Feel the Heat

Gathering Al Fresco at Hotel Bel-Air

For decades the word hideaway has been associated with the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, set on 12 acres lush with gardens and ponds, jasmine, citrus, and gardenia. Baby hummingbirds nesting in a tree by the footbridge may greet you even before the front desk staff, nattily attired in navy blue blazers with white piping, offer you a welcome glass of Champagne and usher you to your suite furnished with chic limestone floors and wood ceilings.

But to locals the Bel-Air is as much of a meeting spot as a hideaway, a place to gather for drinks and family celebrations at Wolfgang Puck at Bel-Air, the hotel’s restaurant that features two venues on property, one outside and one indoors.

The annual end-of-summer barbecue (this year on September 4) is a decidedly grand outdoor affair, overseen by Puck along with Executive Chef Hugh Bolanos. Among the visiting chefs who will carve and serve under the sycamore trees are Francis Mallmann and two-time James Beard-nominated Evan Funke, as well as newcomer Matt Hurley of CUT in Las Vegas. Part of the fun is experiencing each chef’s particular barbecue technique, along with the pairings of California wines.

A major renovation in 2011, after the hotel had become part of the Dorchester Collection, added a dozen new rooms which blend with the Mission Style architecture. Original to the property is the Herb Garden Suite with carved vaulted wood ceilings and French windows overlooking the gardens; the space had served as the managerial offices for the Bel Air subdivision in the 1920s.

The property may be a classic but the service and amenities are thoroughly up to date. Pool attendants offer sunglasses cleaning and hefty pump bottles of SPF lotion. A jazz combo plays during weekend brunch. And complimentary car service (within a 3-mile radius) is perfect for a visit to the nearby Getty Center.

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