After a long summer of scrolling through pictures of seemingly everyone we know reveling in la dolce vita abroad, a destination that evokes the golden age of travel a little closer to home is sorely needed. Enter the Restaurant at The Georgian, which scratches the Italophile itch, and much more.
Dining here, just steps from the ocean, doesn’t mean indulging in a one-note escapist fantasy. Instead, the team at Los Angeles- and London-based Fettle Design embraced a historically-informed approach by highlighting and restoring the 1933 Art Deco building’s striking features while deftly taking creative license.
The result brings new life to female hotelier Rosamond Borde’s Santa Monica landmark, originally designed by architect M. Eugene Durfee. From a distance, a fresh coat of turquoise paint and black and white striped awnings declare that The Georgian is ready for its next act. Inside, newly inlaid stone floors in exuberant geometric motifs, sumptuous tassel-trimmed velvet seating, statement lighting pieces, punchy colors, and Jazz Age-inspired flourishes further express its evolution.
To complement this frothy energy, executive chef David Almany‘s menu, along with robust wine and cocktail programs, bring Italian-inflected flair to the breezy setting. “The design and vibe of the hotel feels like nothing else on the Westside, or anywhere in Los Angeles,” Almany says. Bold design and a stellar menu seamlessly meld, both served throughout the Restaurant’s three contiguous spaces, dubbed the Sunset Terrace, Sunset Bar, and the Dining Room. That same ethos, which is transportive yet firmly rooted in L.A. history, is also palpable in the previously long-shuttered Georgian Room, the hotel’s swanky dinner-only subterranean steakhouse and piano bar. (The Restaurant’s spaces are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)
Here, Fettle co-founder and principal Tom Parker shares how the The Restaurant at The Georgian helps the property reclaim its title as the First Lady of Santa Monica.
Respect history without overdoing nostalgia
“Anything that we could save, we did,” Parker says of the building’s extant interior historic materials, pointing to components such as iron railings, decorative plaster medallions, and crown moldings. Jon Blanchard and Nicolo Rusconi of BLVD Hospitality, the developers and operators of The Georgian, have taken this same approach in their previous undertakings, which involved rehabilitating vintage properties such as the Ace Hotel in DTLA. Even though much had been removed during the course of successive remodels at The Georgian over the years, the overall architectural spirit stood strong.
“Anything that we could save, we did.”— Fettle Design co-founder and principal Tom Parker
But rather than reverting to an Art Deco time capsule, the designers homed in on a trio of cultural influences as jumping off points. Historic documents and photos on display share the property’s history and ties to Hollywood’s Golden Age — as well as a tribute to pioneering African American and Mexican American surfer Nick Gabaldón in The Georgian Room— without feeling overly didactic.
The lobby wasn’t initially designed as a restaurant and bar, so the team had to figure out how to rethink that public space to make distinct experiences within the building’s footprint. Fortunately, we’ve returned to a cultural moment in which hotel restaurants and bars are buzzy spots for locals as well as guests. Accordingly, the reimagined Sunset Bar and Dining Room take up the bulk of the main lobby, accessible from the street entrance, while the guest reception, contemporary art space Gallery 33, gym, and more are located at the rear of the ground level.
The street-facing Sunset Terrace sets the tone. A good ocean breeze should never go to waste, so its accordion-panel windows adjust to whatever conditions best suit louche weekend brunches or celebratory dinners. Fettle has outfitted the Terrace with a mix of cheeky faux plants, and other lush interior plantscaping and weekly installations by local floral designer Jean Pascal keep things fresh and lively.
Multiple reference points are the point
Parker used the existing 1930s aesthetics as a foundation to explore a range of Art Deco references from Southern California and beyond. “The tile lip and a lot of the motifs and geometry were based on Cuban and Havana Art Deco,” he explains, gesturing to the alternating black and white vertical tiles that alternate with other wood, stone, and metal materials along the bar. Elaborate decorative patterns are incorporated into the carpet and wallpaper in the Georgian Room downstairs as well, further reflecting Parker’s studies of these subtle regional aesthetic differences.
A glance at the aforementioned rounded bar that projects from the north side of the lobby area reveals one of the various nods to Wes Anderson’s cinematic universe. Illuminated blown glass globes atop the posts and dainty curtains enclosing the upper shelves emphasize symmetry, as does the layout of the lobby Dining Room. And who doesn’t love the stateliness and comfort a fireplace brings?
Lastly, an homage to another golden age — that of midcentury travel, roughly from the 1930s through the post-war era — adds to the immersive gestalt. A gilded faux tree trunk bursting with flamingo-pink hued feathers signal that bar guests can relax over, say, a Geeze Louise made with apricot-infused whiskey, benedictine, yuzu, and citrus — and not take anything too seriously. Other retro details including bellhop uniforms and in-room push call buttons convey the hotel’s attention to detail.
Chef Almany’s food rises to the occasion. “I try to pair classic Italian dishes with a modern, glamorous flair,” Almany says. “The food is recognizable and comforting, but slightly elevated — and not something you would do at home.” Dishes like house-made Japanese sweet potato crisps dipped in a rich mascarpone blend, farmers market-sourced salads, and fresh pappardelle tossed with velvety pork and veal ragú Bolognese taste right in context.
The best way to experience the Restaurant at The Georgian, if possible, is to go in three acts. Begin with a Siren Song cocktail with strawberry, radicchio, vermouth, bitters, prosecco, and tonic at the Sunset Bar; settle in for a proper a meal on the Sunset Terrace; and conclude with dessert while lounging on comfy velvet seating in the lobby’s Dining Room. You might even find yourself humming the tune for a song written by Cole Porter three years after The Georgian opened, that still appropriately sums up this revival today: “It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely.”