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TO THE POINT: Your room may feel like a modern glass portal from which you can explore the cultural offerings of the booming Downtown LA scene — or like a generic box placed squarely in the center of a giant urban mall. The pros: nice views and a location close to restaurants, bars and sporting events. The cons: bland room interiors, it’s hard to ignore the sea of chain eateries, the area isn’t entirely rid of skid-row types.
There are two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Los Angeles: One in Marina Del Rey and the other in Downtown LA. The former overlooks boats in the harbor; the latter overlooks the LA Live entertainment complex adjacent to the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. If you need to be close to sporting events, the Grammy Museum, Microsoft Square, Disney Hall or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the downtown destination makes sense. But regal-feeling this is not.
Located just off the highway (where the 110 and 10 meet), the Tier 4 property offers 123 rooms, including 13 suites — in fact, these rooms are housed in the same 54-story skyscraper as the JW Marriott Los Angeles from the 22nd to the 26th floor. The space also houses a Wolfgang Puck restaurant (WP24), a spa, a rooftop heated swimming pool with panoramic city views and, of course, lots and lots of meeting space — 100,000 square feet of it.
Since this is a Tier 4 property, you’ll need 60,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points to redeem a free one-night stay — I ended up paying $588 per night for my overnight stay in August. The new Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Card, which we reviewed here, wasn’t available at the time, so I called AAA to book my stay, which got me a small discount since members get anywhere from 5% to 20% off hotel rooms. I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred (this was right before I got the Chase Sapphire Reserve), and earned 2x points on travel and dining, as well as 1x points on all other purchases. If the Chase Sapphire Reserve had been available then, I would have earned 3x points on all my travel and dining expenses.
Walking into a Ritz-Carlton property should feel special, opulent and luxurious. But this front desk just looked dull and dowdy. The service, situated behind clashing stripes of brown decor, was professional, but no one went out of their way to explain the amenities of the hotel beyond the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, fitness center and spa options. They gave me a map, but no one ever mentioned that there is a winding passageway to the lobby of the nearby JW Marriott Los Angeles, where more restaurants and bars await. I stumbled upon it as I followed window displays showcasing expensive jewelry.
Equally strange to me was the mish-mosh of furniture on the right side of the guest reception area. It didn’t look or feel like the seating arrangements were part of a larger vision. The concierge, however, was available and helpful; she printed out some work-related documents for me quickly and amiably and took an extra minute to place the printouts in an envelope bearing my name.
The essentials were all there: the complimentary Wi-Fi, the 42-inch HD flat-screen TV, a desk near an electrical outlet and 400-thread-count linens on a king-sized bed. But the carpet was unevenly worn in places and some of the wood furniture showed chipped or scuffed marks on the edges.
I loved seeing a couch by the window — the perfect book nook (I fall asleep if I try to read in a bed). But the view, at least from this room, was not especially compelling. I looked out over corporate logos and mall structures, with the Staples Center and Microsoft Theater in the foreground and construction cranes in the background.
Ritz-Carlton hotels tend to have nice bathrooms; this one had marble floors, dual sinks and high-end toiletries from Asprey, a British luxury brand that has served UK royal families for many decades.
I liked standing under a walk-in shower instead of in a tub. But, honestly, I still don’t know how you can turn the water on without first stepping into the tub on the far side of the shower, which seemed a little ridiculous.
For a splurge, you could eat at Wolfgang Puck’s stunning modern Chinese restaurant,WP24, on the 24th floor. But reservations are essential and the dining room is closed on both Sunday and Monday nights — the “Nest” lounge, next door, is open on Sunday evenings though.
There were a few other eateries located on the lobby level of the JW Marriott Los Angeles (including Ford’s Filling Station, where I ate) and if you walk outside — yes, leave the building — you’ll see chains including Smashburger, Rosa Mexicano, Lawry’s The Prime Rib and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, while trendier restaurants are a few blocks away (many of them on 7th Street). Note that the neighborhood has not completely shed itself of skid-row characters, so if you’re not comfortable walking by yourself, Uber is the answer.
Ford’s Filling Station, a gastropub from celebrity chef Ben Ford, doesn’t attempt to dazzle too hard, but gets the important stuff right. It’s located on the lobby level of the JW Marriott Los Angeles in an open-air environment with an insanely high ceiling.
The seating ranges from private booths (below, left) to in-the-middle-of-everything (below, center).
The place serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, and if you swing by at an off hour, you can order from a bar menu with dishes designed for sharing, like bacon-wrapped dates, a cheese plate featuring California products and smoked barbacoa taquitos with guacamole, salsa roja and cotija cheese. They gussied up the caesar salad (shown below) with marinated peppers, anchovy crostini and parmesan-grilled farm bread. A waiter suggested adding chicken, so I did, and the char was welcomed.
Room service can skew a hotel experience in seconds. Lots can go wrong between ordering and receiving. Thankfully, this Ritz-Carlton has the food-cart delivery routine down to a science. I ordered my usual “test” breakfast and they nailed it. The fruit bowl held ample servings of ripe and sliced watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and berries. The coffee was hot but not too hot and the Greek yogurt was cold but not too cold. The omelette was warm and plated prettily with a side of potatoes. Better than many brunch spots, frankly.
Location, location, location makes and breaks this Ritz-Carlton hotel. Sure, it’s centrally situated in Downtown LA, but until it does something about the staggering corporate blandness, you’d never know that you’re near so many cool bars, restaurants and creative people.
Have you stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles? Share your experience in the comments, below.
Featured image courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles.
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