We “discussed” the love-or-loathe nature of Los Angeles in another recent article. I’m not saying West Hollywood — or WeHo for its friends — will win you over either way, but there’s a surprisingly distinct vibe to the area. A bit of history – musical and otherwise – not to mention plenty of restaurants and bars, from modern school to fabulously old school.
In my experience, LA only makes sense when you start to see it as a series of separate cities that together happen to form into a place called Los Angeles. If you need to kickstart that sense, then WeHo might just be the perfect neighborhood to start…
Why stay here?
Some places are inherently cool. Some places are so inherently cool that they make you feel cooler by association. The Sunset Marquis is so inherently, massively, unassumingly cool that it can even have that effect on, say, a stocky, bald, middle-aged journalist with a wardrobe that’s almost exclusively made up of denim, fleece, Allbirds and Charles Tyrwhitt shirts. You know, just like an entirely random example. Cough.
And it’s a feeling that begins the second you enter the remarkably modest exterior, and grows as you pass the excellent bar and reception. And then grows a bit more as you pass the pool – well, more specifically, one of the pools – and into some 3.5 acres of scent-defying logic-defying grounds that are somehow wedged behind a side street just off Sunset Boulevard. Seriously, it’s like the designer of the TARDIS retired and started a landscaping business…
And, dotted around those 3.5 acres are, well, single rooms. And some villas. There are suites, of course, and all of the above with pool views. Villas with semi-secret access to a second quieter pool. There are two-bedroom versions of the above, as well as Grand Deluxe and Presidential accommodations (with, apparently, private parking, chef’s kitchens, and screening rooms) that, frankly, you probably won’t find unless than you’re supposed to. It’s a remarkable achievement, a splendid place to stroll, and an even better place to forget about trying to stalk a celebrity in favor of relaxation. Plus, even if you spot a celebrity — and, given the history and reputation of this hotel, there’s a good chance you will — then you’ll be too cool to pay attention to them anyway.
The bedrooms are equally stunning. The bed is a thing of padded beauty — smaller guests may actually need a run — and my bathroom happens to be larger than many moderate hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. found: apparently the guy from the TARDIS also studied plumbing. There are also Japanese toilets which, well, this being a family publication, I won’t go into detail, but if you know, you know. If nothing else, having it turn on softly and the lid gently lift when you approach it in the middle of the night is a gimmick that never gets old. The living room is also lovely, housing a television of rather remarkable proportions and a sofa that is, now I consider, the approximate length of my entire living room. However, perhaps the best trick the Sunset Marquis pulls off is that it all sounds completely reasonable and never garish.
Eat and drink
While perfectly located for Uber or a drive to WeHo’s array of dining options and bars, the Sunset Marquis’ own restaurant, Cavatina, is damn close to the perfect California hangout — a mix relaxed and elegant from the fully covered, from the terrace and from the pure al fresco.
Open from breakfast to dinner, it ticks all the local produce and high protein/low carb boxes you’d expect from a hotel with this zip code and clientele, but also nods towards the kind of excess you would expect from a hotel with this zip code and clientele. The Sunset Wagyu Cheeseburger is every bit as good as it looks, and it’s very hard to resist a menu that features a dish called “Chilled Colossal Prawns” (and, for the record, they are all three).
The drink list is also pretty well thought out and surprisingly priced (or at least until the last chancellor does his thing) with artfully crafted cocktails under $20, beers under $10, and glasses of things like Trefethen Oak Knoll for $26. For these parts here, and these surroundings here, it’s remarkably good value for money. If you need further proof, there’s also a five-course tasting menu for $95, with very decent wine pairings for $40. Yes, I did a double take too.
What to do
Well, a few feet away (up a surprisingly steep hill) is Sunset Boulevard and its cluster of legendary spots. A little further south you will find the Troubadour, where Elton John played this famous American show. In between, flip through a basic LA guidebook and you’ll find plenty of other TV, film, comedy, and music points of interest. You might even see an LA legend or two strolling down the street or hiding somewhere for a coffee (if you’re interested, it was Dyan Cannon, when I last visited).
Of course, you don’t even have to leave the hotel to immerse yourself in entertainment history because the Sunset Marquis has probably seen everyone strolling through the bar, hanging out by the pool or, in the cases of certain types of rock, throwing away their televisions and bedroom furniture. Many of these names are documented via the photographs that adorn many of the walls or in the Morrison’s Hotel Gallery, located in the lobby, where you can – suitcases permitting – purchase etchings of musical icons, past and present. .
Some stories are well documented – the hotel has covered many in its own book, If these walls could topple, which celebrates 50 years of the Sunset Marquis – while others will remain under wraps between the Sunset team (and the legendary, and legendarily low-key, GM Rob Gruendyke) and the performers themselves. Believe me, I tried and got sidetracked endlessly and charmingly.
These days, even more names have likely passed by the hotel en route to its underground, low-key, beautifully beat, but state-of-the-art recording studio, NightBird. “Hotel Recording Studio” sounds like a gimmick, but the names and amount of Grammy-winning records written, produced, and/or recorded here have made it one of LA’s finest. Be careful, its proximity to this accommodation, these swimming pools and this burger would be reason enough.
How to get there
As with much of LA, the subway is coming. Still. Eventually… Pieces of WeHo are well covered, but this stretch still requires – Google checks – a two hour/six mile walk. It’s not much fun in temperate climates and will require at least two showers and full changes of clothes in Los Angeles.
But come on… you’re at the Sunset Marquis. You don’t want to be bored on public transport, plus Ubers run pretty much every minute. Although, frankly, if you feel the urge to leave the hotel too often, you are doing something wrong.
This is a hotel that simply does everything right. As someone who avoids places populated by thin, beautiful people – I always suspect they’ll ask me to leave so they can slip into four other thin, beautiful people – I’ve rarely felt so cool, or at home, as I did in 48 hours at the Sunset Marquis. If this place is not already on your to-do list, add it now.
Sunset Marquis, 1200 Alta Loma Road, West Hollywood, CA. Suite prices from £310, villa prices from £536, excluding taxes and fees; sunsetmarquis.com and visitwesthollywood.com