Aisha Hillary, founder of Hills & West shares her top tips from her recent visit to L.A. This is where to eat, stay, play and shop in the City of Angeles.
Back from my adventures in the US of A, I am very excited to share some of the fabulous restaurants, hotels and places we experienced. Although we were only away for 8 days, we did so much and managed to build a fantastic list of recommendations from locals, so I will break it down into LA (I stayed in downtown LA and Santa Monica), Palm Springs and Malibu, as each deserve their very own post of delights. Starting with the oh so cool, Downtown LA, where we stayed and here are our EAT, STAY, PLAY & SHOP adventures.
The city of Los Angeles
LA, the Southern California city, is known for its celebrities, the home for the film and television industry and the very iconic Hollywood sign… not that I saw any of that. It’s also known for its glorious beaches and hikes so be sure, if you have more time, to escape the city and check them out.
We were there in June, known as ‘June Gloom’ when the mornings are overcast and chilly, however, never fear as by 1 pm the clouds burn off and the sky is blue with temperatures in the late teens. Get your sightseeing done in the morning and leave an hour or two in the afternoon to soak up those rays with a cocktail on an LA rooftop, especially time it as the sunsets. Spectacular.
The ACE Hotel which is an iconic historic building and boutique hotel in Downtown LA was built in 1927 with a spectacular rooftop with views and pool. Great to spend time sipping their delicious, with the ever so generous American pour, cocktails and listening to seventies tunes. The rooms with their simple and quirky interiors, and a mini bar filled with local delights and curiosities had everything you needed. We fitted in a gym session in their small but well-equipped gym, which made the evening nibbles and drinks all ok. I would definitely recommend the ACE when staying Downtown, as it’s pretty central to many restaurants, museums, markets and fun bars.
ACE’s restaurant Best Girl is located opposite the Lobby where we ate breakfast most days and I had many meetings around lunch time. The breakfast burrito, avo mash, oysters and burrata were delicious, the atmosphere and staff were also really attentive. Book if you want to guarantee a spot.
For a vibrant evening with a group of friends, a must visit is The Ace Rooftop for spectacular views. Great before a night out or to have a night cap after a fun evening or exploring.
Next, we stayed at Viceroy in Santa Monica. Much more contemporary and less boutique than the ACE, however, was a fantastic location to explore Venice canals and beach. The hotel interiors were a bit more ‘hotel Hampton contemporary’ which is less to my taste, however, the service was impeccable (handing us a bottle of water when we returned from our beach run), the rooms and gym were large and also had everything you needed.
The poolside was located directly next to the lobby with some cute cabanas to hang in and have a glass of red, warming up to the gas firers. We jumped onto an Uber scooter and had a ball exploring the area.
If we were to go again we would look at an Airbnb closer to the Venice Canals and Beach to be a little more local. I of course already scoped some quirky ones near Venice Beach that were super affordable and will make you feel just like a local!
Cozy Historic Bungalow Close to the Beach – After a day of sand and sun, curl up by the fireplace in this delightful bungalow that captures the spirit of the beach. With vaulted ceilings, cheerful decor, and vintage touches, it feels open, bright, and welcoming.
Enchanting Artist Guest House – designed by a prominent Venice artist who’s known for his elaborate glass design, it is located near the shopping street of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and 4 blocks from world-famous Venice Beach and is super quirky to get into the eclectic feel.
For more hotel recommendations I’d suggest a place we had dinner at called NoMad, a very ornate hotel for gorgeous, New York inspired, luxury accommodation. Also with decadent facilities, restaurant (which we tried – see my delicious scollops) and rooftop bar and pool.
Want to experience the ultimate beach Hampton stay? Shutter on the Beaches is an institution right on the boulevard, breathtaking accommodation with white a blue interiors, beach side pools, cabanas, breakfast by the beach and of course waking up to that sensational warm sunrise straight over the water.
For a little adventure and quirky house viewing, take a walk along the Venice canals. Every house is so different and it is also a great place to do a morning run.
You, of course, have to check out Venice beach, which is a lively hub with plenty of street entertainment, food and music. Try getting there early in the morning to which all the tourists aren’t out and about. However in June, as you can see via the pics ‘June Gloom’ was in full force.
Looking for some night life hubs, something quirky and fun, we’ve got you covered. Now we did not do all of these however they were recommended and are on the list for next time.
Venice – When wondering Abbot Kinney Boulevard, you deserve to pop in for a drink in the very unexpected, green velvet, leather and brass trimmed, super cool interiors of Roosterfish. We listened to some great tunes (they might of been playing some Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder which lured me in) and have a drink and a snack.
West Hollywood – Roger Room for a cosy little couch and cushion bar with dim lighting and excellent bartenders who will cook you up any recommend cocktail.
West Hollywood – For either a day or night drink we recommend Gracias Madre, a modern Mexican bar (a little on the pricier side) but well worth checking out because you MUST try their tacos!!!
West Hollywood – Harlowe Bar is an elegant, Hollywood inspired classic pub. Great night life with a dj and cracking pub food if you like a good feed like us! Super affordable, guaranteed a great time!
Hollywood – Old school tiki bar with tropical-themed drinks and did you say shareable punch bowls, yes grab yah gals and head to Lono Tiki Bar fro drinks and a buzzing atmosphere.
Downtown – Another Shnazzy cocktail bar and place for nibbles is the Everson Royce Bar, lit with fair lights and booths you’ll enjoy the rooftop and lively evening environment.
Downtown – The Varnish is an award winning mixology cocktail bar so expect something like never before, another precious gem in the city.
Downtown – If you love an old school bar and whiskeys, check out Seven Grand , originally an old jewellery emporium so it’s worth asking the bartenders for a story to two. A perfectly tucked away joint. So LA.
You betcha it gets hot in LA, so finding a sneaky pool and cocktail bar is key. Hotel Figueroa pool & bar is a fabulous Downtown LA location to cool off at the end of the day, but of course a local secret so shhh. This is also a gorgeous boutique hotel to stay in if you looking at doing activities in the area.
Now what to do when you are out and about!
Definitely worth walking up the Hollywood sign or find a good look out point. Our tip is to try to get there at sunrise or sunset the view is gorgeous and no ones is around to steal the view. The best way to see the sign is on a hike or horseback ride through the Hollywood Hills, and the guides know right where to go. If you can manage to lock that in early.
Universal Studios is also a thrilling time for those of you who love to see behind the scenes of iconic movies. The park is also full of rides and plenty of interactive and funny shows, your day will be full of squeals and giggles. Definitely, have to do the behind the scenes tour too!
If you love to experience everything from a view and good walk definitely venture to the Runyon Canyon Park, where you have amazing views of LA and if you’re lucky will catch a local celeb, they are known to hang around here!
Santa Monica Beach is also a very playful area for of street entertainment, food, the music you name it. Quite touristy but always worth the look to see Bubba Gump fish and chipper. Keep reading below for our recommend eating joints in Santa.
Now of course you know I’m going to scope out all the galleries so let me tell you a list of some the of best.
The Broad is a contemporary museum in Downtown LA, with a broad collection of modern pieces Yayoi Kusama. A MUST!!!
The MOCA is another Museum Of Contemporary Art if you are a fan of the revolution art that has a voice.
If you love your food and culture markets me sure to venture to Broadway for the Grand Central Markets, the food is incredible I say save yourself breakfast and just walk around and snack about here!
For a little ‘beer culture’, visit the Imperial Western Beer Company (your male company will thank you). Glam-retro spot inside Union Station offering in-house craft beers & cocktails plus a raw bar. The grand ceiling and extraordinary art deco architecture will take you breath away as you practically gargle you a beer in ore looking up. We recommend getting the beer tasting too if you can’t decide which one to pick.
Little Tokyo, also known as Little Tokyo Historic District, in downtown Los Angeles is the heart of the largest Japanese-American population in North America. Of course, we recommend the food its authentic, delicious and fresh. There are also some gorgeous little gardens that are worth wondering too.
Get your wallets ready because you won’t be able to hold back, Abbot Kinney is the location for window shopping and is also very picturesque so make sure your outfit is on point. If you’re a foodie, art lover or just looking for come inspiration, this will be your kind of hub. Looks out for some celebrities too they are known to be lingering around.
The usual shopping destinations that everyone has heard of are Melrose Ave and Beverly Hills for all your high-end brands and if you want to have to embrace your inner Pretty Women moment. The Beverly Centre for a shopping mall that has everything you needs. Lastly The Grove for a more tourist hot spot on a lot of the Hollywood and film updates.
Looking for some fabulous markets The Freehand Hotel Mojave Market is full of culture, music, food and anything you are looking for. Also the Fairfax High school Market, Rosebowl Flea if you love good vintage gems.
Looking for a great book store scope out, check out Owl Bureau.
EAT & PLAY
Looking for an afternoon pitstop after 5 pm, for a lively area head to EP + LP West Hollywood where you find amazing rooftop bars, food, drinks, views… do I need to say more? The restaurant E.P. Asian Eatery is a fusion of Chinese, Fijian & Vietnamese, mix that with a mojito and you are good to go! Make sure if you have time book into the rooftop theatre for some classic old movies.
We all need a good feed to kick start our busy, work and exploring days, so here you have some inspo to make your decisions easy as. For breakfast try The Butcher’s Daughter in Abbot Kinney, a plant-based restaurant, cafe, juice bar and “vegetable slaughterhouse.” They treat fruits and vegetables as a butcher would meat: they chop, fillet and carve fresh produce into healthy vegetarian dishes and press them into pretty juices. Tasty and you can be on your moral high horse 🙂
After hitting the shops of Abbot Kinney we went to GJELINA, quite a hotspot at the moment, and had a cheeky pizza and mimosa. Great atmosphere, fantastic service and lots to look at. Also make sure you grab a handmade, deliciously interesting ice cream or pint of ice cream if you like from Salt & Straw. With wonderful flavours like Goat Cheese, Marionberry and Babanero or Mr Holmes Cornflake cookies with Boysenberry Jam or James Coffee & Bourbon, there is something for everyone and certainly won’t disappoint.
Botanica, offering vegetables, cocktails, natural wine and good times, does not dissapoint. Head there for a gorgeous fresh, healthy and hearty meal. You have to try one of their morning pasties too! Sqirl, in Hollywood, is another quant little cafe with homemade jam and pastries pastries pastries!!!!! Everything is created onsite and oh so fresh. This was recommended for both breakfast or lunch.
If you’re like me and can’t go past a Mexican feed and a margarita this little place is for you. Petite Taqueria, West Hollywood, is a gorgeous cocktail bar with to die for velvet couches and Art Deco interior and groovy music. Make sure you don’t miss their happy hour it’s definitely a steal.
Looking for some cheap on-the-go street food, well you have to have the street tacos. $1.75 per taco Hell yes!!! Taquería Los Anaya is a tiny store front with mouth watering tacos and home made tortillas nothing nasty we promise only the best. There are also plenty of different street tacos you have to try out, why not make a day out of it!
For the sushi lovers, head to SUGARFISH with old school values and a new school vision. Done by celebrated sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa, well-known for his Trust Me-style sushi at Sushi Nozawa, which operated in Studio City from 1987-2012. Nozawa shuns “American-style” extravagant rolls and fusion dishes. Instead, he concentrates on the purity of his basic ingredients— nurturing relationships with the finest fish purveyors across the globe, cutting his fish with an artisan’s painstaking care, and even making his own fresh soy sauce and ponzu. Delicious.
Looking for an experience…
Looking for something totally unique with typical American food, drinks and entertainment, Clifton’s is your one stop destination in Downtown LA. Each floor also has a different theme, so it’s truly an experience.
The Marketplace – California’s lone survivor from the Golden Age of Cafeterias once again redefines the dining experience. Enter our “Cabinet of Curiosities” and celebrate California’s diverse natural and cultural legacy within our legendary forest themed environment.
The Monarch – embodies the spirit of California– an informal land of adventure and dreams as well as a community of astonishing natural beauty and diversity. With a Deco era soda fountain, surprising beer and cocktail offerings and an innovative atmosphere worthy of the legends, this is truly the place of myth—the elusive dreamland for which people have searched
The Brookdale – experience living history within Clifton’s most elegant space. Reminiscent of the parlours and museums of a previous century, the Brookdale houses some of our most spectacular artefacts. Dine, dance and savour your journey as you sip handcrafted cocktails and listen to LA’s finest bands.
The Gothic Bar – within Clifton’s Cathedral Grove lies the magnificent Gothic Bar, a shrine to the majesty of nature and the mythology of our cultural heritage. Here you can enjoy artisanal libations and elegant offerings worthy of this astonishing environment.
The Pacific Seas – invites guests on an adventure—not to a time or a place, but to a mindset. Through the Art Deco Map Room guests find a celebration of the exotic, the mysterious– the unknown; a peek into the Golden Age of Travel through a uniquely Californian take on the romance of South Seas Culture.
Just so you know there is a Clifton’s Dress Code that is enforced on Friday and Saturday nights for the 3rd-floor entertainment spaces.
Looking for a good coffee…
While you are in Santa Monica and need a coffee or just want a quick break at Cora’s coffee shop for great coffee and a rustic vibe. By night head it turns into The Curtain and is a cute little bar with great beach views of Venice beach.
Reminiscent of New Orleans in cuisine and decor, this casual eatery specialises in Cajun fare, taking you from the bustle of 5th street in Downtown LA to the heart of New Orleans. The Little Easy is an intimate Gastropub filled with lounges, velvet curtains and mirrors, defiantly an evening location.
Looking for some karaoke…
Break Room 86 is an often packed so its definitely a lively venue offers cocktails and karaoke with a trendy vibe. It has an 80s locker wall and secret karaoke rooms. The live music is also a great atmosphere for a lively crowd.
For the more special meals…
For a fine dinning experience after you’ve been to The Broad Museum, Otium, is a new American open space restaurant. exceptional food quality and tranqil atmosphere.
We also ate at NoMad which is truly a fabulous resturant inspired by local ingredients and the vibrant culture and traditions of Los Angeles, definitely check out their rooftop too, and try to get in early as it does get busy!
Looking for nice French cuisine Le Petite Paris Downtown fabulous fine dinning experience too.
We also ate in the private dining room of Chef Curtis Stone’s local eatery Gwen Butcher Shop, which he’s opened with his brother Luke Stone. Gwen is both a European-style, chef-driven butcher shop and a restaurant that is redefining fine dining in LA, with an elegant feast style á la carte menu presenting up to 20 dishes that call on fire-based cooking techniques. We had a decadent meat feast with a house-made charcuterie (for the meat lovers) and incredible service as the chef took us through our special menu. Really special and highly recommend.
Well…. I hope you are now fully stocked up on places to venture in LA and I’ll give you one last heads up – they free pour all drinks – so beware, though sitting by the pool is the best cure.
So stay tuned for the next Hills & West diaries covering Palm Spings… Heaven!