SLS HOTEL, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL
465 South La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif.; 1-310-247-0400; www.slshotels.com
ROOMS AND RATES
The hotel has 297 rooms, including 61 suites. Rooms start at $520 (Canadian) and suites at $700.
Two decades after he introduced the world to the boutique hotel, uber-designer Philippe Starck makes a splashy return to hospitality design with this L.A. property.
Starck has a history of working with nightlife kingpins-turned hoteliers. In the 1990s, it was Ian Schrager; today, it's entrepreneur Sam Nazarian, whose SBE group signed the designer to a 15-year contract. Nazarian's goal was to create a luxury hotel with top-notch nightlife and a party hotel where you could get a shirt pressed in an hour. He calls it SLS for Style, Luxury and Service - the holy trinity of hostelry. This first property in the SLS umbrella has opened in a former Le Méridien hotel, a cumbersome white building on an urban block at the edge of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and central Los Angeles.
LOCATION SLS is equidistant from LAX and Burbank, about 30 minutes from either without traffic. Shopping streets such as West Third and Melrose (and quaint Melrose Place) in West Hollywood, and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, are less than a 20-minute walk away. But no one walks in L.A., so SLS offers a complimentary shuttle for trips within a two-mile radius.
AMBIENCE In typical Starck style, the lobby greets guests with a full-fledged fantasy in which wildly over-scaled planters, a six-foot-tall horse lamp and an array of colossal white chandeliers elicit guests to murmur something about Alice in Wonderland. It's a reference that has followed Starck for years. The warm staff reassures you that at least you'll have expert guides for your tumble down the rabbit hole.
CLIENTELE Mixed: young creative professionals, corporate types from Audi (who stay here when in town) and nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and tourists from Western Europe and Russia.
DESIGN The hotel boasts 177 different chair styles (including one that glows red) and 20 chandeliers - and it works. Starck's métier is wonder, and guests respond accordingly, gasping at the decor and exploring the space before committing to a seat. A smart floor plan breaks the narrow lobby into several seating areas with button-tufted leather upholstery and bookshelves organized by subject. The intimate spaces mean you can linger without feeling on display. Teak furniture with white canvas cushions and potted greenery turn a covered terrace into a lush outdoor living room.
SLS has clearly put big thought into the little things. Conference rooms are named for "famous monkeys" (such as Albert and Gordo, who were flown to space) and the SLS acronym is given irreverent translations on signage, like "sincere little sorry" when the pool is closed.
ROOMS The rooms are steeped in sex appeal, with plentiful smoked glass, moody lighting, a faux-fur throw and a mini-bar organized into Saints (dried fruit and nuts) and Sinners (organic chocolate and an "intimacy kit"). Rooms are 420 square feet and feature D. Porthault sheets, a 40-inch plasma TV, Wi-Fi (which is $16.75 a day) and an iPod docking station. Most have a desk and a banquette and table. Some rooms on the second and fifth floors have private terraces.
Suites, which range from a 500-square-foot Studio Suite to the 1,900-square-foot Presidential Suite, have Mac computers, oversized soaking tubs and separate living rooms with Corbusier-style furniture; seven suites have personal gyms. Dozens of rooms and suites offer a view of the Hollywood sign.
SERVICE Luxury-hotel stays plummeted just as SLS opened this winter, and that means plenty of attention for the remaining guests. The staff has an easy camaraderie that suggests they've been working together for a decade, and the valet and doormen are as professional as the front-desk team. I ordered twice from the 24-hour in-room dining menu. Both times, the staff member repeated my requests and estimated that it would arrive within 20 minutes - and both times it did. The apricot croissant I had tried at breakfast the day before wasn't available that morning, so the kitchen included several other flavours, complimentary.
When the free hotel shuttle wasn't available to take me and a friend to dinner, a staff member apologized, hailed us a cab, gave the driver directions and handed me a round-trip taxi voucher.
AMENITIES The 24/7 business centre has several computers and lends laptops and printers, though you must pay for printing and Internet. Modern cardio and weight machines fill a better-than-average gym and a personal trainer is available on request. The Ciel Spa, which opened in January, also offers poolside and in-room massage; the therapist brings an iPod loaded with soothing music.
FOOD AND DRINK At night, guests and film types converge at The Bazaar, a theatrical collection of dining rooms and bars on the ground floor. The menu, by celebrated Spanish chef José Andrés (a protégé of Ferran Adria), is as diverse and creative as Starck's surrealistic decor. It's divided into Rojo and Blanca, the former showcasing traditional Spanish jamon y queso, the latter a stage for inventive small plates. The restaurant has complementary traditional and modern dining areas. Bar Centro, which is lively within moments of its 6 p.m. opening time, serves signature Andrés cocktails such as the Magic Mojito, in which liquid is poured onto a cloud of cotton candy (voila: mojito!).
The rest of the floor is split between Patisserie, where diners enjoy house-made sweets at communal tables, and a spin-off boutique of Moss, the Manhattan emporium of high design.
THINGS TO DO Being in the SBE network has its perks. The concierge can book reservations at XIV, chef Michael Mina's terrific new Starck-designed restaurant, or get preferred access to the nightlife venues that made Nazarian a household name in L.A., such as Hyde Lounge and The Abbey.
On sunny days, you'll be hard-pressed to do anything but kick back in a private cabana at the stunning rooftop pool. Each tent has loungey furniture, a plasma-screen TV, phone, Wi-Fi and food and beverage service.
In a city where buying a quart of milk demands a commute, guests need only to take an elevator to a top-notch evening.
The moody (read: dark) lighting and abundant mirrors can make a jetlagged guest feel out-of-sorts.
Unapologetic glamour and enticing dining converge for a sexy all-in-one urban getaway.
The author was a guest of the hotel.
Special to The Globe and Mail