Art Deco decadence at Hotel Shangrila, Santa Monica, California. Where Hollywood glamour meets the beach


Lights, camera, action! The star of Santa Monica…

We’d already been in Los Angeles for three nights and had adjusted the hectic pace that a whistle-stop tour of West Hollywood and the surrounding area demands… Downtown and the fab Philippe The Original – check. WEHO’s can’t miss Farmers Market and Short Order – check. Urth Caffé, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills branches – check. We even managed to squeeze in Mel’s Drive-In and Carney’s, both on Sunset Boulevard. (Read our full review here)

So as we approached the end of Santa Monica Boulevard and caught our first ever glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, I swear my pulse rate instantly began to drop. And this overwhelming sense of calm continued as soon as we walked into the reception of The Hotel Shangrila. The lobby was decked out in Union Jack clad mannequins and red, white and blue bulldogs! Apparently it was ‘British week’, they really were making us feel at home. Albeit a stunning newly refurbished art deco home.

The Hotel Shangrila (not to be confused with the hotel chain Shangri-La) is perched atop of the oceanfront bluff of Santa Monica. It was built in 1939 and is a striking example of art deco design and architecture that simply oozes Hollywood glamour. After a recent two-year, $30 million redesign the 4 star Hotel Shangrila has reinvented itself as an eco-friendly style icon. But it has lost none of its charm and beauty. It gives the impression of a luxury cruise ship, especially when on the ‘top deck’ Suite 700 bar & lounge (more on that later).

The pool gets a lot busier on a Saturday night

We had arrived early and our room wasn’t quite ready so we decided to sit by the pool and do absolutely nothing, a simple pleasure that can only be truly appreciated after three full on days. The courtyard offers an elevated pool deck, solar-heated pool and even poolside dining. An urban oasis where you can sunbathe, swim and relax – bliss!

But apparently on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays the hotel throws Hollywood-style pool parties complete with DJs. Hotel Shangrila also has a state-of-the-art fitness center, open 24 hours… Not that we were even slightly interested in going, far too much eating and drinking to be done. Although Saff was tempted by the Sybaris Rejuvenation Lounge every time she walked past, featuring ILA Spa products. Check the website for their monthly special offers.

The 3 o’clock check in time came and went. When we finally decided to drag our arses from the pool (I decided to seek sanctuary from the blazing sun in one of the cabanas) we were really impressed by our room! All 70 suites and rooms at the award-winning* Shangrila have contemporary decor, eco-friendly features and modern technology, including iPod docking stations – so handy for charging up our iPhones!


Red chair refused to watch another American Sitcom… Photograph ©


The wine glasses gathered around to watch the performing Apples. Photograph ©


Take a bath and watch the sun set over the ocean. Photograph ©


Now that’s what we call a mini bar

I loved the hardwood floors, leather chairs, white walls and all the attention to detail, for example the art deco lighting in the bathroom. The suite has possibly the world’s biggest mini bar, well stocked with some interesting soft drinks. But our favourite feature by far was deep soaking tub with jacuzzi, especially as you could relax in the bath and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Again check the website for their room rates as they often have some very special deals. But please remember to add the local taxes and parking costs to the quoted prices, it saves the embarrassment of questioning the invoice come checkout day…

The view from the top!

As mentioned before, Suite 700 bar & lounge on the roof serves some excellent and particularly potent signature cocktails. It’s the only open-air rooftop bar & lounge in Santa Monica and you really do feel that you’re on the top deck of an ocean liner as you sip a cocktail and take in amazing views of Santa Monica beach and pier. A word of warning though, it can get a bit blowy!

The hotel is in an ideal situation, a couple of blocks back is a modern shopping mall (Santa Monica Place) with a mix of independent, designer and chain stores. Worth a mention is The Market, up on the 3rd floor Dining Deck. This is defiantly not your usual food hall, The Curious Palate should be a destination restaurant – its double pork chilli is unmissable!

It’s also only a five-minute walk down to the golden beach, complete with Baywatch style lifeguard huts. Another 10 minutes or so and you’re at the iconic Santa Monica pier and Muscle Beach. You can hire a bike and cycle down to Venice Beach (about a 15 minute ride). The actual ‘promenade’ at Venice Beach is basically Camden market by sea. With tacky souvenir shops, local artists, beggars and dodgy street performers – one guy even had a ‘Kick me in the ass for $1’ sign pinned to his back! But a few blocks back is the incredible Abbot Kinney Boulevard with its oh-so-cool boutique shops, bars and restaurants… Possibly our favourite street in all of LA.

Jump in the car head north and you are only about 30 mins drive from the posh shops and handbag dogs of Rodeo Drive. Or take a scenic journey along The Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu and the pretty little beaches beyond. Look out for the brown signs that indicate parking for the public beaches. Be warned parking will set you back at least $8, in fact parking is rarely free anywhere in LA, even the hotels charge an overnight valet fee.

The Dining Room

Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun.

Now then, back to The Hotel Shangrila, it was our last night before we headed off to Las Vegas and hadn’t eaten in the hotel yet. So we thought we’d try out the aptly named ‘Dining Room‘. The website says it serves ‘A wide range of entrées, small plates, and a raw bar/seafood selection that will satisfy even the most experienced culinary aficionado’. And, whilst reading a few reviews online, it seems they serve up a mean weekend brunch too.

Well, here’s our opinion… You have to remember that we had previously spent the last five days seeking out the recommendations from some of London’s (and California’s) most regarded bloggers, food PRs and restauranteurs. We’d eaten at some of LAs most noteworthy restaurants, from organic, fusion and diner to steak and street food.

The Dining Room

And the Oscar for the shiniest bar goes to…

Decor wise The Dining Room continued the art deco theme. The square heavily varnished tables that seated four and the aged antique leather barrel backed swivel chairs wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Mad Men.

We’d like to point out that, considering the California has huge wine-producing regions, a glass of vino costs a small fortune! That said The Dining Room has a good selection of reasonably priced wines, we settled for the Alexandra Valley Merlot at a not too steep $12 a glass.


Mac and cheese with a hint of Puglia

The menu is split into four sections; Small plates, Greens, Large plates and Specials. From memory the small plates also doubled as side dishes and I decided to pair a Mac n cheese $7 with a Lamb burger $17. The Mac n cheese was made with Orecchiette pasta (a speciality of our beloved Puglia, Italy) and the Mornay sauce had just the right cheesy consistency. But it was flavour of the garlic bread crumb that overpowered the dish.

I really enjoyed the Lamb burger though, the perfectly grilled ground lamb (charred on the outside yet pink in the middle) was a very welcome change from my beef and pork overdose. For just $17 you got a fully loaded burger… The patty, spiced yogurt, cheddar cheese, arugula (rocket leaves), heirloom tomatoes and pickled red onion. All served with a side of fries (more like a whole quartered potato). The yogurt and lamb gave a very Greek feel to the burger, a welcome change from the strong Mexican influences.

Saff wasn’t as keen on her Fried chicken, $23. But then again it would have to be extremely special to top the version we tried for breakfast at Home on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz. Saff found its coating a little soggy and bland, the chicken was great but, as always, with fried chicken is all about the coating. Her side of chipotle potatoes were a big hit, I simply had to help her finish them off.


Pac Man was feeling a little under the weather

This slight disappointment was more than made up for when the dessert arrived… We decided to share a Choc-chip cookie that was server freshly backed and still hot from the oven. It was so packed with choccy chunks that we thought we’d died and gone to chocoholic heaven…
So that was that! We returned to our suite and fell, full and happy, into our huge king sized bed for our last night in LA before the madness that was Las Vegas. In hindsight we really wish we’d stayed at The Hotel Shangrila for an extra couple of nights rather than heading off to Sin City There was so much more of LA and especially Santa Monica that we wanted to experience.
1301 Ocean Avenue. Santa Monica, CA 90401

Phone: 310-394-2791
Reservations: 877-999-1301

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*Best Hotels in Los Angeles: Hotel Shangrila – ranked in the top 10% of all LA hotels.