Dining Design Diary: Chateau Marmont


     I spent last week in Los Angeles, and as I’ve mentioned before, I get a little caught up in the glitz and glamour of the SoCal city. Maybe it’s because I originally hail from Ohio, or maybe it’s just the thrill of the hunt, but my time in L.A. doesn’t feel complete without a little celeb stalking. And since I knew my visit landed smack in the middle of the Grammys and the Oscars, I was determined to spot a star.

But all week that TMZ moment I was dreaming of kept alluding me—I stayed at Santa Monica’s Shangri-La hotel, an Art Deco masterpiece designed in 1939 and renovated to the hilt just two years ago. The glamorous rooftop bar was the perfect place to get a bird’s eye view of the action, as the tents for IFC’s Independent Spirit Awards were just down below on the beach. But while I got to take in a killer sunset, the day ended without seeing a single star. 


Lunch at Tiato in Santa Monica got me a little closer: the brand new restaurant from the An family (Crustacean, Anqi) sits steps away from the offices of MTV and Def Jam Records, and the healthy, flavorful menu and spacious outdoor dining patio seemed the ideal spot for Katy Perry or Rev Run to take a long business lunch. And indeed, my lunch date mentioned Whitney and Bobby had been in for Valentine’s Day. But that day I was left to enjoy my meal with mere mortals.

For dinner friends took my husband and I to Canelé in Atwater Village. They mentioned that the last time they had been in, the entire cast of The Wire was there. One of the two owners is Jane Choi, who is married to Andre Royo, the actor that played Bubbles on the series. The cozy interior made me feel transported to a cafe in Paris, as did the boeuf bourguignon—the tender, wine-soaked beef made up for the fact that no celebs showed up that night. 

As the week drew to a close and I had still not snagged a single star, I decided there was only one option left: breakfast at the Chateau Marmont. My husband—an L.A. native who couldn’t give a hoot about celebrities—deserves an Oscar for Best Supporting Wingman of a Crazy Person, as he patiently drove us down a congested Sunset Boulevard at 9 a.m. on a Friday so I could get my fix. And as the property came into view, I already felt in the presence of Hollywood greatness.

Built in 1927, and modeled loosely after the Château d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley, the hillside hideaway has a star-studded history, including the meeting of Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward; Jean Harlow’s scandalous affair with Clark Gable while still on her honeymoon with cameraman Harold Rosson; Jim Morrison of the Doors, high as a kite, jumping off the roof of a poolside cabana; John Belushi’s fatal overdose on cocaine and heroine; and most recently a starring role in Sofia Coppola’s latest film Somewhere.

We dined in the lounge, as I had heard it was a hallowed writers’ hangout. The mismatched antique furnishings (mostly from the 1940s and sourced by production designer Shawn Hausmanwere) were authentically worn, and the perfect foil to the white-glove service and surprisingly delicious food. The Spanish-Moorish architecture is timeless, and world’s away from the fussy interiors of newer Hollywood hangouts. Stars or not, I loved being there, which was fortunate, because the stars never showed. But as I playfully donned my shades and an oversize scarf as a pair of British tourists roamed the lobby, obviously on a celeb hunt of their own, and watched them do a double-take at me and my heavily tattooed husband (Grammy-winning bass player, maybe?), I realized that the excitement and magic of L.A. isn’t necessarily running into Matt Damon at Starbucks (although that would have been AWESOME) but getting to live out your own little glamourous fantasy against a backdrop of sunshine, palm trees and scene-stealing locations. Mission accomplished. 




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