Tim Richards checks into a stylish hotel by the beach in Los Angeles.
This outpost of the Fairmont chain is in a good position for visitors to LA, for several reasons. It's almost on the beach at Santa Monica, a lively and walkable neighbourhood at arm's length from big-city hustle. To the west, the proximity of Malibu's coastline and surrounding hills make it easy to escape the big smoke altogether. It's also not too distant from the attractions of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
As the hotel is slightly removed from both the beach and the shopping streets (though it's an easy walk to each), the property has the detached feel of a resort. A long front drive leads to a vast Moreton Bay fig tree in front of the lobby entrance – legend says it was planted here in 1879 from a cutting provided by an Australian sailor who couldn't otherwise pay his bar tab. The lobby has classic charm with patterned marble floors, earthy tones and comfortable sofas. You can tell you're at a vacation spot from the relaxed pace in the lobby, symbolised by the Scrabble and chess sets dotted on the tables. The pool and lush green gardens within the hotel's wings are pleasant places to chill, as is the Mexican-style bar, The Bungalow. In-house retail includes a spa, a gift shop and a designer swimwear outlet.
Although the interior of my Deluxe Ocean View Room in the hotel's Ocean Tower has recently been renovated with a sleek, modern look, the bathroom is a typical Fairmont oasis of marble. Here I find toiletries provided by French company Le Labo from their outlet in nearby Venice Beach. On a counter above the well-stocked bar fridge there's a Nespresso capsule coffee maker. The star of the living room is a classic Eames Chair and Ottoman, angled to give a view of the Pacific.
There's plenty of space in my suite and a distinctly uncluttered, light-filled atmosphere – aided by exposed parquetry, furniture with simple lines, and a mirrored wall to aid the natural illumination. This upmarket beach shack vibe is courtesy of LA interior designer Lynda Murray, who was briefed to turn old-fashioned interiors into something bright and breezy to match the location. There's a sweeping view of the beach and palm trees from the balcony, and within the suite a comfortable bed and plenty of storage space.
I'm pleased to see the airy ground floor Fig Restaurant offers an a la carte breakfast menu in place of the usual disappointing buffet. Interesting selections include a breakfast burrito ($17), tofu scramble ($16), and chilaquiles, a tasty mess of tortilla chips, scrambled egg, chicken, salsa and cheese ($18). The lunch menu offers salads, sandwiches, and larger dishes such as fish tacos ($17). At dinner there's a broader selection of starters and mains, including slow-cooked octopus ($17), milk-braised pork shoulder ($27), and vegetable curry with a Middle Eastern flavour ($21). A bar menu is served in the lobby.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
The Fairmont is an easy stroll to the extensive shopping and dining opportunities of Santa Monica. The Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian mall, is the epicentre of this activity, with the adjoining Santa Monica Place the home of high-class shops and restaurants. The Santa Monica Pier is a popular local landmark, as of course is the beach. If you'd rather get around on two wheels, the hotel will lend you a bike for the day.
The Fairmont Miramar provides the best of both worlds, with a relaxed setting but also easy access to Santa Monica's action. The rooms have been thoughtfully designed to maximise their ocean backdrop, making the hotel an enjoyable base to return to after a day exploring LA.
HOW TO GET THERE
The hotel is 14km north of LAX, a 25-minute $45 taxi ride when there's normal traffic. The cheapest option, however, is to catch Shuttle C bus to the LAX City Bus Centre. From here, the route 3 bus operated by Big Blue Bus (bigbluebus.com) will take you to Santa Monica for a mere $1.
Rooms at the Fairmont Miramar from $399 a night. 101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, USA. Phone +1 310 5767777, see fairmont.com/santa-monica.
The writer was a guest of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.