A-list room service in Hollywood
A breakfast of caviar, served in bed at the Hotel Bel-Air.
Los Angeles's most elite meals were once served in restaurants surrounded by paparazzi. Now they're hidden behind closed doors.
In Hollywood's ever-escalating luxury hotel arms race, guests no longer have to settle for standard room service, unceremoniously prepared by hotel staff from a boilerplate menu. The new culinary calling card is in-room dining prepared by A-list celebrity chefs.
When the new AKA Beverly Hills opened on 6 March three blocks from Rodeo Drive, it will be the first property in the world to feature dishes delivered by Spago, the famous flagship restaurant of Oscars caterer and TV personality chef Wolfgang Puck. "When patrons are ordering from Mr Puck's menus, they expect the food and presentation to be nothing short of outstanding," said Larry Korman, AKA's president.
That's why Spago, which is on the same block as AKA, will omit a few dishes that don't travel well — the Fanny Bay oysters, for example, aren't deemed rigorous enough for the short trip across the alley — but otherwise, the menu comes straight from the see-and-be-seen dining room that has been frequented by entertainment luminaries for decades.
Gordon Ramsay was one of the first celebrity chefs to jump on the LA trend, having overseen room service at the London West Hollywood since its opening in 2008. Guests don't receive the same dishes served in Ramsay's downstairs dining room (so no bone marrow toast or grilled Spanish octopus). Instead, they skew toward the comfort food options traditionally favoured by room service diners, such as miso-marinated Pacific black cod and pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, but they're prepared in the same kitchen and with the same ideals as in Ramsay's haute location, including the use of seasonal and regional ingredients.
"The desires of someone staying in and ordering room service may vary from a person who is looking for the complete dining experience," said hotel vice president Jennifer Rutkowski. "But consistency is the same."
SBE Entertainment Group, soon to expand its hotel empire into Las Vegas, makes the practice standard. At its SLS Beverly Hills, spectacular creations by chef José Andres – such as lobster gnocchi and chicken and béchamel fritters – are delivered pillow-side from his downstairs bistro Tres. At its The Redbury in Hollywood, guests can choose between Mediterranean selections from Danny Elmaleh's Cleo, which located in the hotel, or have creations by master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi delivered from Katsuya, located a short distance away, across Hollywood Boulevard.
At the celebrity hideout Chateau Marmont, the room service star is Carolynn Spence, who popularised the US gastropub trend at New York City's much-heralded Spotted Pig restaurant. And guests at the Pali-Hotel on Melrose Avenue can order up chicken cracklins and melted raclette from Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor's The Hart and the Hunter, rated by Los Angeles magazine as one of the best restaurants of 2012.
However, it's true that gourmet quality can suffer from convenience. A 2012 kitchen renovation enabled the exclusive Hotel Bel-Air, in business since 1946, to prepare room service dishes using the same kitchen as its own Wolfgang Puck restaurant. To enable discreet delivery on the Bel-Air's 12-acre spread, elaborate plating is simplified for transit, and the food (including pan-roasted jidori chicken and hand-cut steak tartare) forgoes the flourish of tableside preparations, so soup arrives in an insulated pitcher and sauces are applied in the kitchen. Also, since entire meals arrive at once, the ice cream served with the apple pie will likely be melted by the time the starter and main are enjoyed.
But at the Bel-Air, at least, some frills are retained; if requested, dinner in bed can be served with a $2,985 bottle of 1996 Clos du Mesnil Champagne.