As anyone will tell you, Los Angeles loves a grand entrance. And Montage Beverly Hills, which opened in November, is no exception. Why should it be? As the first ultra-luxe hotel to arrive in the area in nearly 20 years, it needs to keep up with some rather grand neighbors—the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Peninsula, and Beverly Wilshire among them. But despite its superslick gold granite driveway and glossy stucco façade, done, as the rest of the hotel is, in a Moorish–meets–Spanish Colonial Revival style, the Montage is not a place where style trumps substance—or service. This is thanks to its managing director Ali Kasikci and its CEO and founder, Alan Fuerstman, who are as obsessed with providing nuanced attention to all their guests as they were with selecting the pearlized tiles for the spa’s mineral pool. “A lot of services and amenities have become standard in luxury hotels,” says Fuerstman. “But we want to anticipate guests’ needs, to offer the unexpected.”
The hotel sits just a few minutes’ walk from Rodeo Drive’s luxury boutiques and restaurants like the posh steakhouse Mastro’s and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. Thomas Keller will be arriving soon, too, opening a branch of Bouchon right across the street. (As is fitting with these neighborhood offerings, the Montage has its price, and a rather high one at that, with nightly rates starting at $495.)
The property is Montage’s follow-up to its 30-acre Craftsman-style Laguna Beach flagship which, after opening in 2003, quickly became a destination for spa goers in search of a low-profile detox weekend. By 2010 Montage plans to open in Deer Valley, Utah, and Los Cabos, Mexico. And today the lobby in Beverly Hills reveals a crowd of Chanel- and pearl-clad ladies that wouldn’t be out of place in either location. One such is Nancy Reagan, who uses a discreet side entrance when she comes to lunch. (No small coincidence: Mrs. Reagan is a friend of Frank Bowling’s, late of the Connaught in London and now the brand ambassador at Montage Beverly Hills.)
Darrell Schmitt, the eye behind Auberge Resorts’ Calistoga Ranch in the Napa Valley, designed the 201 guest rooms and suites, all done in beige, gold, and sage tones. The corner suites, with their wraparound windows, capitalize on the Hollywood Hills views. “We filled each room with original art, antiques, and coffee-table books to make them feel as if they’d been decorated over time,” says Fuerstman.
But what, really, would a Montage be without its spa? After all, the one at the Laguna Beach outpost transformed a sleepy artists’ community into a wellness haven. The Beverly Hills spa is just as large as Laguna’s: 20,000 square feet spread across two levels, its 17 treatment rooms accented with mosaic tiles and Moroccan lanterns. Should one tire of hot-stone massages and antiaging facials here (the spa menu features 20 such items), the Surrender program lets sybarites skip an à la carte selection in favor of a multitreatment two-hour session, customized to match a client’s lifestyle and body type and relieve any particular ailments.
The culinary offerings at the Montage’s three restaurants are in keeping with the hotel’s general tenor: They’re chic enough to appeal to guests and locals without feeling too trendy. For those who come to Los Angeles for the nearly perfect weather, breakfast and lunch are best at the rooftop Conservatory Grill, where the chef creates healthy dishes using organic ingredients from local farmers—eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast, say, or hamachi crudo and pressed sandwiches at lunch. Back inside, the understated Parq, which takes its design cues from southern Spain, specifically Seville’s Hotel Alfonso XIII, focuses on executive chef John Cuevas’s unique approach to seasonally driven cooking (ocean trout served with citrus agnolotti, for example). Tops here are the sweet-potato fries—not on the menu but worth asking for. Upstairs the fussier Muse is open Tuesday through Saturday for a seven- to eight-course tasting menu of particularly elevated haute cuisine. But to really see Cuevas in his element, arrange a private meal at his chef’s table.
Perhaps more than anything, the Montage is defined by what it’s not. It isn’t a place to hang out and be seen at the bar—as one would at Chateau Marmont. Nor is it for attracting attention while lounging in a poolside rooftop cabana, like at the London West Hollywood. Instead, it’s about having friends join you up in your suite for a cocktail on the terrace or tea in the lobby lounge. And, while it still needs a bit of time to develop the patina of the Laguna property, it’s that sensibility that makes Montage Beverly Hills feel less like a hotel and more like a friend’s sprawling—and eminently well staffed and serviced—estate.
From $495 to $7,500. At 225 N. Canon Dr.; 310-860-7800; montagebeverlyhills.com.
Making a Splash
By Sally Horchow
L.A.’s hotels have always been defined by their pools—and the social scenes surrounding them. “The pool was important,” says Tony Curtis, the actor whose recent memoir, American Prince, chronicles his years as a Hollywood lothario. During a stay at the Beverly Hilton in the mid-sixties he would phone the pool attendant from his suite. “Then I would go down, and there would be a spot set up where I could see the girls and they could see me,” he says. “It couldn’t have been better.”
The pink-and-green Beverly Hills Hotel pool, meanwhile, has been known for celebrity antics of its own since the twenties, though it was two decades later that Katharine Hepburn famously dove into it fully clothed. The Four Seasons, for its part, is about Hollywood dealmaking and cabana massages. And Chateau Marmont? Low-key hangover tending.
“A pool is part of the Hollywood lore,” says David Collins, the designer of the London West Hollywood, one of the city’s newest hotels. And the pool there is very old Hollywood glamour meets British country garden, a place where stylish Europeans lounge among white-rose topiaries and pool concierges patrol the deck hourly with, say, an Evian mister or a frozen-fruit skewer designed by Gordon Ramsay, who oversees the hotel’s restaurant.
As for the rooftop pool at the Mediterranean-style Montage—with mother-of-pearl tile accenting the edges, laminar jets producing water arcs overhead, and a sound system streaming classical music underwater—it’s a spalike urban oasis, where transplanted country club members read The Wall Street Journal and gaze out at the Beverly Hills view. That's a move pioneered by the Peninsula—during Ali Kasikci’s tenure there before he moved to the Montage—the place for poolside pedicures and reflexology.
And at the recently opened SLS, Philippe Starck’s decidedly Alice in Wonderland–esque pool attracts international hipsters, with its whimsical chairs, chess sets, citrus trees in oversize planters, gigantic framed mirrors propped against the periphery, and a constant loop of chill-out music.
The same can be said for the soundtrack at the Swarovski crystal–lined pool on the roof of the new Thompson, where at about 6 P.M. the lounge chairs are converted into couches and the Bohemian chic in attendance turn pareos into party dresses for an evening at ABH, which stands for Above Beverly Hills, the aptly named lounge.