My work has taken me to LA a couple of times recently. Not one to let a busy work schedule stop me from checking out a new city, I made some time to get out there and mooch my way around town. Here, I bring you a quick guide to the places I ate, drank and shopped (and highly recommend) in La La Land.
I had never been to LA prior to this trip, and all can say is that I. AM. HOOKED. I had heard so much about the negative aspects of the city that I was incredibly (and very pleasantly) surprised at how quickly I took to it. Yes, it is a city full of freeways and strip malls, but off the main thoroughfares are neighbourhoods full of character, soul, glamour, beachy saltiness, creativity and that sunny positivity that Californians seem to radiate inherently. I can only describe LA as “Sydney on steroids.” Everything is bigger, badder and just a little bit more glam.
Venice was by far my favourite part of LA. Its hippy vibe is still evident (read about my new age Venice experience here), despite the influx of hipsters and money into the area which, for better or worse, has changed it in recent years. The main street to check out is Abbot Kinney Boulevard with its cafes, eclectic restaurants and boutiques.
For getting around Venice (it is spaced out and takes a while to walk from one place to another), I highly recommend downloading the Bird app and renting the publicly available Bird electric scooters to scoot from bar to boutique to cafe to beach. You just need to enter your drivers licence details the first time you use it and you’re off. It is the most fun way to get around town and saves a lot of time if you only have a day or two to explore.
For eating I recommend breakfast at Gjelina on Abbot Kinney. Nab a spot in the courtyard at the back and order the pancakes for the perfect start to your day. An even more impressive light lunch can be had at its sister deli/bakery, the more informal Gjusta, just a few blocks away. It was here that I had the life changing experience of the baclava croissant – a pastry which combines two worlds, two cultures and two of my favourite treats, viennoiserie and baclava. The cafe is bustling, and serves up solid lunch fare. While you’re there, check out the next door Gjusta interiors store for LA interior inspo.
For dinner in Venice, go no further than the Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney. It’s slick, laid back and has an impeccable menu. We arrived feeling “medium hungry”, but ended up going to town on far more sharing dishes than we originally anticipated. Each dish was just more compelling than the last. Felix is a happening Italian restaurant on Abbot Kinney that you have got to try for mouthwatering Italian and a cool Venice vibe. Just be sure to book ahead. Charcoal is a casual Venice neighbourhood BBQ restaurant run by Michelin star chef, Josiah Citrin, and boasts a seasonal menu of craveable comfort BBQ foods. I had the duck and it was amazing.
For perfect all day al fresco dining, head to the laid back Rose Cafe on Rose Avenue. It’s the perfect breakfast spot, but stay on for lunch – the pasta is gooood. For impeccable vegan dining (whether you’re vegan or not) Cafe Gratitude on Rose Avenue is worth a visit. Across the street is the best juice place I have ever been to: Moon Juice. Mind-blowingly delicious juices, as well as a selection of adaptogen and other health giving supplements.
For coffee, there are good options on Abbott Kinney for even the most pretentious of coffee snobs from Melbourne (i.e. moi). Intelligentsia and Bluebottle Coffee (both on Abbot Kinney) will keep you happily caffeinated while you wander.
My pick of the boutiques on Abbott Kinney are:
- Aust: for Aussie designers, whose designs are perfectly suited to the laidback beachy LA lifestyle;
- Pretties: for the quirkiest and cutest in ladies underwear;
- Burro: for original cards, stationary and a unique edit of books;
- Avocado: for the comfiest of active wear in a gorgeous array of colours;
- Mystic Journey Bookstore: for all your spiritual book, healing crystal and angel card needs.
- The Piece Collective: boho elegance abounds I this beachy store. Raffia baskets, hats and shoes mixed in amongst floaty summery pieces from the likes of Mes Demoiselles and Love Shack Fancy.
- Satine: a sophisticated collection of labels from Proenza Schouler to Ganni and Gabiella Hearst.
The best ice cream award goes to Salt and Straw, a charming ice cream shop, with awesome flavours, and an ethic based on family and community. My tip: get the salted caramel.
No visit to Venice is complete without a wander along the beach (where the people-watching is epic) and a stroll along the canals (where the real-estate-watching is all levels of awesome).
West Hollywood, for me, was a great spot for shopping. I focused mainly on Melrose Avenue and surrounding streets, where you’ll find designer heaven by way of: Isabel Marant (hidden behind a sublime Palm Springs-esque desert garden); Mansur Gavriel (whose interior is as colourful and stylish as its designs); Zimmermann (another Aussie label perfectly suited to LA living); Vince and Theory (two of my favourite US high street stores for urban sophistication).
Take a break from the retail love and stop in at Croft Alley, an unassuming but chic little cafe that does scrumptious toasted sandwiches.
Finally, hike up the hill to Fred Segal for the best in LA denim and statement pieces. From there it was a short walk to my hotel, the London West Hollywood. The London is the perfect spot to base yourself. The rooftop pool and bar have gorgeous views across the sprawling city and the decadent bathrooms are bigger than the average London flat.
Downtown is LA’s historic central business district, but there’s so much more to it than business. I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore Downtown and barely scratched the surface. My Downtown recommendations are:
- Redbird for brunch – a reliable brunch menu and divine (very instagrammable) interior;
- Grand Central Market – for a wild selection of food stalls from all over the world. The ultimate LA breakfast experience can be had at Eggslut, where they dish up mouthwatering egg dishes all morning (if you can brave the queue).
- The Art District – up and coming neighbourhood which is fast becoming the sought-after place to live, create and hang out. Full of pop up stores, eclectic galleries and rooftop bars, there’s a unique buzz in this very cool neighbourhood.
- Bestia – a stand out Italian restaurant, with authentic and mouthwatering dishes. Book ahead!
I had a short but sweet afternoon in Silver Lake and fell in love with this hip and beautiful suburb. Its hilly streets are lined with lush palm trees and tropical fauna, and the inhabitants of this little suburban oasis are ridiculously cool. My tips for Silver Lake are:
- Intelligentsia: for perfect ice coffee, and the most Instagrammable floor tiles;
- Botanica: a delightfully eclectic restaurant and food market set up by two food writers and editors. The food is heathy, using mostly local ingredients, and the restaurant ethos is all about sustainability, healthfulness and hospitality. And ht people watching factor here is pretty cool too. After lunch, take a stroll down the little stretch of Silver Lake Boulevard where there are a few delightful little interior and fashion boutiques to be explored.
- Forage is a small but beautifully formed cafe, family-owned and locally run. It is all about sourcing ingredients locally from sustainable sources. And its delicious.
- Mohawk General Store was my favourite Silver Lake boutique, with its eclectically curated stable of brands including Isabel Marant, Dries Van Noten and Lemaire.
Finally, special mention goes to the stand-out restaurant from my trip: Cassia. Its in Santa Monica. Its Asian-influenced. It’s a must-visit. The crab claws are my personal recommendation.