On arrival at a hotel, there’s little more warmly welcoming than an upgrade, which is why I was thrilled when I checked in to art deco stay Sunset Tower, in Los Angeles, and my room was bumped up to a One-Bedroom Suite. It’s just one example of how staff at the coolly chilled-out front desk – and throughout – are gracious and friendly; the service at Sunset Tower cannot be faulted.
Sunset Tower is located on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood; it’s one in a strip of noted stays, which one can ricochet between if hotel bar-hopping is high on your to-do list. In the morning, kick things off with a stroll to Earth Bar for a health injection (quite literally) – sip a smoothie then get a nutrient-boosted IV treatment. Wander to Standard hotels’ Hollywood outpost for lunch at Alma restaurant, Sushi Park for dinner, the Chateau for drinks, then end your night watching a band at the Roxy. It’s a rarity to have everything within walking distance in Los Angeles. I miss walking, so it’s nice to have eateries and nightlife close by, and to avoid the crazy rush-hour traffic.
The hotel may not have sweeping grounds, but the building itself – a statuesque 1930s folly by famed architect Leland A Bryant – is grand with lots of character. Indoors there’s a beauty salon; I didn’t have time to try it out, but if you need a last-minute blow wave it’s a handy wander downstairs, especially since Los Angeles is so vast and often it’s hard to find somewhere close by. The gym, albeit tiny, is well equipped – with apples and water to rehydrate guests – and a necessity for me when on the road. I was the only one in there, so my workout was relaxing and speedy. The hammam is a great addition to the spa; it’s not free to use, but for unwinding pre- or post-flight, it’s worth every cent.
Sunset Tower’s rooms are outfitted in chocolate, taupe and cream hues, with a treasure trove of extras: Kiehl’s toiletries, bathrobes, windows that open to let in the LA sunshine and cookies! Every night, you return to find the best home-made chocolate-chip cookies, which are too good to resist. The decor in rooms could do with some refreshing, but the worn-in look is all part of the charm, in my opinion; it’s homey and lacking in pretension, and the repeat clientele are testament to this.
The doormen running the valet-parking service here work hard for their tips: when the hotel driveway gets a bit congested, they remain unflaggingly charming. If celebrity car chaos strikes, their pastel polo shirts – in soothing pistachio and lilac tones – are a calming sight. Once you’re in, the hotel’s pool is small, but much less mobbed than the entrance – a refreshing change to the more sceney poolsides in Los Angeles hotels. I think this serenity is what appeals to me most. Breakfast is served outside on the terrace, at tables overlooking the pool. The menu’s extensive and dishes are delicious, complemented by speedy service, an imperative if you have a long day of meetings ahead of you.
The hotel is moodily lit but feels cosy rather than sombre. Walls are adorned with photographs of old Hollywood scenes, and the personalities who’ve frequented the hotel; it’s all very inviting, and I’m charmed. If, like this busy bee, you have to fly out the door and don’t have time for breakfast, get a little caffeine pick-me-up at the self-service coffee and tea station set up near the front desk. If you find yourself with some free time, the concierge is very helpful and quick on the draw with recommendations: a day exploring Los Angeles’ art galleries, hikes in the hills, restaurants for romantic meals… Even DHL paperwork assistance, if required!
The hotel’s main draw is the buzzy Tower Bar. Its alluring, dark and intimate ambience epitomises old-Hollywood glamour, and there are usually a few celebs enjoying an undisturbed meal here. Barkeeps mix a mean martini, margarita, anything you desire… so there’s never a dull moment. The wine list is extraordinary, and I had the best tequila I’ve ever sipped here. It’s a good spot to meet and mingle with resident Los Angelenos too, especially if you’re travelling sans a fellow Smith. Book in advance, or show up early to secure a table, but if arriving fashionably late don’t fret – hotel guests usually get priority seating. The Tower Bar’s food is consistently delicious – lobster tacos are dangerously moreish – and I’d wholeheartedly recommend the restaurant to anyone who arrives hungry, even if they’re only staying for a few nights. Cool cocktails, a true sense of style and a laid-back attitude: the restaurant, and the hotel housing it, really capture the feel of the city.