BACKGROUND Hyatt opened its first five-star luxury Andaz property in London last November after a £70 million renovation and rebrand of the Great Eastern at Liverpool Street station. The Andaz West Hollywood opened in January in the similarly revamped and renamed “Riot Hyatt” on Sunset Boulevard – famed for its popularity with ’70s rock bands, whose wild antics included throwing TVs out of windows and driving motorcycles down corridors.
Although the Andaz is now attracting a more salubrious guest, the balconies, which caused many a headache for hotel management, have now gone (Axl Rose was once caught barbecuing steaks on his, before throwing them at people on the street below, while Jim Morrison was allegedly evicted after hanging from one by his fingertips). Andaz also has two properties in New York, on Wall Street (set to open in September) and Fifth Avenue (due to open early 2010), and one in Austin, Texas that is scheduled to open in autumn 2010.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Entering the gleaming, 14-storey glass block off a palm-lined boulevard will not take you into a conventional reception area and lobby, but a lounge where young, beautiful staff in cashmere sweaters or velvet dresses greet you. (At first the lack of a distinct uniform can make it a little hard to tell who works there and who doesn’t, so you might have to wait to be approached.) The ambience is chilled to perfection – pure Hollywood chic, just shy of pretension. The carpet is custom-made, the walls are made from pressed steel and glass, the lighting is low, and the abstract artwork is specially commissioned – although one large canvas was painted by guests at the opening party.
Instead of waiting by a counter while someone in a suit taps away on a keyboard and issues you a door key, guests are offered a glass of wine or bottle of water and encouraged to take a seat on one of the low sofas while one of the “hosts” enters your details on a portable electronic PC tablet. I arrived late in the evening and accepted a drink before going to my room – but then felt slightly guilty as my host then had to wait for me to finish it before personally escorting me and my luggage to my room.
Guests also have the option of checking in by calling ahead prior to arrival. In the morning, there is free coffee and pastries laid out – it is no problem to take some to go.
WHERE IS IT? The hotel is in the heart of Los Angeles, on Sunset Boulevard. Note that the road is 22 miles long, so head for West Hollywood and the most famous section, Sunset Strip, between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard. If you have a hire car, there is valet parking at the hotel for US$28 per night. The hotel backs on to the lush Hollywood Hills.
ROOM FACILITIES All the bedrooms have been completely renovated and feature cool, minimalist décor in slate grey, white and moleskin brown, high-quality upholstery and furnishings and thick cotton sheets on the beds. While most rooms come only with showers, a few also have baths, and all but the lowest category (Andaz) rooms have a separate glass-walled seating area sectioned off from the main room by a curtain.
Facilities that come as standard include a flatscreen TV, large workdesk, free wifi, free soft drinks and snacks from the minibar (large bottles of spirits are US$32 and beer is US$9), an iHome stereo, air conditioning, robes, a small wardrobe, a safe, free local phone calls, 24-hour room service, an iron and ironing board, a hairdryer, motion-activated lights in the bathroom, and a selection of vinyl records to keep that rock ‘n’ roll heritage alive ¬– although they do not have record players in the rooms at the moment. (If you want to purchase one, you can do so at reception.)
My Deluxe View King room came with sweeping views of the city and a great little private sunroom with a sofa, small flatscreen TV and free-standing lamp. On each of the bedroom windows is one of 50-60 different inscriptions by philosophers, celebrities and local personalities. While the marble bathroom was very small, it offered everything I needed including generously sized bottles of environmentally friendly shower products.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS To the right of the lounge on the ground floor is RH, the hotel’s trendy restaurant and bar, which has a grey and white mosaic-tiled floor, tall-legged chairs and communal tables made of thick wedges of pale marble. Guests are free to use this social space for small informal meetings or to work at with a cup of coffee and a pastry from the lounge. For breakfast, served from 6.30am to 11am, there is an à la carte menu offering everything from original bircher muesli (US$8) to pancakes with spinach and smoked salmon (US$16).
Next to the communal area is a private room that can be hired for parties of up to 18 for a sit-down dinner, and at the far side is a glass wall, behind which much of RH’s wine is stored. Everything on the list is Californian, as is the beer, and most of the food is bought fresh at LA markets. To the right of the main eating area is a light-filled bar with books about film and music scattered around. It serves cocktails and customised juices.
As well as lunch, RH serves dinner until 11pm, and when I went I tried a combination of dishes – from the a la carte menu I had a starter of endive salad with Rogue Rive blue cheese, seared figs and walnut oil (US$15), and from the “market menu” I tried a main of seared yellow fin tuna with chilli, onion and kaffir lime chutney, asparagus, bamboo shoots and a dish of cauliflower gratin (US$22). This menu allows guests to create their own meals from a list of proteins – meat and fish – cooked the way they want it, plus a sauce, two or three vegetables, and a side order of fries or rice, for example. The relaxed, enthusiastic staff are happy to advise on tasty combinations. My creation was delicious, and the portions will not leave you hungry. You can also create your own salads and sandwiches from the market menu – perfect for a take-out lunch.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The largest function room is on the penthouse level next to the rooftop pool terrace. It has space for up to 190 people for a reception, a chef’s finishing station and bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the city. There is also an airy breakout space and four meeting rooms on the mezzanine level, all with free wifi and capacity for up to 20 delegates.
LEISURE FACILITIES There is a dazzling outdoor swimming pool and sun terrace on the roof with pot plants, parasols, a bar, sunbeds and private cabanas facing the skyline. The fitness centre on the mezzanine level is open 24 hours and, like the pool, is for guests only, although if guests want to invite a colleague for a swim or workout, that is not a problem. The gym has Life Fitness cardio machines, weight systems, rubber flooring, iPod hook-up, free headsets, towels and water.
VERDICT An elegant, relaxed hotel that caters well for the corporate guest. It’s in a great location and has a gorgeous rooftop pool and an excellent restaurant. The staff are a breath of fresh air.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 257 rooms over 14 floors, plus one presidential suite due to open in June. The room categories include Andaz, Andaz King, Andaz Queen, View King, View Queen, View Deluxe King, View Deluxe Queen and Sunset Suite.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The free wifi and healthy minibar, replenished daily with soft drinks and snacks, were real plus points. The private sunroom was also a great feature.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in May started from US$224 for an Andaz King room.
CONTACT Andaz West Hollywood, 8401 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood; tel +1 323 656 1234; westhollywood.hyatt.com