First Look: Hotel Bel-Air
A sneak peek at the legendary retreat's renovation, which includes 12 new suites, a two-story spa/fitness center and a redone Oak Bar, opening in October.
The swans at the romantic Hotel Bel-Air will soon return to the public eye. The 65-year-old secluded landmark on Stone Canyon Road has been closed since late 2009 and will reopen in October after a major renovation, pictured in these never-before-seen renderings. What the Bel-Air's almost fanatically loyal clientele should expect to see this fall is what GM Tim Lee calls a "balancing of the legendary style with a modern edge." The revamps at the Sultan of Brunei-owned hotel (rooms from $565; reservations open June 1) include 12 new canyon-view suites, a two-story spa/fitness center and a presidential suite with a private pool. Also, the reception area has been converted into a lobby lounge, there's a new terrace bar, and the problem of getting phone reception has been improved with a cell site.
Architect David Rockwell (Nobu, the Kodak Theatre), who redesigned the dining areas, says, "We wanted to blur the line between indoors and outdoors so every guest will feel close to the gardens." So look for a new patio extending from the main restaurant and expanded use of natural lighting. And what's become of the famously clubby Oak Bar? "It's a refurbishment that retains all of the character," promises Rockwell, who is stripping the wood paneling and staining it in a matte graphite.
Wolfgang Puck, who will run the restaurant, says he still hasn't decided on a menu but thinks the property's Mediterranean ambiance should be reflected in the cuisine. He also feels the food can't be "too esoteric" with guests eating there twice a day. And he's aware that breakfast meetings are a bigger deal here than at most of his other restaurants. "You have to have oatmeal," says the chef. "But you could also do scrambled eggs with truffles."
One neighbor who can't wait for the reopening is Peter Guber, who owns a 12-acre estate that surrounds the hotel and connects with it via a golf-cart path. Since the hotel, which he calls "the signature piece of Bel-Air," closed, he jokes that he's been doing his meetings "at Denny's."