California Travel Articles
Le Luxe LA - Le Meridien Hotel in Beverly Hills
What would Beverly Hills be without a fabulous French hotel?
Four and a half years ago (1999) the French chain Le Meridien took over the Asian-style Nikko, near the corner of La Cienega and Burton Way in a most fashionable section of Los Angeles.
Fifteen million dollars later—voila!—Le Meridien at Beverly Hills.
Upon entering the lobby, one is enveloped in an atmosphere of fresh, open, comfortable luxe. Marble tile floors the color of sun-washed stone extend to the reservation desk, a concierge desk, a business center, the Café Noir Bar & Lounge, and the guest elevators. Ficus trees, potted white chrysanthemums, and a gurgling atrium fountain are centered among cozy couch and coffee table arrangements, as if you were entering an Architectural Digest living room you can call your own.
At the reception desk I'm told, "The computers have been down since Friday, so we're going to do this the old-fashioned way." The woman speaking has a welcoming smile as she presents paper and pen. "It won't take long." And indeed, when one is greeted with such natural honesty who cares about computers?
Later, Director of Operations Kurt Wiksten says, "At least you'll get an honest, truthful response from us. We're not perfect, but we'll do what we can to make your stay comfortable."
My Junior Suite is everything one would expect. The room is spacious, peach, with blond woods and a chaise longue in addition to the queen-sized bed. Linens are top-of-the line and the bathroom is oversized and high-tech. There is a deep soaking tub and separate roomy tiled shower, plus bathrobe and slippers. The technology doesn't overpower the design, and though this is still a bedroom, you're comfortable with all the business amenities available.
All guestrooms have double-edged executive desks, high-speed wireless internet access, personal "walk around" phones, a phone in the bathroom, a fax/printer/copier machine, CD/video players, and a bedside control unit programmed in six languages. This is Beverly Hills, after all, where the world meets to wheel and deal.
Le Meridien at Beverly Hills, where, according to the literature, "European luxury meets L.A. style" has 197 oversized guestrooms, including 54 suites, all designed for a wide variety of personal and business needs.
Other amenities found in all rooms include tea and coffee making items, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, minibar, satellite television, and international direct dial telephone. You can have a free nightly shoe shine and in the morning the LA Times is outside your door. There are rooms with handicapped capabilities and telephone for use by the deaf. Voicemail you check easily yourself is standard on your telephone.
Oui, this is a class hotel, but without any pretense or arrogance. Oui, the décor is first-class, the amenities abundant, the food exquisite and the ambiance relaxing, but it's the people who make Le Meridien Beverly Hills such a special hotel.
The concierge desk is rarely idle. Here guests can take advantage of a variety of services. From 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., besides driving instructions and car rental, the concierge on duty often arranges limo service, gift baskets and flowers, airline and show tickets. Concierge Michelle, originally from London, points to an award on the wall and says in her lilting accent, "This is an international award that we're very proud of."
The plaque reads "Resort & Great Hotels Connoisseur's Choice 2002 AWARD to Le Meridien at Beverly Hills."
What was her most unusual request? Michelle pauses, then relates an event that happened during a video conference at the LA Convention Center. "A man in the Presidential Suite wanted an Xman 2000 game installed in his room." When she found a company to complete it in three hours, he rented it.
I ask about the vases and art work displayed. "The majority of art is French," says Michelle. "Most of the antiques were shipped over from France."
The hallway that leads to Le Meridien's restaurant is another story. Large black and white photos of the Cannes Film Festival, taken between 1970 and 2000 line the walls.
This exhibit alone is worth a visit to Le Meridien at Beverly Hills. Entitled "Le Festival," it's a photographic retrospective "celebrating the glory days of cinema in Cannes, Sister City of Beverly Hills." Cannes, of course, is the Côte d'azur hotspot home of the film festival of the same name. All of the photos are by Traverso, actually four generations of family members who have spent their lives capturing life in Cannes with an unbiased, candid style that has become the family trademark.
Above left: Le Festival! is like a modern garden setting, with slate floors, upholstered purple chairs, white cotton café curtains, and a bank of windows facing tree-lined La Cienega.
Above, right: A lavish breakfast buffet offers a variety of pastries, fruit juices, fresh fruit, cereals, scrambled eggs, chicken apple sausages, smoked bacon, roasted potatoes as well as hot and cold beverages.
The restaurant is also called Le Festival! and I can see why as I wander through this bright, airy dining spot perusing more black and white eight-by-tens displayed on walls and posts.
Le Festival!'s hostess is Marta, who as I am seated offers a black napkin "to avoid the white lint on the clothes." Marta has sparkling dark eyes and a beautiful Spanish smile. She has been with the hotel for six years, first introduced to the hospitality industry by Nikko. "It's a pleasure to come to work every day," she says. "We have guests from so many different nationalities. I enjoy working with the public."
At my request Alfonse, one of the chefs, prepares a beautiful parfait, a towering ice cream glass layered with house-made granola, yogurt and fresh berries, and elegantly presented with a smile from my waiter, Jorge. From 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. there is a lavish breakfast buffet, offering a variety of pastries, fruit juices, fresh fruit, cereals, scrambled eggs, chicken apple sausages, smoked bacon, roasted potatoes, as well as hot and cold beverages. Because Le Meridien is international, a Japanese breakfast is also offered, featuring grilled fish, poached egg, dried seaweed, pickles, fruit, miso soup and rice.
Regular breakfast menu items include hearty griddle buttermilk pancakes, crispy Belgian waffles, a cinnamon-dipped raisin brioche French toast, eggs Benedict, Florentine or Ranchero, omelettes, cured ham and smoked salmon.
For lunch Le Festival! serves international cuisine with Mediterranean entrées and daily chef specials. A private dining room for groups up to sixteen may also be reserved.
Le Festival! is like a modern garden setting, with slate floors, upholstered purple chairs, white cotton café curtains, and a bank of windows facing tree-lined La Cienega. Background music is easy listening and vocal ballads. And when you see employees smiling when no one's looking, it can't help but add an extra warmth to your dining experience.
Wiksten says, "We're a family. You're coming to an environment. If we surround ourselves with great associates, the bottom line is the guests will have a better experience."
Of the twelve people voted employee of the month this past year, all averaged eight years of employment with the hotel. Wiksten says not one has been here less than five years. And all were nominated by fellow "associates."
Wiksten notes that the biggest challenge in the hospitality industry today is keeping good people.
"We're not reinventing the wheel," he says. "People want to be acknowledged for a job well done."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carolyn Proctor, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
by Carolyn Proctor