Just off Santa Monica Boulevard, Petit Ermitage is an eccentric muddle of art, antiques, flora and fauna. The owners’ collection of artefacts and paintings are displayed throughout the hotel, adding gallery-like gravitas. One thing’s for sure: you won’t be bored here, whether dining in the Garden – the outdoor restaurant packed with vibrant blooms which also doubles as a butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary – watching the sunset from the deck by the flickering flames of the outdoor fireplace, or sipping a mojito by the rooftop pool.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability and a half-day charge. Earliest check-in, 4pm. Required check-in age is 21.
Double rooms from £222.52 ($311), including tax at 15.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $0.80 per room per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of $25.41 per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude à la carte breakfast (from US$22).
Resident artist Marcus Suarez is behind details such as the Tuscan wall finishes. Head to the Firedeck, the hotel’s outdoor event space. Imported 18th-century tiles sourced in the Dutch West Indies decorate the fireplace. On Sunday nights, catch a film and snack on popcorn. Show up for the Gypsy Brunch (US$35), a buffet of eggs, pasta and fruit served in the Garden.
At the hotel
Garden, gym and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: minibar, iPod dock, flatscreen TV, and CO Bigelow bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Go for 405, which has a wraparound balcony, or request one of the 11 suites in the Masters Quarters on the top floor (you’ll get access to the Masters Lounge, which has potent cocktails and plenty of places to relax). You’ll also be tended to by a designated ‘Liason of Happiness’ (a butler, to you and me). Room 323, a Junior Suite, is particularly quiet – located in the middle of the floor away from the elevator – leave the balcony door open and let in the night breeze while you sleep.
The heated outdoor saltwater pool is surrounded by kumquat trees and striped loungers with umbrellas; these must be booked in advance on holidays and weekends (Friday to Sunday), they're free to hire for up to two guests. There are also cabanas for lounging and city-gazing, which can be reserved for a minimum $400 spend on food and beverages (for four guests, for up to four hours). Under-18s are welcome in the pool, with adult supervision, from 7am to noon every day. After that, it's adults only.
Bring a high-speed video camera to capture the blink-and-you'll-miss-them hummingbirds in the rooftop sanctuary.
Although Petit Ermitage is best for grown-ups, cots can be added to rooms free and a sofa-bed can be added for US$35. Babysitting is available with a local nanny for US$20 an hour (three hours minimum), with 24 hours’ notice.
Dine wherever you wish at the Private Rooftop Club: go for a sun-drenched table on the roof for people watching; duck into one of the quiet, canvas-enclosed cabanas in ‘The Garden’s End’ if you're after a more intimate affair; order a snack by the pool.
Mrs Smith will feel at home in a floaty batik caftan and wedges. White chinos and a lightweight button-down shirt work for Mr Smith.
Crystal chandeliers, fairy lights strewn around wrought-iron gates and playfully mismatched furniture decorate Petit Ermitage’s restaurant, the Private Rooftop Club. At breakfast, tuck into the truffle oil-infused Odessa Omelette, made with black caviar, yogurt and chilli sage butter. Ask the bartender to whip up a spicy cocktail from the Bloody Mary cart to wash it down. Try the braised lamb shank simmered in coconut milk with candied kumquats and pistachios. The cardamom chicken is another favourite, served over fluffy saffron couscous with minted cucumber salad and harissa.
Two large wood panels decorated with painted butterfly wings back the Butterfly Bar, part of the rooftop club. Soundtracked by a blend of lounge, hip hop and house music (flamenco and jazz on Sundays), this drinking den has plenty of laidback bohemian bonhomie. Turquoise chairs and round tables dot the patterned Turkish carpet. Try the Moytelek, a riff on the mojito, subbing pear vodka for rum.
Breakfast is from 7am to noon; lunch is served until 5pm and dinner is from 5pm to 11pm Sunday to Thursday (midnight at weekends). Cocktails are mixed until midnight at the Butterfly Bar.
The full restaurant menu can be enjoyed in your room 24 hours a day.
Petit Ermitage is located on Cynthia Street between Palm Avenue and Larrabee Street.
LAX, the closest airport, is 30 minutes away, and is visited by most major international and domestic airlines, including Continental (www.continental.com) and British Airways (www.ba.com).
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) operates out of Union Station, 20 minutes from the hotel by car.
Wheels will serve you well in La La Land, although you’ll need to mentally prepare for the city’s road rage-inducing traffic snarls. Valet parking is available for $42 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
Give your wallet a workout on Melrose Avenue with stops at Fred Segal, Alexander McQueen and Agent Provocateur. In summer, catch the star-studded performances of the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl at 2301 North Highland Avenue while dining on a picnic lunch prepared by Petit Ermitage’s chef. On the second Sunday of each month, head to one of the city’s best flea markets at the Rose Bowl at 1001 Rose Bowl Drive in Pasadena. Pick out vibrant blooms and fresh fruits and vegetables for alfresco snacking at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market every Sunday. For a mix of high-street and designer boutiques and outdoor events – plus trolley rides – set course for shopping complex the Grove. The Roxy Theatre is close by for live music, and a little further south, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) has some serious eye-candy; tie in a pit-stop there with a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits.
You may not have an invite, but arrive in late February and you're likely to get caught up in the star-studded buzz of the Oscars ceremony. Hang around near the Kodak Theatre to catch a glimpse of red-carpet arrivals.
Get your sushi fix at Nobu at 903 North La Cienga Boulevard or take chef's choice with the omakase menu at Sushi Ginza Onodera. Dine at Dan Tana's at 9071 Santa Monica Boulevard, a LA institution since 1964, known for its juicy steaks and loyal crowd. After you’ve shopped away your bank balance on Melrose Avenue, some cicchetti (Italian tapas) such as fennel salami and marinated olives, salt-cod croquettes with saffron aioli and zucchini blossoms with goats’ cheese won't break the bank – Cecconi’shave a great selection. Surf ‘n’ turf is on the menu at Mastro's at 246 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. Little Door looks to local farmers to provide the freshest produce for their seasonal dishes; this local favourite at 8164 West 3rd Street also boasts a romantic wine bar.
Verve Coffee Roasters on Melrose is a bright industrial-chic space where beans from all the coffee hotspots (Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Guatemala…) make flavourful brews. Beachy brunch spot Hedley's loads its tabletops with scrambles and sweet treats, including vegan-friendly fare; and barn-style eatery Eveleigh, with cosy communal tables, is a very popular spot for a sunlit mid-morning feast.
Whisky a Go Go’s stage has been rocked by legendary bands since 1964 including the Doors, Janis Joplin and Led Zepplin. The iconic – and infamous – Viper Room in West Hollywood is a must-go for rock ’n’ rollers. And, Elton John, the Eagles and Joni Mitchell have all graced the stage at the Troubador club, five minutes from Petit Ermitage down Santa Monica Boulevard.
Los Angeles, I’d been to, but not West Hollywood. And it isn’t what I was expecting. A bohemian former apartment block off the main Santa Monica drag, a Thirties-style stained-glass awning and the scent of exotic perfume: Petit Ermitage has us seduced before we’re past the valet parking. The edict of the Ashkenazy brothers, the owners of Petit Ermitage, is that this is a place where you elevate, worship and retreat. So, arriving at their arthouse, we surrender to their decree. Hang on. Is that a three-foot shocking-pink furry cat, a talking duck and a child-size Pinocchio ambling past? Welcome to WeHo.
Mr Smith pauses on an Indonesian wooden alligator to admire specially commissioned art; I check us in. A charming French receptionist explains the morning-coffee MO: we order it how we want it, as soon as we wake, and have it where we like. How civilized. (We’ll need that caffeine: pesky LHR–LAX jetlag.) In Annie The Musical, this is where she breaks into ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here’.
Squeezed into the dinky elevator with maxi-size marionettes (they’re here for an audition in the Rooftop Club), we head up to the fourth floor where we’re greeted by an Olivia Steele neon scrawl of ‘See you on the other side…’. A fellow hotelier had mentioned to us that Stefan Ashkenazy takes pride in the details. A floral pattern extending from the carpet to a delicately painted wall decoration seems from the hand of Perrier-Jouët’s original art nouveau illustrator. This, along with the brocade rug in our bedroom, even thaw my long-running stand-off with patterned floor coverings.
Our suite, with its earthy dark colours and souk-like lighting, is the same level as the rooftop pool and restaurant. Sneaking a glass of what’s been left chilling in the wine bucket for us, we follow the steps up to admire the sunset poolside. Toes dipped in the 3.5ft-deep aquamarine saltwater reveal it’s as warm as a spa. Why leave our newfound oasis for the rest of the weekend? It’s winter, but giant heaters take the edge off the January chill. Under an awning fashioned from former military tents, amid candlelit Moroccan lanterns and potted kumquat plants and cacti, it feels more North Africa than West Hollywood. We admire houses twinkling from the pine-and-palm-tree-punctuated hillside to one side, and to the other, a far-as-the-eye-can-see view across to mountain and sea, over LA’s rooftops. We can’t wait to flop on those terracotta-coloured striped beds in the sunshine.
We steal a final dose of dusk from our balcony overlooking this residential street before ordering room service. Mixed grains, aromatic vegetables and sweet dates invite a taste of Morocco into our suite and treat our senses to another imaginary far-flung foray. The members’ club is gently thrumming to life and though the chanteuse is enticing, we have our little girl in tow. It’s treat enough to have a night in front of the big-screened TV while Miss Smith snoozes on her roomy pull-out sofa clad in a threadcount fit for a sultan.
A tonic for an early wake-up is having that rooftop to head straight for. Our jetlagged morning splash is with a family that’s just flown in from Sydney; we commiserate over strong frothy coffees. There are more triumphs of detail to admire in the daylight: such as an old barrel that acts as the towel basket. Any urban noises are upstaged by the gentle sound of water splashing into a copper trough, enhancing the ever-exotic ambience.
An early start is no deterrent to friends coming for breakfast. With two toddlers, they’ve been up hours by the time most folks are rolling out of the nearby Viper Room, or as the spectacular of croissants and fruit are being laid out in the hotel’s French-inspired Garden restaurant. We’re invited to colonise the most special table at the end of the rows of cabanas; ‘The Garden’s End’ is our own curtained-off outdoor private dining room. The chic black-clad staff couldn’t be kinder even with three ever-curious small people dancing around under their feet. Don’t let our tales of toddlers mislead though: this is a place for lovers – and even our chaotic presence can’t impair this.
You’d think salmon pita piled high with capers, and mountainous eggs Benedicts, would cross ‘eat’ off our list of things to do. But since we’re greedy, we still tap the chaps on reception for their tips on the neighbourhood’s best places to eat (Chin Chin’s Chinese-chicken lettuce wraps are reason alone to visit LA). The valet magics back our rental car and we head up to Hollywood proper, then take an excursion through Koreatown; a cosmopolitan circuit, before returning happily to our Marrakech-feel abode. And here, just like Morocco, a blue-skied sunny day gives way to a clear but chilled night. We’re delighted to discover the open hearth in our room springs to fiery-flamed life at the touch of a button; a swoon-worthy setting for our daughter’s Korean noodles and kimchi for one. (It's less romantic when she knocks her take-out supper onto that pretty carpet. Housekeeping is swift and sweet about restoring decorum. Phew.)
Soon the Buddha Bar-esque tunes lure us back to the rooftop. Since Mr Smith popped the question two days before in Palm Springs, this is our night to celebrate. A babysitter installed (booked through a staff member a few days earlier), and we have no desire to stray far. Friends join us for meze and lamb tagine in the leafy restaurant, then it’s drinks on the terrace under the stars. Even our born-and-bred-in-LA visitors can’t help but ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over the views. (And they’re lucky to be here – the management are fairly strict about allowing hotel residents only two guests up here.)
The conversation touches on what people think makes someone lifetime Mr or Mrs Smith material, and it starts to sound like how I feel about Petit Ermitage. Easy on the eye. Cultured. Sexy. Someone you can introduce to your family, and have a great night with à deux. The clincher? A sense of humour. A peek behind the doors labelled ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ reveals this trait. The ladies is a bijoux bathroom decorated in the style of a boudoir via hand-painted trompe-l’œils: dressing table, butler sporting a broached turban, a festoon of fringed curtains. As for the chaps, a circus character scrutinises you at a certain anatomical level, with a magnifying glass. But I’ve told you too much. I’m ruining the surprise. You need to experience the drama for yourself.