+ CLOSE

Driving up the winding Stone Canyon Road to Hotel Bel-Air, I had a sense of foreboding. Was I seriously expecting to have a good time at a hotel surrounded by mansions and golf courses? Possibly not, but I had always dreamed of staying in a Hollywood Hills hideaway, where celebrities canoodled in corners.

I arrived with an escort of two Angeleno friends who were dismissed snootily by the valet, his upturned nose turned even higher when I chose to carry my own (very light) shoulder bag. The welcome at Reception was a little more gracious and I was suitably mollified by a room upgrade and a drink at the bar whilst my room was made ready.

Whilst lolling around with my hand cut crisps and Mimosa, I couldn’t help but do a little people watching. In all, I felt like I was in an episode of Entourage. Flocks of young men in sharp suits walked back and forth with Smart phones glued to their ears and eyes, dropping the F-bomb occasionally and all heads turning when a glamour girl in a wispy maxi-dress swayed by.

A very tall and somewhat laconic concierge walked me through the gardens to my pink stucco bungalow, pointing out the Wolfgang Puck restaurant on the way. It was an impressive candlelit patio space (the word “patio” seemed entirely fitting, by the way) but I was exhausted after a long trans Pacific flight and chose to get room service. I smiled to myself when the waiter arrived and batted nary an eyelid at the fact that I was in my dressing gown and had a professional tripod set up with camera pointing directly at the bed. I got the feeling that if I told him the truth – that I wanted a photo of the bed with no-one in it, it would be the most surprising thing he’d heard all day.

As an aside – the room service burger and fries and New York cheesecake, although not the most original of choices, was quite possibly the most delicious example of each that I’ve ever eaten. Well done Wolfgang.

The room was moderately sized and beautifully decorated with a sophisticated palette of blues and whites. A small courtyard to the rear of the room was nice but a little pointless, as the high privacy walls made it feel more like a cell than a retreat and there was a significant price hike for it. The bathroom was particularly luxurious, and despite being dead on my feet, I took a long bath with the La Prairie products. I also pocketed the finely milled French soap in the shape of a sleeping swan – the first time in years I have been even remotely tempted to do the hotel toiletries cleanout.

The next morning I arose too late for breakfast but made my way lazily to check out, passing several honeymoon couples bickering loudly, and more than a couple of extended families with small children running about busily along the narrow paths and hidden gardens shaded by greenery (in my overactive imagination, spurred on by the Hollywood environs, I envisaged large scale drug deals going on by phone whilst the ninos played in papa’s lap, but I expect papa was probably engaged in business of a far more pedestrian nature).

The staff were young and helpful although slightly harassed, and, given the interactions I observed, they probably did well under pressure. I expect that if staff are a little harried or distant, it is probably because they have been worn down by the highly demanding guest traffic.

The hotel is not that conveniently located (you cannot walk out to get something to eat or do a spot of shopping) but is better considered a lovely oasis from the bustle of LA with a true Hollywood feel, beautiful, luxurious and private.