In the second half of this two-part feature on Beverly Hills, Simon Wittenberg explores the city’s culinary scene, and one of the most luxurious ways to explore its many attractions.
Gastronomy is an important and rapidly emerging scene in Beverly Hills, and its eateries can principally be found on North Canon Drive, otherwise known as “Restaurant Row”. Spago, a partner of AKA Beverly Hills, has become one of the most popular restaurants on the street. As the flagship outlet of celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, it offers an ‘eclectic and international menu’, and delivers innovative farm-to-table California cuisine in a beautiful indoor-outdoor setting with two roaring floor-to-ceiling fireplaces.
First class service comes with the added element of theatre, where the waiters swirl a glass dome to release the flavours of the steaming food into the path of the nose. Guests are also treated to fine dining boasting exceptional and highly innovative presentation using ‘props’ such as hollow morsels of bone, and the spiny shell of a sea urchin.
“Spago’ers” can savour barrel aged cocktails using whisky that has been made in-house, and dishes including Blue Fin tuna poke with Hijiki seaweed, and grilled veal chop with asparagus purée, black garlic coulis and natural juice. From the three course menu, we started with a delicious amuse-bouche of spicy tuna tartare with wasabi in a cone, which was topped with a Benito flake. This was closely followed by a very tasty falafel macaroon with mustard seeds, and a diced mackerel ceviche – both were a delight for the palate. We then sampled a parsley risotto with Chanterelle mushrooms, and handmade Agnolotti with pumpkin, mascarpone, pine nuts, Amaretti, all topped off with Parmigiano Reggiano ($18). After we had digested a series of desserts, which included a delicately stacked Mille-feuille, Spago had left us craving to return. It was utter perfection from start to finish, and they thoroughly deserve their exceptional reputation.
At Montage Beverly Hills, which also sits on North Canon Drive, there is an excellent choice of culinary options which are available all through the day including in-room service.
We were hosted for breakfast at The Rooftop Grill which houses a number of tables in a light and airy environment with views out on to the pool. It is definitely worth stopping by, and there is plenty to get the mouth watering from the ‘Energise’, ‘Griddle’ and ‘Organic Eggs’ sections of the menu. We tried the tasty Atlantic smoked salmon benedict ($26) which came with avocado, chive hollandaise, and a hash brown cake. Come the second morning, and we chose a Belgian waffle accompanied by summer fruits and cream ($22), and freshly-squeezed orange juice served in a jar ($13).
A hidden gem of the Montage Beverly Hills hotel goes by the name of the £10 bar, which is accessed via the kitchen of the Scarpetta restaurant. This is a highly exclusive and personalised experience which can only be granted with a prior reservation, and is never advertised. £10 only wants the right people to know about it, rather than the masses, and its publicity is therefore all by word of mouth. Having collaborated with Macallan Single Malt, the world’s most precious whisky, and staking its claim as an official outpost of the brand in North America, this establishment takes its name from the picture of the Macallan distillery, which itself, needs to be ‘found’ when looking at the face of a Scottish £10 note. During the last seven years, £10 has become a favourite with celebrities, those from the entertainment industry, and individuals doing major deals, thanks to it being so discrete and tucked away.
Furnished with a series of private booths, and an external seating area overlooking the beautifully-manicured Beverly Canon Gardens, the bar is very subtly lit, promoting a cosy and ‘secretive’, but relatively informal ambiance. £10 is also home to a superb collection of some of the finest and rarest blends of whisky available including one of 250 bottles of Macallan Royal Marriage (worth $17,000), which commemorates the wedding of William and Kate. It is also proud to be the seller of the most expensive shot of whisky, of course from Macallan, which carried an eye-watering price tag of $64,000.
At the heart of the service and plethora beverages, is the highly charismatic and knowledgeable Las Vegas-born Cash Black, and his colleague, David. They view themselves not just as managers of the bar, but also as confidants and counsellors, echoing their philosophy which states: “you come as a guest, and leave as a friend.” The drinks menu at £10 is without a doubt extensive, and a dream destination for whisky connoisseurs. From the selection of hand-crafted cocktails, we tried the impressive Cinnamon Penicillin ($46) which was brilliantly composed from Highland Park 18 year old, house-made cinnamon syrup, juiced ginger and lemon. This was a magical concoction which sat ‘on the rocks’ in a $600 Lalique crystal glass. Complemented by cubes of sumptuous 26-year old Gouda cheese, the visit to the £10 bar was one which proved highly memorable.
The Polo Lounge at the world-famous Beverly Hills Hotel is another venue which offers a touch of celebrity spotting. Visitors can sit inside and be serenaded by a piano player, or alternatively, they can enjoy the sunshine on the outside terrace. From the lunch menu, we headed straight for the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ Ahi tuna tartare ($26) to start, which sat on a bed of chopped avocado, sea beans and pine nuts, before tucking into Scottish salmon ($42) which was accompanied by eggplant, yoghurt, fennel and tomato confit.
Apparently, the McCarthy salad ($33), where all nine ingredients are mixed to your liking, is one of the Polo Lounge’s most popular dishes, and around 30,000 were sold in 2014!
Away from the dining scene, hiring a supercar is one of the best ways to see the main boulevards of Beverly Hills and the surrounding area in the open air. We opted for a stunning $231,000 552bhp 3.9-litre V8 Ferrari California T convertible which subtly blended in with the plethora of powerful machines that grace the city’s streets on a daily basis. Other models on offer from MCar include the Bentley Continental GT Speed drop-top, a Ferrari 458 Spider, an Aston Martin DB9 Volante, and the list goes on. We enjoyed a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, before passing through the affluent neighbourhoods of Brentwood and Bel Air, and finishing with a meander down Sunset Boulevard. Fifty miles are allowed per day before additional charges kick in, so this is ample to check out the principal attractions of Beverly Hills and sights which are a bit further afield.
Beverly Hills – Where and How?
AKA Beverly Hills is located at 155 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, California 90210, USA. To make a reservation, visit stayaka.com or call 001 310 385 1924. A one-bedroom suite starts at $425 per night based on a one week stay.
Montage Beverly Hills can be found at 225 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA. To make a reservation, visit montagehotels.com/beverlyhills, or call 001 310 499 4199. Prices start from $695 per room per night.
MCar (Los Angeles): For reservations, e-mail [email protected] or call 001 866 717 6802.
For more information on Spago, visit www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3635.
To make a reservation at the Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows, go to www.dorchestercollection.com.
With thanks to the Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau for their generous hospitality (www.lovebeverlyhills.com).
About Simon Wittenberg