by Sophie Gayot
The pool pictured in the photo to the left of this text is at the just-reopened Hotel Bel-Air, but most guests won’t be allowed to use it. It is to be used exclusively by those high-rollers staying in the brand-new 6,775 square-foot Presidential suite. Just imagine the luxury: one bedroom, one bathroom (although adjoining rooms may be connected for a maximum of five bedrooms and five bathrooms), indoor and outdoor living spaces, a private dining room for ten, chef’s kitchen, study, great room with a grand piano, and that magnificent pool, all for $15,000 or so per night.
If that one-of-a-kind space is too big for you, choose from the other 58 rooms and 45 suites the historic hotel now has to offer. Twelve of them are completely new, in new buildings constructed into the hillside; make sure to ask how to get there before heading there. This is the result of two years of renovations, remodeling, and refurbishing, and somewhere under $100 million dollars invested by the Dorchester Collection to make the Hotel Bel-Air more grand and splendid than it ever was since its 1946 opening. When you own a legend, you are obliged to maintain its status.
The long list of high- and very-high-profile clientele will find the outdoor spaces feeling the same, from the arrival on the bridge, the white swans (now enjoying an environmentally-friendly Swan Lake), the Spanish mission-style of the buildings and the unforgettable “Bel-Air Pink” covering the outdoor walls. As soon as you get inside, whether in the public spaces or your own room, you’ll see the total transformation. Alexandra Champalimaud’s design firm had the difficult task of integrating modernity into a hotel loved by the rich and famous for its old charm and classicism. The challenge was met by creating different design themes from Hollywood’s golden era in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Though Champalimaud refers to these years, the result is quite young and modern, but still graceful and soothing to the eyes, with limestone floors and natural wood ceilings.
She also took care of the new Bell Tower featuring the La Prairie Spa. It is a 4,134-square foot space dedicated to give you the best luxury care imaginable in seven treatment rooms; the Couple Suite boasts its own shower, bathtub, and private outdoor patio with a waterfall. On top of the spa, there are three lofts-guestrooms to ensure privacy. You don’t need to leave your room to get any of the treatments, which is just perfect for those recovering from surgery.
Now, let us talk about another part of the hotel that we are feverish about at GAYOT.com: the restaurant. Master chef Wolfgang Puck, who was named GAYOT.com Best Restaurateur of 2010, and has been running a GAYOT.com Top 40 Restaurant in the US since we’ve created the awards in 2004, is in charge. The former restaurant has been completely remodeled by the Rockwell group. The patio has been enlarged and is now covered with limestone, a major change from the former terracotta tiles. Inside, the backdrop is a chimney and glass wine cellars containing more than 2,400 bottles separating the main dining rooms from the private ones. Take a few minutes to look at the labels, and you’ll see rare wine treasures. I got to sample some food in Bernardaud porcelain and on white tablecloths, and it was quite good, but the dishes I enjoyed may not be on the final menu. Wolfgang Puck’s concept is not to do fine dining, but to focus on modern California cuisine with European and Mediterranean influences. And we all know he can do it! His sweet alter ego, celebrity pastry chef Sherry Yard, is finishing the meal with her creations, overseeing the team on-site at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Puck’s assignments include room service, catering, and the bar that opens to the outside. Watch our exclusive video with Puck, recently shot at Spago Beverly Hills.
As the renovations are more like a rebirth, than just remodeling, of the iconic world’s famous hotel, we wish long life to Hotel Bel-Air, a hideaway in twelve acres of lush gardens, soaring trees and fountains. It is more glamorous than ever, a perfect balance of nostalgia and modern luxurious living.
You can click on each photo to enlarge. All photos by Sophie Gayot.
(Sophie is dressed by designer Emmanuelle Nagel, www.paule-vasseur.com.)