. Lovely service and massive meals. I ordered the tea on second outing.

STAY

Palihouse ( 8465 Holloway Drive, West Hollywood) is a boutique, apartment style residence (it describes itself as an urban lodge) with expertly decorated rooms. So expertly put together, that I skipped a guaranteed great party to simply sit on the Chesterfield leather lounge and admire my surrounds. It’s warm, comforting, cool and collected.

The London ( 1020 N San Vincente Blvd, West Hollywood) is a swish hotel that incorporates quirky British notes such as a supremely elegant foyer, free calls to England and a brilliant-sized bath in a spacious bathroom. Excellent service and British bulldog (not a real one) greet you on arrival

The Mondrian ( 8440 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood)  is hip. It’s cool. It’s as now as it ever was. Many a famous face has partied at the Sky Bar which hosts launches, romances, gatherings and fun times. The skyline view poolside is very special both day and night.

Sunset Marquis (1200 Alta Loma Rd, West Hollywood) has a stunning photographic exhibition in a gallery attached to its foyer. It is steeped in rock’n’roll history and has a great pool. The hotel bar has just enough dark corners to satisfy those who wish to be left alone. The rooms are large and the art work mesmerising.

Other places include The Grafton which has been recently renovated, The Standard has a new restaurant,  Chamberlain for a sweet boutique hotel  with great rooftop and The Andaz for a slick, stylish and perfectly positioned location.

DRINK

Actor Gyton Grantley directed me, via an instagram post raving about the breakfast burrito, to a tiny place called Cofax Coffee ( 440 N Fairfax Ave, LA). I made a beeline and was rewarded with quite a good latte. The café revels in its minimalist décor, serves Stumptown Coffee and home-made donuts and pastries.

Melbourne entrepreneur Grant Smillie is kicking goals with his business partner David Combes at EP & LP ( 603 N La Cienega, West Hollywood. The restaurant and roof top bar is doing a roaring trade, with ingenious Thai ( courtesy of Louis Tikaram) on the menu and ripping tunes on the decks. Al Pacino loves it.

The Abbey (692 North Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood)  has “themed” nights which are simply fun or completely outrageous – depends on your take on life. The outdoor terrace is gorgeous and punters go crazy on the dance floors,  the tables and probably along the bars. It sure is a lively, gay lounge.

SHOP

Fossick for bargains at Beverly Connection ( 100 N La Cienega, LA), possibly one of the ugliest shopping zones I’ve ever encountered. I love it. It has outlets such as Nordstrom Rack (high end to high street), Marshalls ( great selection of footwear and homewares), T J Maxx ( lovely jewellery and bags amongst the clothing) and a monster sized Target ( stocking quality towels and linen).

Melrose Avenue, West Hollywod. Need I say more? Stroll along and admire the gorgeous shop fronts and if you’ve saved enough, perhaps indulge in a special something from Helmut Lang, G Star, Paul Smith, Alexander McQeen or Diane Van Fursternburg.

Beverly Center ( 8500 Beverly Blvd) has Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Diesel, Armani, Burberry, Prada, Forever 21 and more. Much more.  Much, much more. Helpful hint: Macy’s gives tourists a ten per cent discount card that lasts three days. You head to the jewellery department, flash your passport and they’ll give you the card. Very handy.

RELAX/DISCOVER/PLAY

Bikes and Hikes (8743 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood) means you can discover LA via bike or on foot. There are customised tours or naturally, you can travel solo. And rest assured, there are fast, professional repairs at the West Hollywood bike outlet if you suffer a tyre puncture. How does a 21 speed hybrid bike with supplied helmet and map sound?

Burlesque dancers, brash and bright décor, puppets and impromptu concerts. Pardon? Bootsy Bellows (9229 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood) is recommended by locals for a brilliant, boozy night out. Actor David Arquette is one of the owners of the 60’s art deco inspired club that proudly features live music and entertainment. Vaudeville lives folks.

Oooh so you want to actually burn some calories. Ok then, Cycle house (8511 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood), tucked away in an alley, is the place to check out, work up a sweat  and while that happens you are donating two meals to someone in need. Yep. Combining health and fitness with altruism. What a fine institution. And dubbed by some as the best spin class in town.  It’s fast, sweaty and 55 minutes per class. Phew.

Did someone mention “spa treatment?” Henriksen spa (8622 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood) is pure luxe. Stylish service and slick environs greet you. The spa backs onto a car park and doesn’t look flash from the outside but staff know how to pamper. Hmmm. Did I actually drift off to sleep? I believe that’s the sign of a fine facial.

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