Maybourne Beverly Hills: The sleek new hotel with an A-list following | Travel
For someone who never normally smokes or drinks whiskey, I do well to pretend to be a connoisseur of Cuban cigarillos in a Beverly Hills speakeasy on a balmy Friday night.
It’s easy to pretend in this city in a city; the perfectly laid-out streets are movie-ready and even the police look like actors. (My brother is an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and argues that everyone in his Beverly Hills counterpart is a pretender, but that’s another story.)
The Whiskey Bar is tucked away in the Maybourne Beverly Hills Hotel, one of the few places in Beverly Hills where you’re allowed to light up. I’m with two expat friends at the table where Kenneth Branagh celebrated his first Oscar — best original screenplay for Belfast— a few weeks earlier. Curtains divide each of the sleeping areas – all the better for bad behavior. ‘If I repeated some of the things I saw I would get fired on the spot,’ our waiter says as he delivers a flight of whiskeys – I lose track, but one is Irish, the other Scottish , the other one was held up casks of champagne and one is, uh, Californian?
Downtown Los Angeles, a short distance from the hotel
Our speakeasy spot was apparently Harvey Weinstein’s favorite when this hotel was still the Montage Beverly Hills. Fortunately, everything has now changed: Weinstein is in a much less comfortable environment, and the hotel has been completely refurbished (“including new sofas”, the waiter assures us) and now has the Maybourne Hotel Group as owners, just like Claridge’s, Connaught and Berkeley in London.
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The breakfast tea is the best I’ve had in America, and the interiors – hats off to London-based Irish designer Bryan O’Sullivan – threw guests into a very tasteful Hollywood bigwig’s house with a seemingly unlimited budget for scenting candles, beautiful books and flowers.
Los Angeles has many iconic hotels – the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Bel-Air Hotel, the Beverly Wilshire – but the Maybourne is the new kid on the block, and it’s a great neighborhood too: Rodeo Drive is a two-minute walk away. foot around the corner. Designer boutiques have all their doors open, blowing icy waves of air conditioning in the 35°C heat; everyone seems to be in monster-sized cars with idling engines or iced coffees in plastic cups – Greta, Beverly Hills needs you right away.
Far more interesting than Rodeo Drive are the nearby residential streets, which have a wonderful mishmash of architecture – Spanish Colonial, Modernist, Art Deco and faux Tudor – and impressive front gardens full of roses, cacti or bougainvillea ( or all three). On Roxbury Drive, one of the fanciest addresses, there’s a woman dressed as Jessica Rabbit posing for photographers and holding a large lizard on a leash. Elsewhere, a dog grooming van moves between the driveways of the mansions. I also find myself in the street where, 18 months earlier, I had interviewed Paris Hilton then suddenly had to urinate on leaving her house; too embarrassed to step back, I crouched behind a palm tree as a Ferrari whizzed by.
Walking around Beverly Hills, it feels like this wonderfully silly city is also making fun of itself at times. For example, on one street there is an avocado toast bar next to a hole in the wall cupcake vending machine, next to a psychic lounge next to an extension “studio” of eyelashes. A sandwich sign outside a bar reads ‘Bagels, beer, Botox – we’re selling 2 out of 3’.
Less than an hour’s walk from the Maybourne – you can walk through sections of LA if you’re willing to put on the steps (I topped 27,000 in one day) – is the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, aka the Oscars Museum, designed by architect Renzo Piano and opened last September after years of delays and problems. There is also a hiccup during my visit – there is no working wi-fi, so the gift shop and the Oscars experience are out of service.
The latter, which costs £12 on top of the £20 entry fee, allows visitors to pose on a fake stage while holding a real Oscar statuette in front of an enthusiastic digital audience. A 14-second video is sent to you for you to post on social media (naturally). Although it’s temporarily closed, I persuade an employee to sneak past me, let me hold the Oscar, and deliver my Best Actress acceptance speech. “I want to thank Ryan Gosling, my co-star . . .
Unsurprisingly, the museum’s props are world-class: ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; nunchaku used by Bruce Lee; Leonardo DiCaprio’s prosthetic chest covered in bear ‘wounds’ The ghost. Bruce, the only surviving fiberglass shark of Jaws, hung in the lobby, and the fashion is a treat – Oscar de Cher’s hairstyle outfit from 1986; Emma Stone’s dress from The Earth (2016); Marilyn Monroe’s Costume Men prefer blondes (1953). Cross the Barbra Streisand Bridge to admire the city and the Hollywood sign.
Chez Fanny — the museum restaurant, named after actress Fanny Brice, played by Streisand in funny girl – the cocktails honor this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture. The waitress recommends a King Richard, a mix of dry vermouth, gentian amaro, lime and shiso granita (postcard explanations please), honoring the film for which Will Smith won his Best Actor award after slapping Chris Rock. “Unfortunately a lot of people are now hesitant to order it, but it’s really good,” she says.
I return to the hotel – via a stroll along West 3rd Street and a visit to OK, a brilliant housewares store – with a list of movies to watch: Patricia Cardoso’s Real women have curves; by Hayao Miyazaki The wind picks up; by Pedro Almodóvar To return to.
Admire Dorothy’s slippers at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
JOSHUA WHITE/JWPICTURES/ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION
Walk the streets of Los Angeles and you’ll always discover things you never knew existed. For me on this visit it was Crocs wedge heels, chewable “gummies” to boost your libido, and Bunda, a gym chain dedicated solely to getting a bigger butt.
Tearing myself away from the rooftop pool at Maybourne, I drive half an hour west to Venice Beach. After the pampered luxury of Beverly Hills, I immerse myself in the rougher sides of this neighborhood: street art; ripped bros at Muscle Beach; crystal healers and hawkers, selling tat and “Puck Futin” hoodies. Venice’s canals – part of a mad plan by promoter Abbot Kinney to bring Italy to America – offer quiet respite. Stop for lunch at decorators’ favorites – Great White or Gjelina – then hire a bike, rollerblades, scooter or, if you must, a Segway and travel north along the beach promenade to the Santa Monica Pier Fairgrounds. In Los Angeles, you can dive into all kinds of fantastical lands.
Laura Pullman was a guest at Maybourne Beverly Hills, which has double rooms from £998 (maybournebeverlyhills.com). Fly to Los Angeles
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