The Philippe Starck-designed SLS, opened in 2008, may dazzle -- and possibly overwhelm -- the senses with capital-D design. The rooms are sleek, luxurious, and spacious; its gym is enormous, and restaurants by Spanish chef Jose Andres are praiseworthy. But the high-design elements sometimes get in the way of comfort and practicality -- neither of its two pools, for example, is deep enough for swimming.
Designed by Philippe Starck, this striking hotel teeters on design overload.
The SLS's logo is four monkeys perched among flickering candles on an ornate chandelier. One monkey is holding a mirror, another a fork, and two others are clutching crystal chalices. It's an apt metaphor for the 297-room hotel: a lot is going on, and not a lot of it makes any sense.
With a design and furnishings by Philippe Starck, restaurants by Spanish chef Jose Andres, retail space curated by design purveyor Moss, and uniforms created by French designer Pascal Humbert, the hotel spares nothing when it comes to looks. Everywhere you turn there's something to grab your attention: a pool table on every floor, fireplaces, a lamp with a base shaped like an AK-47 in the lobby. But one person's idea of high design may be another's sensory overload.
Opened in October 2008 on the border of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, SLS has a name that stands for ... "whatever you want it to mean," a front desk clerk explained. The reserved signs on the tables at the restaurant Bazaar read, "Saved Little Spaces." The shoe bag in the room reads "Shoes Love Shining." You get the point.
The hotel has a 6th-floor pool and terrace "crafted as an outdoor living room," according to the hotel's website, but outdoor living rooms apparently aren't for swimming -- one pool is no deeper than a puddle and filled with furniture. Rooms are a fairly spacious 400 square feet, have supremely luxurious beds, huge, well-equipped bathrooms, and cutting-edge electronics. But the mirror-filled design, though elegant and striking, may come across as cold and impractical. For elegance that's warmer and simply more comfortable, check out the rooms at the Sofitel just two blocks down the street.
All the expected services of a luxury hotel, delivered with formality
Dressed in uniforms from French designer Pascal Humbert, the SLS staff is knowledgeable and surprisingly formal for such an unconventional place. As you'd expect at a luxury hotel, guests get turndown service, valet parking, and 24-hour in-room dining. And requests are answered promptly. My toothpaste arrived within five minutes in a wax paper bag with a generous two tubes and two bottles of Scope.
Concierge on duty on weekdays, until a bit later on weekends
Clubs seems to be the concierge's area of expertise (no surprise since the hotel's parent runs the clubs MI6 and Area). That said, they're also familiar with other clubs like Ecco and Les Deux.
The hotel is on the border of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, the enclave of wealthy living and luxury shopping. It's within walking distance of the Beverly Center mall, and a few minutes' drive from Sunset Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, a notorious stretch of clubs, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. However, it also happens to be located on an unsightly stretch of La Cienega, a loud, busy major thoroughfare.
Within five-minutes walking distance to the high-end Beverly Center. Stores include Bloomingdale's, Louis Vuitton, and Apple.
10 minutes to Third Street, a quaint stretch of upscale boutiques and cafes
Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive is just over two miles away, or a seven- to 10-minute drive.
Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman's Chinese Theatre are a 10-minute drive.
Eateries in all prices ranges abound; quick, inexpensive options at the Beverly Center, great cafes like AOC wine bar on Third Street.
Splurge on sushi at the famed Matsuhisa about a mile down La Cienega.
Sunset Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, a notorious stretch of clubs, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife, is just over a mile away, or less than a five-minute drive.
Universal Studios theme park is a 20-minute drive.
The beach and the Valley are 30- to 45-minutes away by car (in opposite directions).
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is at least a 45-minute drive.
Sleek rooms with ultra luxurious beds, but it's often form over function
The sleek Philippe Starck-designed rooms are fairly spacious at 400 square feet, and the beds are super luxurious, but get used to staring at yourself because dark mirrors cover nearly every surface. Bathrooms are exceptionally spacious, but they, too, are lined with mirrors. Yes, even the shower. All in all, design often trumps function: The lighting is poor, the storage space is inadequate, and beware of the sharp corners of the bed. The room design feels more relaxed than the hotel's public spaces, but for an even softer and warmer room (though smaller), check out the Sofitel. However, tech amenities are top notch.
Beds float in the center of the room (the desk is behind the headboard), and, with 300-thread-count D. Porthault linens, down pillows, and duvets, are super plush.
Form over function: Bathrooms, separated from the bed area by a sliding glass mirror, are as spacious as they are mirror-filled and poorly lit. Turning on the faucet is akin to maneuvering a joystick.
Water pressure was disappointingly weak. In another design flaw, it's impossible to turn on the shower without first dousing yourself with cold water.
The rooms can feel dark, and light switches, including their locations, aren't especially intuitive, particularly those bookending the bed. Hint: The switch is the narrow peg-looking thing on the lamp.
Toiletries, the hotel's own organic line, are divine. But they come in bulk containers and lack pump dispensers, so you have to assume the large squeeze bottles have been handled by countless guests.
Small closet: too small for stays of more than a day or two; no drawers, only cubbies in the closet.
The hotel is helping to keep print media alive -- a free copy of USA Today is delivered every morning.
Wi-Fi is free in some room categories, but not all; costs a fee per 24 hours.
Guests can stay in room suites outfitted with Technogym's Kinesis Personal series, which means a slightly larger room than mine (500 square feet versus 400 square feet) and personal training equipment.
Two poorly designed pools on terrace. One is no deeper than a puddle (but has lounge chairs in it); the other is less than four feet deep, barely deep enough for a wet-the-hair dip; open daily.
Seven private cabanas on the pool deck have flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, minibars, and MP3 docks; rates are high, depending on the day of the week.
Poolside drink and food service from Jose Andres restaurant
Incredibly well-equipped 2,500-square-foot, 24-hour fitness center with equipment from leading Italian fitness manufacturer, Technogym, an official supplier to Torino and Beijing Olympic games.
Cardio equipment includes four treadmills, five ellipticals, two upright bikes, and one reclining bike -- all with personal TV monitors -- and an enormous assortment of weight machines, weights, and balls.
Retail space in Bazaar restaurant curated by renowned New York City-based design purveyor Moss has everything from books to cutlery to gilded piggy banks to tsotchkes by Kidrobot. Bring your credit card.
Free car service in a custom Mercedes Jet Van within a two-mile radius -- drops off, but doesn't pick up
Accommodates children, but isn't particularly suitable
Superior rooms are spacious enough to fit in a rollaway bed, but the hotel's sleek vibe isn't particularly family friendly. That said, parents will find a few kid-suitable features, including a kids' menu, connecting rooms, and free cribs.
Rooms with two double beds are available, and can be connected to a room with a king.
Double rooms have bathtubs, but they're too deep for small children.
Free cribs; rollaways cost a fee per night
Kids' room service menu with options like scrambled eggs with cheese, olive oil mini pancakes, and a croissant with ham and cheddar
Two restaurants by renowned Spanish chef Jose Andres, but they're expensive
Guests will eat exceptionally well without leaving the building, but they'll pay for it. The hotel's executive chef is Jose Andres, a Spaniard best known for his small plates who beat chef Bobby Flay on "Iron Chef America." Alas, at Bazaar, which earned a rare four-star rating from the LA Times restaurant critic, Andres takes the "small" in "small plate" to an entirely new level. The Philly cheesesteak with cheddar and wagyu beef is delicious -- but expensive for two or three bites. The restaurant is several different venues in one -- tapas bar Blanca, another called Rojo, Bar Centro with high communal tables, and Patisserie, the dessert area -- so, like the hotel, kind of confusing. Plus, it houses a massive retail space from design purveyor Moss. The more casual Tres restaurant serves Californian cuisine with Spanish influences.
Two restaurants within the hotel, Bazaar and Tres, both by Jose Andres; Bazaar emphasizes Spanish small plates, Tres has Californian cuisine with Spanish influences.
24-hour room service
SLS guests get preferential reservations at SBE's other L.A. restaurants, lounges, and clubs, including Katsuya (known for their sushi), and Area, one of the more popular clubs.
The more casual Tres is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast dishes from cereal and granola to slow-cooked egg with caviar and potatoes
The breakfast table is a better deal; unlimited fresh berries and yogurt, cereals and fresh-baked pastries and croissants, and a small, but lovely antipasto plate with chorizo, salami, and cheeses.
Soups and salads range from onion soup to lobster salad; burgers and sandwiches; mains from homemade potato gnocchi to grilled New York strip steak.
Bazaar, open for dinner nightly, brunch and afternoon tea on weekends
Tapas portions are tiny. Some are priced per person, others by the dish; chef's tasting menu is also available.
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