Rock of Ages: A Review of the Andaz West Hollywood

Mar 16, 2019

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To The Point

This mature reinvention of an infamous rock ‘n’ roll party hotel is an efficient, professional place to stay in a central Los Angeles location. Pros: Good location, comfortable and clean room, amazing view. Cons: Evidence that street noise could be an issue on lower floors, mediocre room-service pasta, maddeningly off-kilter picture frame in room.

If you insist on thinking of LA as a never-ending party, West Hollywood is the blobby space somewhere between your second wind and your hangover, when you’re “freshening up” in the bathroom of a club blasting bizarrely sexualized Hanson remixes. But it’s also where you wake up, wipe the vomit from the corners of your mouth, squeeze in a vegan protein-heavy power brunch before taking your tiny dog to its yoga class.

Or, as a native Angeleno friend once put it: “West Hollywood is all about washing away the hedonism with bone broth.”

A recent whirlwind trip to the bustling Los Angeles neighborhood for me was far too brief to test whether this still held up after my last, brief stint in West Hollywood years ago, but 24 hours turned out to be long enough to get a sense of how a favorite TPG (and TPG) haunt has fared after a refurbishment in October 2017.

In a way, the hotel and the neighborhood — or at least my Angeleno friend’s and my conception of it — have a lot in common. Back in the day, it was known as Riot House (officially Hyatt House), the epicenter of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery in LA, because its proximity to the hottest performance venues made it popular with both out-of-town and local rock stars. It’s where Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant declared he was a “golden god” and drummer John Bonham legendarily rode a motorcycle down the hallways. It’s where The Doors’ Jim Morrison hung by his fingernails off a balcony on the top floor, where Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister came up with the name for his band Motörhead, and where Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and The Who’s Keith Moon both infamously threw TVs out of room windows (on two separate occasions).

That was the 1960s and 1970s, the bathroom-bacchanal portion of the hotel’s lifespan. A decade ago, the hotel woke up, wiped the metaphorical shattered TV screens from its sidewalks and popped an aspirin, reopening under Hyatt’s Andaz brand as a sleek, 21st-century take on shelter that nods at the hotel’s history, but from a cool distance that signals acknowledgment but not necessarily approval. (None of my local friends — even the ones in the music industry — recognized it for its place in rock history until I told them.) It’s the kind of place that names its in-house restaurant “Riot House” but serves salmon avocado toast for breakfast. It’s Mick Jagger in a navy blazer. It’s Jimmy Page sipping herbal tea.

The world from WeHo.

In This Post

Booking

If I have World of Hyatt points — and I admit that this is a possibility and I merely lost track — then it’s news to me. I paid for my single night in mid-February at the Andaz West Hollywood with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, because that’s what everyone at TPG HQ tells me I should do, and I trust them, at least on this point.

My rate for a king deluxe room was the standard rate of $299 per night, and after the 12.5% occupancy tax, LA’s 3% tourism assessment and 40-cent California assessment fee, my hotel bill at checkout came to $336.78. I earned 3x points on my stay, meaning I earned 1,282 points on my stay, including incidentals. Notably, the Andaz didn’t try to sneak in an urban-resort fee, the tax more and more hotels are imposing on unwitting tourists in major cities. This Andaz is a Category 5 property in Hyatt’s award chart, meaning it’ll cost you 20,000 points for a free night. Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, you could earn (more than) two free nights at this property by simply signing up for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Sapphire Reserve, both of which are offering sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.

The hotel counted 219 rooms and 20 suites. Using the Hyatt website, I booked a base-level, 342-square-foot room facing south with a side view of the Sunset Strip, even though those rooms facing north with a view of the Hollywood Hills were about $30 cheaper.

I did this because, in what had to have been a rare moment of brutal frankness in the hospitality industry, I noticed that what looked like trash strewn about the hillside was clearly visible through the window of the room photo on the reservation page. (Another TPG editor pored over the picture too, and also came to the conclusion that it was garbage.) Maybe it was just a too-small laptop screen, or maybe whoever did the photos for the Hyatt website decided customers deserved the unvarnished truth about what they were in for. Either way, when I finally got to the hotel in real life, I found the hills to be pretty litter-free, but was still glad to have ponied up for the better view.

Location

Once I left LAX, I hopped into an Uber to the Andaz West Hollywood, which was on Sunset Boulevard, along the right subclavius muscle of the city. (Another Angeleno friend told me I couldn’t call it the heart.)

Right across the street was the landmark Art Deco Sunset Tower, which dominated the view from my room. The hotel itself had a commanding view looking south-southeast over most of the city, with the downtown high-rises looming over the horizon to the southeast. I could also peer to the left down the Sunset Strip, that mile-and-a-half section of the boulevard that’s been an entertainment and retail mecca for nearly a century.

The hotel was right next to the Comedy Store, which I avoided like the plague, because there’s nothing more cringe-inducing than a live comic flopping desperately. The Whisky a Go Go, which many former Riot House guests famously played, was about a 15-minute walk away or, in LA terms, a five-minute drive followed by 30 minutes of looking for parking then just giving up and going to that Israeli place in Santa Monica.

I took an Uber to and from LAX on a holiday weekend, which took about 30 minutes in holiday-weekend traffic and cost between $25 and $30. An Uber from the hotel to an event in Malibu that I was in town for took about 45 minutes in moderate traffic and cost a little over $35.

Upon reflection, aren’t we all always reconstructing our inner selves?

Check-in

The hotel sat shiny and boxy on a short, shallow jughandle off of the Strip, and since I came in a ride-hailing car, the valet didn’t greet me, so I walked in alone to the short check-in line. Though the hotel was done up with homages to its past — images of Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin, among others, sang down to guests from over the entrance — the place was fairly brisk and businesslike, with a small sitting area by coolers of fruit-infused water. The check-in desk was on one side of the entrance and the hotel restaurant on the other, past the sole Mac computer that served as a business center. A staircase led up to the fitness center and meeting rooms and a small, temporary Joni Mitchell photography exhibit.

The second floor included meeting rooms, a small bar/kitchen area and a small table and chairs and photos of Joni Mitchell.

There were two desk clerks and two guests ahead of me, so I waited my turn until another employee, lugging a guest’s bags, put the luggage aside and offered to check me in. The owner of the bags squawked her displeasure but seemed satisfied once the staffer explained that he’d bring her bags up as soon as he was done with me.

The clerk helping me, by the way, wore a name tag in the shape of a guitar pick and handed me a small booklet detailing the antics that had gone down at the hotel, but every staff member I interacted was efficient, polite and friendly. I did not get the impression that any of them would have thrown a television at me under any circumstance.

The other guests were mostly tourists both American and foreign, with a noticeable number of Brits. There were even two groups that were obviously wide-eyed young bands and their handlers who checked in after I did (on two separate occasions), looking excited and exhausted and a little confused. Like when you’re taking a little kid to Disney World but first check into a nearby hotel right after you’ve left Orlando Airport (MCO), and they’re looking around all goggle-eyed at all the Mickey Mouse stuff in the lobby everywhere, obviously thinking, “Is this Disney World? Because I’m definitely psyched to be here, but I was also under the impression it’d be a lot bigger.”

The lobby was kept moodily dark at night. Probably wonderful for rock ‘n’ roll vampires.

The check-in clerk offered me a room on the fourth floor, which had a small balcony, or a room on the penthouse level, which didn’t, but nudged me toward the latter, which he said was freer from street noise. I followed his advice and took the elevator to the top floor, the 14th.

Rentable meeting rooms jutted away from the main staircase.

Room

Hotel guests fall into one of two categories: those who drop their bags on the floor as soon as they walk in the door and then collapse onto the hotel bed and pretend to be dead for 60 seconds, and those who primly put their things away in what they deem the perfect order. In other words, there are those who turn a hotel room into their childhood bedroom and those who turn it into their adult office.

My room at the Andaz seemed the perfect solution for both. It had a mostly open, easy-access layout that meant a grown-up toddler had to try to leave a phone charger behind, and enough counterspace and drawers and nooks that an office drone could keep the place looking tidy and work-friendly during his or her stay.

Following the Andaz philosophy of appealing to modern sophisticates with an appreciation for local color, the hotel was mostly clean lines, not-too-dark wood and whites and neutral tones offset by a blue accent wall.

The bed was not too soft and not too firm, and perfectly comfortable. Goldilocks would’ve loved it. I got about three hours of quality sleep on it — which is actually pretty good. There were power outlets by either side of the bed.

The wall opposite the king bed was dominated by a narrow desk that contained a workspace by the window and a large, flat-screen TV. Propped up over the usual binder of hotel information was a CD of soothing music and sounds, but I didn’t see a CD player anywhere, so I can’t tell you if the Andaz selection would’ve helped me find nirvana or made me grind my teeth.

There was also a card that said I could call the front desk if I’d forgotten to pack any essentials, like a toothbrush and toothpaste. Which I had. A hotel employee brought both to my room before I even had a chance to collapse on the bed and pretend to be dead for 60 seconds.

One thing drove me nuts, though: A trio of photos was bolted to the wall — but one of them was askew. I’ll confess: I’m one of those people who will make sure a house’s picture frames are in line as soon as the host has left the room. But these were attached to the wall so firmly that they were impossible to budge. Which meant that someone installed that bottom right frame at an off angle, and that it will stay that way until someone basically rips it from the wall. For the love of a $10 Home Depot level, Andaz, please fix that frame!

The picture frames were bolted to the wall like this. And, yes, the fact they were slightly askew and I couldn’t fix them drove me a little crazy.

Nonalcoholic beverages in the mini-fridge — bottled water, a Diet Coke — were free. There were beers in the fridge and Jack Daniels, tequila and red wine on the desk above it.

Clearly, the view of Los Angeles from the huge windows was the best feature of the room. They looked south toward what I convinced myself was the barely visible ocean, and the hotel had stenciled the phrase “California knows how to party” in the middle. No comment.

I’ve always been stronger than I look, but I don’t think I could’ve gotten that TV through that window on my own.

Underscoring the desk clerk’s warning, there was a set of earplugs on the nightstand. When a hotel puts earplugs by the bed, you know street noise will be an issue. Yet I never had to use them on the 14th floor of the Andaz.

If you’re one of those people who gets all worked up about hotel bathrooms, you should jump ahead to the next section, because this was a run-of-the-mill hotel bathroom. The toilets and sinks worked fine, and the shower was hot and had good pressure. (TPG, at 6 feet 7 inches, would have found the shower head too short.)

The glass partition that separated the toilet and sink from the shower didn’t offer a lot of privacy but the bathroom never flooded or anything, robbing me of the complaint I almost always have about these increasingly prevalent half walls. In every possible way, it was a completely unmemorable bathroom experience, which, if you think about it, is usually the highest compliment one could give a hotel bathroom.

The bathroom amenities were from Lather, a California company. Does knowing the name on the label of the hotel shampoo and body wash excite you? Rethink your life.

Reviewers of this hotel from a couple years back noticed broken tiles, mildew and mold in their bathrooms and wear and tear on the room furniture and fixtures, but I didn’t see any of that. Everything looked well-kept and clean.

Food and Beverage

The way things worked out for my 24-hour LA visit, I got room service on the night of my stay and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast before I checked out the next morning.

For room service, available for limited daytime and nighttime hours, I ordered a vegetarian pappardelle ($19) and a buttermilk tarte tatin ($10), which arrived within 20 minutes of my order from the Riot House kitchen. The pasta was lightly sauced in pesto and was heavy on the fresh peas (I like peas) but just on the wrong side of al dente, lacking that satisfying bite in the middle. It wasn’t quite hot, which made me suspect it had sat a little too long, perhaps under the warming cover, as the ribbons kept cooking.

The tarte tatin, which came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, was sweet with thick, gooey, caramelized apple slices that stuck to the insides of my incisors in an indulgent way. I’ve had many variations of tarte tatins with various fruits that ranged from flaky to caky, and this one came out most like a superpowered pineapple upside-down cake.

The Riot House had an open kitchen and was well-staffed behind the counter, but I saw maybe a single table of customers whenever I passed by throughout the night.

The next morning, the place was half full with hotel guests for breakfast. The breakfast buffet ($28) included hot tubs of scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries, the usual side table of breads, scones and muffins, and a spread of fresh fruit.

I, however, ordered a la carte, getting a coffee ($5) and the salmon avocado toast ($15), which was far more generous and filling than it looked, with more fresh salmon than I could finish. I’m not a light eater. It came on a slate that would have been the perfect size to carry around and write on with a piece of chalk if I ever lost the ability to speak but decided learning sign language was too much bother.

In contrast to the restaurant side of Riot House, the bar filled up quickly once the sun set, with customers ranging from hotel guests to bag-laden tourists on shopping sprees to locals who looked really annoyed at the guy who kept taking pictures of the place from the end of the bar.

House cocktails were $14 or $15 and bore names that referenced famous songs. Beers were $8 or $9.

I had a Don’t Kill My Vibe ($14), made with Campari, vermouth and prosecco. I had to look this up, and couldn’t decide whether the name was an homage to the Norwegian singer Sigrid or a cleaned-up take on the Kendrick Lamar song, and the flavor — kind of the orangey Jolly Rancher that isn’t orange-flavored, like melon burps — didn’t clear it up. The Lamar song is more famous, but doesn’t a melon-flavored (or tangerine- or pumpkin-) candy seem more like a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Ålesund who dresses in primary colors than a 31-year-old rapper from Compton who’s had several long-running feuds with Drake? It’s been the source of so much internal handwringing at this point that I now wish I’d just gotten the I Kissed a Girl or the Girls, Girls, Girls just to save the fact checker a ton of agita. (Sorry, Alyssa.)

But at least I came away with my own version of a Zen koan: If you were a Jolly Rancher flavor, which Jolly Rancher flavor would you be?

A companion who met me for drinks had to go ahead and ruin the musical-reference-mystery thing I had going and ordered the La Cienega ($14), concocted with mezcal, the juice of a blood orange, peppercorns and bitters. Like my liquid tribute to Sigrid and/or Kendrick Lamar, it was sweet and didn’t pack a lot of punch but was still a good wind-down after spending all afternoon at a synagogue among burnt-out hills on the Pacific Coast Highway. I cannot tell you if it tasted anything like La Cienega Boulevard. (By the way, my companion from that night insists that it was me who got the La Cienega and she who ordered the Don’t Kill My Vibe. And now I’m starting to think maybe I do have Hyatt points and she’s been embezzling them somehow.)

I followed up with a beer, a crisp Bootlegger’s IPA, from Fullerton, California, that came in a small glass that I could’ve probably finished off when I was 10. We shared a cone o’ truffle fries, which were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and truly truffle-y all over. It was worth every penny of the $9 it cost.

Not a single guest drove a motorcycle through either the restaurant or bar during my visit.

Amenities

I mentioned the “business center,” right? Besides that, the Andaz had two amenities to speak of: the pool and the gym. Let’s start with the pool first, because pools are more fun.

The pool wasn’t too much fun, because there was a cold spell during my visit, and Angelenos were shivering under their winter coats, hats and gloves. (It was in the mid-50s.) Thus, the rooftop pool — which the hotel brags is the highest rooftop pool in the city — was completely empty, save for a pair of rambunctious tourist kids who lasted maybe 10 minutes out there.

On a warmer day, it would’ve been a grand find, bookended by a wonderful view of LA from the Sunset Tower to what I’m still swearing was the Pacific to the south-southeast and Laurel Canyon and the Hollywood Hills to the north.

A row of shaded loungers overlooked the city on the south side, an untended bar hugged the stairwell entrance to the west, and a bright red tent filled with service paraphernalia — suggesting in-season poolside wait service — did a poor job of hiding behind a potted tree to the east. On the near end of the pool was a chair crane for easing people with mobility issues into the shallow end.

 

Los Angeles may be one of the few cities in the world where you can actually expect to see guests using the hotel fitness room. Thus, when I popped in to check out the Andaz gym for this review, I came upon a middle-aged man working furiously to get back into fighting form on a treadmill. I won’t begrudge anyone still in pursuit of those fantasies I’ve abandoned, so I put away my camera and left him to his dream of personal improvement. In other words, I chose not to take a picture of the gym because I didn’t want to invade this guy’s privacy. Sue me.

The fitness center had enough of everything most people would need for a typical workout, including free weights, toning machines, treadmills and stationary bikes, and towels and water. There was also supposed to be a stack of wallet-sized maps of the neighborhood with suggested jogging paths, but I nabbed the last one. I will send $5 for photographic evidence of anyone jogging in West Hollywood, by the way. (I will not really send you any money.)

At check-in, the agent mentioned that there’d be a wine tasting later that evening in the hallway that held the business-center Mac, but when my companion and I walked by, the whole place was swamped with Brits — not musicians but executives from a British motor company who’d been flown over for a corporate event. Instead of the sweaty T-shirts and leather pants of the hotel’s previous residents, these guests were clad in the kind of sweater-and-collared-shirt-and-pressed-new-jeans combo that young dads wear. The rock stars of the ’60s and ’70s were famously generous with their inebriants, but these partiers, though friendly enough, politely rejected our requests that they share their wine.

The party was over: Riot House had indeed finally quieted down to the level of an enthusiastic book-club meeting.

Overall Impression

It was an easy dig when I compared the Andaz West Hollywood to an aging rock star, but after spending a full day there, I can’t argue that that’s a bad thing. Because you know what? Salmon avocado toast makes for a filling, healthy breakfast. Mick Jagger looks great in a navy blazer. My Jolly Rancher spirit animal would be sour apple. And Jimmy Page should be drinking herbal teas — they can be great before an afternoon nap.

Gonzo rock craziness sounds great when you read about it in retrospect, but would you really expect to get a decent night’s sleep when some drunken singer’s testing the bounds of his mortality in the suite above you? Like both Paul the Apostle and Paul the Beatle, the Andaz West Hollywood has put away childish things and embraced its new life as a responsible adult. The result is an efficient, professional and friendly hotel that is an excellent choice for a grown-up stay in LA.

All photos by the author for The Points Guy.

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