Vestiges of the old club days remain but are most visible only to the hotel’s wealthiest guests who are able to fork over untold sums of money to rent the 1,313-square-foot basketball court suite or the 2,507 square-foot indoor pool suite. The former occupies the club’s vintage basketball court while the latter includes a 35-foot swimming pool in the living room.
Needless to say, I didn’t stay in either of those luxury suites whose prices remain unlisted. I booked a mere Premier King View and got a small but nicely appointed room that was exponentially smaller than the picture on the website. But the view from the 8th floor of the downtown skyline was beautifully atmospheric.
Oddly, the hotel doesn’t have a lobby, but it does have a large ground-floor restaurant and bar, Caldo Verde, operated by the James Beard Award-winning duo of Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne of A.O.C. and Lucques fame. The restaurant does have a small waiting area with just five seats, which end up serving as the hotel’s defacto lobby lounge. The bar serves that purpose as well, I suppose. (And there are plans for yet another bar on the ground level in the future, but they haven’t started construction on that yet.)
At Caldo Verde the menu is loosely inspired by Portugal, and the food is very good, particularly anything that resembles a salad. As I’ve probably said many times before, there are few chefs anywhere in the world who know how to make a better salad than Goin. And that remains the case here with a small salad of radicchio, pumpkin preserves, spiced pepitas with a piece of toast slathered with Serra da Estrela cheese. This all-day restaurant is also where breakfast is served, for which the housemade pastries and the house-cured salmon with potato latkes are excellent.
Goin and Styne oversee food throughout the hotel, including the rooftop restaurant/bar Cara Cara, which serves lunch and dinner adjacent to the “pool,” which is really just a large hot tub. Cara Cara is already one of the hottest reservations in the downtown area, thanks to its prime rooftop perch and lushly landscaped outdoor vibe. The fig salad with roasted grapes, whipped ricotta and shaved Spanish ham is absolutely exquisite. There’s also a wonderful hot-pink riff on a Paloma called Salt of the Earth. Sadly, the steak frites is nothing special. (Don’t expect the same amazing frites that Goin used to serve at Lucques; adjust your expectations accordingly.)
Kelly Wearstler takes her ever-evolving design aesthetic in a fresh new direction here. It is a style said to be influenced by Mexico, Portugal and Morocco, and while I do see glimpses of Mexican mid-century modernism, the overall look comes across to this traveler’s eye as more Ugandan, Kenyan or even Egyptian, not the slightest bit Moroccan or Portuguese. But that’s neither here nor there because Wearstler’s unique vision is always stunning. Quite the evolution from her Hollywood Regency days, there is certainly nothing else like this Proper at the moment.
Like the San Francisco Proper, this hotel, too, has a terrific little gym. There are three Peloton bikes for guests to use, so bring your clip-in shoes. Service throughout the hotel is excellent, which comes as a relief since I keep hearing constantly about how hard it is for restaurants and hotels to find and hire talented staff. Perhaps this is why the opening was delayed for as long as it was.
Bottom line: Although it suffers greatly from the lack of a proper lobby, Caldo Verde’s ground-floor bar and Cara Cara’s rooftop lounge do pick up that slack. All in all, this is a very nice and comfortable boutique hotel in an increasingly important neighborhood of downtown LA, easy walking distance to the Staples Center.
Rates from $355 (plus taxes and a compulsory $25/night amenity fee for water, wifi, gym and rooftop access); 1100 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, 800-806-1947, properhotel.com/downtown-la
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