If LA had a secret garden, it would undoubtedly be the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood. A discreet awning and a wall of cascading ivy and fauna are the only indications of this oasis found tucked away in the cul-de-sac of a nondescript residential neighborhood. I recently re-read The Secret Garden, the childhood classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, after a recent stay at the Sunset Marquis. A particular passage more or less describes how it feels to enter the hotel, "Then she slipped through [the door], and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight. She was standing inside the secret garden."
The 3.5-acre Sunset Marquis is arguably half opulent garden, half luxury resort with a consistent sprinkling of Hollywood’s elite as guests. Since its opening in 1963, the resort has entertained and served everyone from rock legends to billionaires at its al fresco central restaurant, iconic BAR 1200, and two pools. Most of the public space is outdoors, such as the corridors and lounge areas that feature renowned celebrity photography, a collection allegedly worth more than $1 million.
Last year, the property completed a prodigious $25 million renovation of its 100 suites. Oliva Villaluz, a Hollywood set designer turned interior space guru, led the upgrades, hand-selecting a rich but unstated palate of textures that include silk mohair, leather, slate, marble, and Murano glass. All told, the Sunset Marquis has never looked better, both indoors and out.
Another part of Villaluz' upgrades included the spa, the hotel’s 1,800-square-foot enclave for pampering. I had surprisingly never ducked inside the spa during previous stays, but I'm pleased I waited for its unveiling. Awash in vanilla motifs and aqua blue tile work, the spa embodies a bit of the beach. Catering to the privacy of their guests, it forgoes shared locker spaces and waiting areas.
Instead, the spa has four massive treatment rooms each featuring a changing area, a shower the size of a storage unit, and a massage table designed by Porsche. It was a blissfully private spa experience, and I hope other spas implement this private space model. My therapist knocked promptly at the start time of my treatment, a Hot Stone Coco Vanilla Shea Butter massage. Just as indulgent as the name of the massage sounds, the 80-minute treatment was sublime. I had a skilled therapist particularly trained in the technique of hot stones, and I forgot how soothing smooth hot rocks could feel. Other treatments include nail services, a couple’s romance ritual, and organic body scrubs.
Just across from the facility is Sunset Marquis’ restaurant Cavatina. Half outdoors, half indoors, the eatery is the focal point of the entire property. The patio area, shaded by flowering vines and perched atop a waterfall platform, epitomizes the classic California lifestyle. Guests and locals alike enjoy Sunday brunches and evening dinners in the dead of January, although there are heaters just in case the temperature dips below 60 degrees.
The menu, created by media darling chef Michael Schlow, reflects the same Californication desire for fresh greens, organic sourcing, and modern twists on Mediterranean fare. Crispy Brussels sprouts tossed with delectable bacon, grilled octopus with chickpeas and Fresno chilies, and lamb meatballs drizzled with pine nuts are a few of the small-plates favorites. The menus change seasonally and at chef’s whim, but I was able to savor the Marquis Cheeseburger, a hall of fame contender, if burgers had such a prestigious list. Seafood is also expertly presented at Cavatina, particularly the salmon crudo, which Zagat noted in its “10 Best Things We Ate This Year.”
A secret, lush hideaway for epic eating or spa sojourns await in West Hollywood at the Sunset Marquis.