Design Dish: Grandmaster Recorders is the space to spend your whole night


“Hollywood” usually conjures up visions of the movies but the neighborhood is also the heart of L.A.’s music scene. Grandmaster Recorders, a multi-level restaurant and rooftop lounge carved out of a former recording studio, is the brainchild of Grant Smilie and David Combes of Australia-based The Botanical Group, the duo behind E.P. & L.P. The interior’s decor nods to its musical past. 

The shiny reception area. Photos here and throughout by Wonho Frank Lee.

The building on Cahuenga Boulevard, which began life as a silent movie theatre, became a recording studio in the 70s when it was purchased by producer and musician Alan Dickson. Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Billy Idol, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Motley Crew and Kanye West have logged time here. Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key of Life,” was recorded here. So, too, was Beck’s “Midnight Vultures”. It’s new incarnation as a restaurant was completely serendipitous. “I wasn’t looking specifically at this space,” explains Smilie. “A chance catch-up with a landlord about another site ended with a tour of this space which I instantly feel in love with.” 

Melbourne-based Projects of Imagination was tapped to reimagine the 15,000 square foot space, a process that, due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, took three years. “We kept the shell intact but added structure to allow the rooftop to be used for dining and entertaining,” explains the studio’s Nick Cox and Annie Luo. Adds Smilie, “Our biggest challenge was how to hark back to the heritage of the building and figuring out how to retain as much of the original interior and facade as possible. While it’s not been an easy project, the finish line is incredibly rewarding.”

Three distinct spaces guarantee Grandmaster Recorders as an all night destination (always a compelling idea in a city where driving—and parking—is part of the package). Glimpses of the building’s rock n’ roll past are woven into the design, including the framed gold records and the display cases filled with CDs, albums, tapes and musical instruments in the entry hall.

Grab drinks in Seventy-one Studio & Bar, where a disco ball illuminates the carved concrete circular shell of the former recording studio. Hidden behind plush velvet drapery, its custom leather banquettes and a polished brass and mirrored antique bar create an intimate space that invites lingering. “It’s a really beautiful room,” says Smilie.

The entrance to Seventy-one Studio & Bar. Photo by Wonho Frank Lee
The former recording studio is now the intimate Seventy-One Studio & Bar. Photo by Wonho Frank Lee

Dinner comes courtesy of the building’s expansive rear restaurant, where a 20 foot high bowstring truss ceiling and fire engine red structural beams offer maximum drama, highlighting a boisterous Italian-inspired menu from Australian chef couple Monty and Jaci Kolundrovic. Exposed concrete and brick, sleek leather banquettes and bold brass accents tie it the Seventy-one Studio Bar, while rich green leather chairs and lush fiddle leaf fig trees soften the industrial vibe of the 150 seat space.

Fire engine red structural beams underline the sprawling room’s drama. Photo by Wonho Frank Lee

An oxblood red industrial metal staircase leads up through the building, opening onto an idyllic rooftop space with panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills. Cozy seating, terrazzo tables and plenty of heat lamps ensure that the 4,000 square foot deck will be packed year round. “The view is pretty spectacular,” Smilie says.

Photo by Wonho Frank Lee
Photo by Wonho Frank Lee

Grandmaster Recorders, 1518 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028, (323) 963-7600, Hours: restaurant: 5 – 11 p.m.; 71 Studio Bar: 7 pm – 2 a.m.; rooftop: Monday-Friday 4 pm – 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 12 noon – 2 am

Photo by Wonho Frank Lee