A last minute work trip took me to LA 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 soulless strip malls, but off the main thoroughfares are neighbourhoods full of character, soul, glamour, beachy saltiness 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.
I only had a couple of days to explore, and focussed my efforts on three main areas: Venice, West Hollywood and Downton LA.
Venice was by far my favourite part of LA. Its hippy vibe is still evident, 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 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.
For coffee, there are good options on Abbott Kinney for even the most pretentious of coffee snobs from Melbourne (i.e. me). 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 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!
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.