How the west was won

West Hollywood, that is. Here's GRAZIA’s low down on where to eat, stay, play and of course shop, in WeHo

the sunset
Signage along the famous Sunset Strip

West Hollywood (WeHo), home to California’s hippest bars, shops and celebrity spotting streets, has a chequered past with just the right amount of edge mixed with SoCal free-spirited attitude to maintain its allure as an international party and cultural hub. Along with California’s famed climate, the city boasts an eclectic mix of Spanish mission / revivalist architecture and modernist bungalows with sky-rise developments, with not to be missed sunset vistas over LA and down to the west coast. 

As with most global cool quarters, WeHo is enlivened by a mix of fringe dwellers, migrants, artists, film and media types and a noticeable gay presence. The result is a melting pot of those who eschew the mainstream. Its colourful past include being a wet oasis during the dry years of prohibition; an exclusion zone to LA’s strict anti-gambling laws of the 1930s; a sunny mecca for the hippies in the 60s; and a rock and roll right-of-passage since the 70s. It was though the LA government's attempt to undermine rent control in the area that saw this LA county’s residents vote to incorporate as the 'City of West Hollywood' in 1984. 

Although famous for the bars along the notorious Sunset Strip, luxury shopping at Sunset Plaza and Melrose Place, WeHo has a tonne more to offer in some of its lesser known back streets, from a thriving graffiti scene, art galleries and an interior design quarter, to contemporary eateries, bespoke boutiques and vintage shops.

Here’s GRAZIA’s guide to some of the best places to eat, stay, play and, of course, shop to put on your next holiday wish list.


STAY
GRAZIA stayed at the boutique hotel Mondrian Los Angeles  and enjoyed one of the most comfortable beds and softest pillows this writer has ever had the pleasure to lay down on. Simple, stark and beautiful, the room is full of surprises. Signature elements created by design visionary Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz include a brilliant orange-hued glass that pivots to reveal a flat-screen TV within. The hotel is centrally located on Sunset Strip and makes it an easy walk, bike or Uber to wherever you need to go. Rooms boast views over the hotel pool and vistas of the city leaving you feeling both part of the excitement of the street and cocooned in your sanctuary.


Mondrian room
Rooms at the Mondrian are simple, stark and full of surprises


EAT

Mornings demand coffee and in America you can’t beat a diner that’s updated its offering to espresso rather than the usual drip-coffee bottomless cup affair. Alma at the Standard, has a classic 50s movie aesthetic with curved banquettes and brass swivel stools at the serving counter but a very 2017 menu with a focus on seasonality and sustainability. Open 24/7 the lunch and dinner dishes read very tempting but we checked it out for breakfast. We rated a very Australian choice of their take on smashed avocado (fennel and arugula salad with blood oranges and avocado) with the addition of two poached eggs and a much needed caffeine hit in the form of a latte (make that two lattes).

When it comes to food, California is the birth place of all things organic. Combine that with American’s love affair with Mexican cuisine and food chains and you have the recipe for the perfect fast eatery – enter Tocaya Organica . Think fresh, quick and made-to-order Mexican staples such as soft shell tacos, salad bowls and corn chips. Add to that the ability to custom build to taste with a choice of protein, sauce or sides, then enjoy with a thirst quenching sparkling mineral water or cerveza.  This is the perfect easy breezy lunch joint to tide you over pre- or post-shopping or just a ringside seat to enjoy the passing parade on Sunset Strip. We rated the plantain chips, guacamole washed down with a Modelo Especial.


Quacamole
Quacamole with plantain chips and Modelo at Tocaya


Keeping the chill lounge vibe going but adding a heavy dose of effortless interior, sophistication and contemporary American cuisine and you have the not to be missed Norah. Marble counters, custom parquet flooring and wood detailing coupled with oversized palm trees, high ceilings and modernist chandeliers, give off a relaxed but polished vibe and one you’d happily sit in all afternoon enjoying a delectable long lunch. We tried the Chef’s Tasting degustation with wine pairings and there wasn’t a misstep amongst its offerings. Special mention goes to our favourites on the list; the Sea Bass Cerviche with avocado mousse and Dry Aged Striploin with crispy potatoes and paprika butter. Mouth-watering marvelousness both.


norah
Norah Interiors are of a relaxed but polished vibe and one you’d happily sit in all afternoon enjoying a delectable long lunch


For some celebrity sighting while dining make your last supper a classic Italian affair at Cecconi's. No need for the plainness of plane food after a quick bite here on the way to LAX when homeward bound. It’s hard not to go past their classic handmade pasta dishes, with house made crusty bread and olive oil and balsamic to dip. Just try not to get whiplash checking out the who’s who of Hollywood as you savour the rich flavours of Cavatelli, lamb ragù or Spaghetti, Maine lobster, chili, saffron, basil. Best to stick with sparkling mineral water to stay hydrated for the flight. 

SHOP
It’s easy to scratch your shopping itch in WeHo. You can start off at Sunset Plaza and tick Dior and H&M off before heading down La Cienega Blvd to Melrose Place, where you can indulge in international luxury brands such as Balmain and Isabel Marant, as well as American designers like Marc Jacobs. Continue along Melrose Ave for a more eclectic mix and nab some vintage Wranglers, Levis or Americana motif shirts at Chuck's Vintage. Veer into some side streets and you’ll find home-grown talents like Clare V whose quirky and locally produced bags and tees fuse a love of all things American and French. Je t’aime.


Clare V
Quirky and locally made bags and satchels at Clare V

sky bar article
The pool at Sky Bar

PLAY
Spoilt for choice in terms of rooftop pool bars, you can imbibe on a cocktail while dancing poolside at DJ hosted afternoon sessions like Wicked Paradise hosted at Sky Bar. Or if you’re hankering for something a little slower paced, try a dinner and show at E.P.& L.P.'s Melrose Rooftop Cinema. For day-trippers, mix your shopping with some back street graffiti art sight-seeing – look out for the black and white calligraphy inspired works by Californian artist Retna. We recommend giving your legs a break by renting a bike from ride-share WeHo Pedals. They come with cute handlebar basket messages like “Ride me - I’ll make you happy”. Or get your holistic bent on and take a class at PLAYLIST Yoga. To ensure you look the part swanning around, treat yourself to a blow dry at the divine Salon Benjamin.


daytripping bike mural
Ride share bikes the perfect way to explore the grafitti art in WeHo backstreets

Tile and cover image: Supplied