Andaz West Hollywood and One Pico Restaurant Review
The Andaz West Hollywood is my go-to property when I visit Los Angeles (which is quite often). For me, the location, amenities and price are all right, and the fact that I can use Hyatt's Diamond Suite Upgrade certificates seals the deal.
I've stayed in the hotel 6 times since it opened in 2009 and each time I've used a suite upgrade, but I've also purchased regular rooms for family and friends so I know what the standard rooms are like as well. The property is on Sunset Boulevard, across the street from the Sunset Marquis and Mondrian hotels. It's about 30 minutes from LAX (without traffic) and about $55 for a cab.
Upon entering the hotel, you realize that this is not your normal, run of the mill chain hotel. There is no check-in "desk," instead there are "hosts" with portable handheld devices who offer you a beverage while they check you in. This property does participate in Hyatt's online check-in, so its usually a very quick process - you hand your credit card and you are on your way with keys. The keys are RFID, so you simply hold them against the sensor in the elevator and the door in order to get access - no swiping involved.
The hotel used to be called the Riot Hyatt, known for hosting rock bands when they made their way through LA. The Wikipedia entry on the hotel is entertaining and gives some history on the bands (Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones and The Who) it has hosted.
I ended up arriving around 1:30pm and my suite wasn't ready, but my regular room was, which they upgraded to a spacious top floor "view" room. The "view" rooms are on Sunset Blvd and instead of balconies, the hotel has glassed in that area and put comfortable reading chairs in it so you can relax with a nice view of downtown LA (smog permitting). As I mentioned earlier, I like Andaz hotels for the standard amenities: free wifi, non-alcoholic mini-bar and snacks.
It was a perfectly sunny day in LA, so I ended up killing time on the rooftop pool and the check-in host actually came up there without prompting to give me my key when the suite was ready. Now that's service! A pet peeve of mine is when hotels make you wait to check-in and say they will call you when the room is ready, but then forget about you (like my last stay at the W South Beach). I ended up killing another hour or so on the roof and luckily they had sunscreen samples at the bar area, since I had forgotten to bring some. The rooftop has fantastic views of Downtown LA as well as the Hollywood hills.
I ended up in 1205, which is a corner suite on the top floor that I've been in several times before. The suite is split into 3 main parts: the reader area by the windows, the living room with sectional sofa and high table and then the bedroom. There are also two bathrooms - both pretty small. In fact the bathrooms are my only real complaint with this hotel- they are small, single sink and have poor water pressure (another hotel pet peeve). The detachable shower heads are slim and look pretty, but offer a lame shower experience. Also, the toiletries are Farmacopia, which I just don't like, though they are better than the standard Portico White Ginger, which I'm not in love with either.
One of the things I love most about being a Hyatt Diamond is the breakfast benefit, especially at the Andaz' restaurant, RH (named after Riot Hyatt). Historically you could order any specialty item off the menu and they'd comp the whole bill, which is pretty incredible since breakfast for 3 would always be $100+. However, this visit we noticed that all of the amazing specialty items were off the menu - apparently the chef left and took them with him! Who knew that was possible? So instead we had the choice of buffet or omelettes/french toast/basic items. We ordered off the menu and each day our bill was completely zeroed out, which is still incredible, even though we couldn't get their famed eggs périgourdine.
Valet was speedy each time we used them because we called ahead. I did, however, have a little bit of an issue during check-out with changing my partner's mom's room to her own Hyatt Gold Passport number. I made the room reservations in advance when she wasn't a Hyatt Gold Passport member, but upon my advice she recently got the Hyatt Visa (which came with two free nights she already redeemed at the Park Hyatt Paris), so she deservedly wanted the points for her room. I've never had an issue swapping a loyalty program number at check-out when I'm changing it to the person's number who is ultimately paying for the room, but the front-desk manager argued that she had benefited from my Diamond status because her room was upgraded to a View room. I agreed it was nice of them to upgrade the second room of my reservation, but I had used a Suite upgrade for my room, so a secondary upgrade was an above and beyond benefit the hotel did not have to do and she shouldn't be penalized for that. Maybe I'm completely out of line here, but I didn't see what the big deal was - her name was on the room as a registered guest and she was paying with her Hyatt Visa. The manager gave some mumbo jumbo about paying $30 per night for the upgrade, but I pushed back and she finally acquiesced and made the change.
The other weird part of the stay were the two protesters with megaphones outside the hotel ranting early Sunday morning. I've witnessed them before when I stayed at the Hyatt Century City and I've read other travel bloggers accounts, but never had the pleasure of seeing them at the Andaz West Hollywood. I had no intention of engaging with them, but when we exited the hotel to put mom in a cab to the airport, they started haranguing us as we politely refused to take their literature. The female protester started verbally attacking mom with, "SHAME ON YOU!" - which instantly set me off. Instinctively I got in between them and told the protester to "quiet herself" and she went ballistic, screaming unintelligible, garbled rants. At that point, my blood pressure started to rise, so I quickly got mom into the cab and walked back into the property with their megaphone insults being hurled at me as I shook my head in disgust. The situation was annoying, but they were at least gone when we checked out a couple hours later (thanks to my 2pm Diamond check-out benefit). I have nothing against unions and honestly would have listened to their cause (and possibly even written about it here), but they never gave me the chance to even understand why they were there. They were bush-league protesters at best and certainly won't deter me from staying at the Andaz again. For Hyatt's stance on this issue, check out this page.
Moving along - our visit coincided with Mother's Day weekend so that was why my partner's mom flew out from Atlanta to meet us. I'd just like to take a moment to say how proud I am of her - she was a general member of the Skymiles program when I met her and as of today she has Platinum status and over 50,000 MQMs YTD (thanks to rollover and the Delta Charity MQM promo). She has done mileage runs and somehow almost manufactures more miles and points than me. Maybe one day I'll do a profile on her, because she's the poster child for someone who quickly learned the mileage game and used it to her advantage. Her hard work paid off - she was upgraded at her Medallion window for both legs of ATL-LAX, which is one of the tougher Delta upgrades to snag.
Anyway, we decided to go to One Pico restaurant in the storied Shutters Hotel in Santa Monica for lunch on Saturday as an early Mother's Day celebration with a couple other family members who live in LA. The beachfront restaurant offers great views of the Pacific and an excellent American/seafood menu. The room is centered around a grand fireplace and suspended row boat and the high windows allow for a sun-drenched dining room. Even though the typical late morning Santa Monica haze lingered, the room was so bright I almost felt like putting on my sunglasses (which I'd obviously never do indoors at a nice restaurant).
The ambiance was perfect and so was the food to boot. I went with the ahi tuna tartar (yukon gold potato chips, green onions, soy vinaigrette) and the shellfish avocado salad (lobster, crab, prawns and calamari, lemon and tuscan oil) for my entree. We decided on dessert since lunch was so light and all three choices were spectacular. Everyone's food was fresh and combined with the exceptional atmosphere and service, we ended up having a pretty epic lunch.