$595 and up
Just as you see women of a certain age who look so good that you are not sure whether it was Botox, Restylane or the plain old knife — but you deeply suspect they have had, as they say, “work done” — the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., has quietly undergone a face lift of its own. One can’t quite put one’s finger on the changes: nothing radical or vulgar you understand, just aggressive tweaking: new carpeting, upholstery, lighting and fabrics. (Parts of the 195-room hotel were serially closed for the work.) Since the Peninsula is only 27 years old, it proves that in Hollywood, it is never too soon for a makeover. The result: the elegant epicenter of Beverly Hills feels like a French chateau just bought by a rich Russian oligarch with good taste (imagine that) and an endless supply of cash to leave you reveling in luxury. As befits a hotel were room prices start at just under $600 and then quickly escalate, the staff strives to accommodate every guest’s whim, even those who show up before check-in time. In our case, we were offered cappuccinos or drinks while our room was being prepared.
Set at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire near Canon Drive, the Peninsula is an easy walk to all the best shopping in Beverly Hills, from Neiman Marcus to the designer shops on Rodeo Drive, that holy grail of spending. And if you prefer not to soil your Louboutins, a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, Mercedes or BMW stands at the ready to drop off and pick up guests within Beverly Hills.
Some rooms are done in fabrics from the French house of Brunschwig and others in Manuel Canovas. Our 480-square-foot room, painted a pale blue, had Canovas’s pink and blue tree of life-patterned bedspread coupled with a bright blue and white plaid bed skirt and had a light airy feel. Matching Canovas curtains framed the Juliette balcony and a marble-topped wood desk was ample enough for a computer. A useful — if somewhat outdated — perk: a fax machine with a printer and copier. One tiny drawback: the closet was a tad small. One wonders how it might accommodate guests in Los Angeles for the red carpet and the need to change several outfits over the course of the day. And the mini bar was pedestrian, with an unimaginative selection of Champagne, nuts and candy.
A bit retro, with white marble floors bordered with a pale peach marble pattern. It was compact but had everything we needed including good water pressure. This is Hollywood after all and the bathroom boasted a magnifying mirror so strong that one might not find it a blessing, but the array of Peninsula bath products was lovely.
Tell a friend to meet you for afternoon tea at the Peninsula and they will assume you know your way around town. Yes, there were scones with lemon curd and marmalade and jam, but Tea, in the “Living Room,” is an elaborate affair — at $75 a person — served on Bernadotte porcelains that were hand-painted for the hotel. The day we were there, the Peninsula was celebrating “National Ice Cream Month” with a panoply of offerings served on a three tiered stand that held rocky road tartlets, minute chocolate chip cones, cookies and a Neapolitan macaroon. Champagne was extra.
The bedroom’s nightstand offered a tablet that lets a guest control the temperature, radio, TV, curtains and lighting (in 11 languages) without budging from bed. One can read the menus, though you have to order by phone. Personally I find the technology daunting, so I was particularly grateful for the hotel spa and its Serenity Lounge. Millennials will surely balk at the prohibition on cellphones, but perhaps they might be assuaged by the offer of coloring books to help pass the time in all that silence.
As the writer Beatrice Kaufman (the wife of George S. Kaufman) once said: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. And rich is better.” The Peninsula is certainly the place to indulge in the lifestyle of the latter.
The Peninsula, 9882 South Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif. (310) 551-2888; www.peninsula.com
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By GERALDINE FABRIKANT