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By Michael Hepworth

Author James Hilton of Shangri-La and Goodbye Mr.Chips fame would have loved this place during his time in Hollywood after he moved here from England in the forties. Since the hotel opened in 1939, maybe he did spend some time here, but now in 2009 and $30 million later the hotel is ready for some serious action.

The boutique hotel only has 71 rooms and suites, but the décor is absolutely striking.  The plan to attract the hip music crowd by the owner Tehmina Adaya is sure to pay off. With a great introductory rate, now is the time to check it out and spend a few days chilling out at the beach. Previous celebrity sightings have included such diverse luminaries as Diane Keaton, Madonna, Tom Cruise, John F.Kennedy Jr and the Dalai Lama.

The hotel has also added its first restaurant, simply called The Dining Room, and has hired roving chef Noah Rosen previously of Patina, Melisse and others to run the show, although the kitchen is much smaller than he is really used to. Such is the joy of cooking in a boutique hotel. It is designed in the look of a 1930’s style Cunard Ocean Liner, and the produce is all sourced by the chef from local vendors and the Santa Monica Farmers market.

This is sure to be a place to hangout in the evening, and with the classy mahogany tables and luxurious leather chairs, a place to be comfortable as well. Try the crispy poached egg ($14) in a ham hock broth for an appetizer, and the lamb prime rib ($38) with fennel pollen gnocchi and tomato confit for a main course. I also liked the seasonal chilled asparagus soup ($10), and although the service on opening night was spotty, I am sure by now it has got far more disciplined. The menu is well balanced with a selection of sea food dishes such as the Coastal Rockfish and Wild Halibut, along with Duck and Chicken selections.

The real star however for me is up and coming designer Marc Smith, who has really excelled here. Smith is primarily known for his work with night clubs and bars in Los Angeles such as Vynyl and more recently the Golden Gopher. The Shangri-La presented a completely different challenge for Smith, and this historical jewel has been well preserved on the exterior right down to the art deco windows. The sense of relief on his face when he could finally showcase his efforts after at least a couple of years of hard work and planning was more than apparent as he strolled the dining room and spoke to the handful of guests on opening night.

It is on the inside however that he has performed miracles. The music and entertainment types that they are hoping to attract will love this place. He has included extended stay rooms with full size kitchens as well as hypoallergenic rooms. Lots of stainless steel, plasma televisions and leopard fabrics and cool beds, perfect for the hip crowd. Make a point of going to the hotel for breakfast, lunch or dinner and then ask for a tour of some of the suites. You might be tempted to make a booking right there and then.

Fact Sheet

Address:         1301 Ocean Avenue

                          Santa Monica , California

Phone:            310-394-2791

Website:         www.shangrila-hotel.com

























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