Hoe Down in West HollyWood
(A family the recently visited the Farmers Daughter Hotel had a really great time. It turns out mom writes for the Australian.)
THE COOL LOS ANGELES TEST
I AM surfing the net looking for somewhere cool and affordable to stay in LA. With teenage sons in tow, their father and I are told that they are so not into Disney or studio tours or anything remotely touristy, thanks all the same.
They are not thrilled with the result of my exhaustive search, however — it’s the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel. I think they have in mind something more along the lines of Brangelina’s Beverly Hills compound.
But as I am one from way back (a farmer’s daughter, that is), I sense I’m on to a winner. And “the price is right”. In more ways than one, as it transpires.
Time is tight, so from Los Angeles airport we head to the Getty Center for the afternoon (deemed “exceedingly cool”, I’m happy to report), then cruise Sunset Boulevard, rubbernecking the glittering mansions and dodging the countless dozens of Mexican gardening teams tending the billiard table-svelte, kerbside lawns.
The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel, located in the rather less groomed West Hollywood, leaps out at us from busy South Fairfax Avenue, the facade painted a fetching blue gingham check. We swing into the garage where a friendly valet springs to attention and, with a speed that defies the establishment’s hayseed overtones, sets about hauling our copious luggage up to room 300.
Popular with cost-conscious travellers, serial shoppers and would-be game show contestants vying for a spot at the nearby CBS studios — where The Price is Right is filmed — the Farmer’s Daughter has garnered good press across the US, and it’s easy to see why.
At the reception we are greeted with polite smiles and jugs of fresh juice and home-baked cookies. There’s a resident sheep (stuffed) and a budgie (alive and well). In a clever, price-savvy conversion, the owners have taken what looks to be a typical LA motel (the sort seen in hundreds of cop shows) and given it a lick of paint, some floorboards and loads of down-home detailing.
“Hearkening back to the comforts of your grandma’s spare bedroom,” promises the brochure.
The three-level facade has been gussied up with montages of old farm implements, the creaking lift lined in copper, the courtyard decorated with tubs of succulents and alfresco restaurant tables set with little vases of fresh chrysanthemums. And, importantly, the rooms are clean; there are even turn-down service toffees for well-behaved farmhands.
Our Farmer’s Suite has a separate living area with sofa (which can be pulled apart to create two floor mattresses), a tiny kitchenette and coffee percolator. There’s a Bose iPod dock, a flat-screen telly in each room and free Wi-Fi, while the frisky decor stretches to gingham curtains, perky oil paintings of ducks, dogs and donkeys, and a king bed decked in denim (everyone in LA wears denim, even little old ladies in Pasadena).
Our suite overlooks the courtyard restaurant, Tart, where cool music plays quietly from 7am (when young lovelies rise for their juice and granola); along with the hum of traffic wafting up to our room, it’s a soundtrack that places us firmly in LA.
It goes without saying the Tart staff are sassy as all get out, and so is the cocktail list.
We order a margarita, which is served in a jam jar. The all-day brunch menu runs the farmyard gamut from the Haystack Hussie (grits with bacon, green onion, cheese, eggs and biscuit) to chicken and waffles.
There’s a small swimming pool and several comfy places to lounge with a cocktail while awaiting your call up at CBS.
But the best thing about this competitively priced hotel is its location, within an Oscar’s toss of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and opposite LA’s famous Farmers Market, allowing us to walk to dinner, a rare luxury in this freeway-circled town.
Established at the height of the Depression, when farmers parked their pick-ups in a field to hawk produce to LA housewives, this atmospheric market still sells fruit and veg, but the covered maze of walkways is dominated by small restaurants, with jaunty pastel chairs and tables set alfresco.
The modern-day housewife (and visiting tourist with hollow-legged sons) is welcome to stock up on all manner of exotic consumables, from fresh rabbit, Cornish game hens and prime rib eye to baguettes, dainty pastries and speciality teas. But most locals come here to grab a quick bite at the old-fashioned burger bars, bistros and food stands. Many haven’t changed a jot in decades.
Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts is said to serve the best doughnuts in LA (try the delicious New Orleans beignets) while Patsy D’Amores Pizza (operating here since 1949) sports black-and-white photos of Patsy (a bloke, actually, and responsible for introducing pizza to LA in 1939) with famous customers including Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
Gills has been dishing up hot fudge sundaes since 1937 and queues are long at the highly regarded Gumbo Pot and nearby Loteria, which serves excellent Mexican, including cactus salad, tortilla soup and Cochinitia Pibil (slow-roasted pork in banana leaf with chilli habanero).
Between 3pm and 7pm, it’s extended happy hour at Monsieur Marcel. Pull up a stool, order a glass of flint-dry rose wine and tuck into the complimentary bread and olives while LA life swirls and eddies about you.
This site was once home to an oil company and baseball stadium (team owners included Bing Crosby and Cecil B. De Mille). But once the Farmers Market got a foothold in 1934, it was here to stay, with all sorts of inducements dreamed up to lure shoppers, including a drive-in theatre and trout-fishing pond.
These days the Farmers Market benefits from the lure of the adjacent The Grove, arguably LA’s smartest mall and a good place to keep an eye out for television and movie stars.
Featuring a broad avenue of high-end stores (Barneys, Nordstrom, Barnes & Noble, Abercrombie & Fitch, Anthropologie), the open-air mall has a Vegas vibe, with dancing fountain, live music, trolley car and a huge cinema complex where we queue for the opening night of Pirates of the Caribbean: OnStranger Tides, possibly the world’s dreariest movie, Johnny Depp notwithstanding. But when in LA . . .
If malls leave you cold, just around the corner from the Farmer’s Daughter is terminally funky West 3rd Street where my well-thumbed copy of the Luxe Los Angeles guide promises, “If it’s in vogue, or will be, you’ll find it in this belt of nifty boutiques.”
We leave the ‘hood every now and then to explore the likes of Venice Beach. Recommended here are the Three Square Bakery and Cafe for breakfast before ferreting through the fab stores lining Abbot Kinney Boulevard just back from the beach. Don’t miss Strange Invisible Perfumes for bespoke botanical fragrances, the crammed-to-the-rafters Bountiful homewares warehouse and the uber-cool Surfing Cowboys.
At the end of each long day we return to the Farmer’s Daughter for some grits and a margarita, having on one occasion made a quick detour via Macy’s, where there’s valet parking, of course, to purchase a new suitcase. How cool is that, ponder our lads as our grubby SUV is popped next to a brand-new Bentley.
You don’t have to do too much to impress teenagers in LA. And if you’re after a sassy, reasonably priced hotel that boasts location, location and then some, call the Farmer’s Daughter.
ORGINAL – THE AUSTRALIAN