The Hotel Bel-Air is redoing its renowned restaurant and as could be expected, little expense is being spared.
That means Italian hand-blown glass chandeliers, amber wall sconces, gold-and-crimson silk draperies, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, all of it surrounded by a palette of butter cream, amber and terra cotta. The makeover is under way because the muted pastels of the current design scheme are considered outmoded.
The top-to-bottom renovation would be the first in the 58-year history of the venue, simply called the Restaurant. Also planned is a new menu once the renovations are complete.
"We really feel it's dated," Managing Director Carlos Lopes said of the Restaurant's look. "This is a business where you have to reinvent yourself every five years."
The 90-seat restaurant was given the top ranking for d & #233;cor in the 2005 Zagat Survey and was also named one of the Ten Best Restaurants in America by Zagat in fall 2004. The Hotel Bel-Air also has earned a Mobil Travel Guide Five Star rating for the last two years.
The hotel is investing more than $500,000 on the restaurant remodel, which follows a $20 million renovation to the guest suites and public areas, mostly completed in June 2004.
The renovations are slated to begin Jan. 23 and will take three weeks to complete. During that time, the restaurant will be closed but the hotel will still serve meals on the heated patio and in the bar.
Under Executive Chef Douglas Dodd, the cuisine will continue to be Californian with French accents.
The Dallas office of architecture, planning, engineering and interior design firm Leo A Daly came up with the new look for the Restaurant.
"We are updating the finishes and giving it a fresher, more casual look because lifestyles have changed," said Patricia Miller, Daly's vice president and corporate director of hospitality. "It's still a very elegant property, but everyone is much more casual in travel and dining."
Set in a remote hillside neighborhood above Sunset Boulevard, the Hotel Bel-Air's main mission-style building was originally the planning and sales office for Alphonso E. Bell, who created Bel-Air Estates in 1922. In 1946, Texas hotel entrepreneur Joseph Drown purchased the 18-acre site and hired architect Burton Schutt to convert the buildings and construct guest rooms.
After Drown added gardens, a lake with swans and an oval-shaped pool, the hotel became a favorite of the rich and famous and a regular stop for the likes of Grace Kelly, Jackie Gleason, Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe.
The hotel changed hands several times before it was sold in 1995 to Kava Holdings, which is owned by the brother of the Sultan of Brunei.
Lopes, who managed the property for four years before leaving in 1986 to start a business, returned in 2002 and oversaw the renovations.
For that project, each of the 91 guest rooms and suites customized and the public areas were overhauled. Some rooms were designed for specific guests, such as Oprah Winfrey.
The Restaurant is a favorite of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who called Lopes to register a complaint when The Wall Street Journal reported that the hotel's herb garden might be lost with the planned addition of a spa. (The garden was spared.)
The construction of the 12,000-square-foot, $7 million spa, on the site of the hotel's gym, is slated to start in August.
The Restaurant's new look will include textured walls to replace fabric panels, leather-upholstered chairs and free-standing banquettes, new carpeting, new china sets for tea, lunch and dinner and original artwork with a Mediterranean flair.
The hotel had considered changing the name of the restaurant, but decided against it after getting feedback from several repeat guests.
"We're going to keep it the same way," said Lopes. "We're not trying to be cute. We're not trying to be contemporary from a standpoint of positioning the restaurant different from the hotel. We're focusing more on the design and we're focusing more on the food."
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