Brand new at the facility is a 4000 square feet spa that opened in August 2000, an outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi spa on a landscaped terrace along with a tented exercise equipment center. The outdoor landscaping is the responsibility of gardener Enrique Herrera who has been with the hotel since 1990. He oversees the planting and maintenance of over 120 varieties of trees and plants in 16,500 square feet of garden space.
You hardly hear of Swedish chefs doing great or exciting things with food in the top hotels of the world, but Conny Andersson of Gardens Restaurant at the hotel deserves top marks. He started his career at SAS Park Avenue in Gothenburg, and in 1985 his yearning for knowledge landed him at none other than the 5 star L’Orangerie right here in town as Chef de Partie. In 1989 he accepted a position at the Four Seasons as Executive Sous Chef, and in 1991 he jumped at the chance to go to the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis. Next up came the Four Seasons Resort in Bali where he spent three fruitful years. To quote Conny - “The opportunity to explore the rich and varied cuisines of Southeast Asia for the very first time were an invaluable experience. The abundant natural spices and fresh produce allows a chef freedom found nowhere else in the world.
After spots in the Maldives and the West Indies the traveling chef came home to Beverly Hills in February 2000, taking over from Carrie Nahabedian. She had built up quite a reputation with her Mediterranean style cooking and her health-conscious “Alternative Cuisine,’’ but now Conny has stamped his style on the menu. He has the luxury of a staff of 40, but remember he is also responsible for all the other food and beverage areas of the hotel, as well as the numerous special events and celebrity galas held at the facility. His style in cooking can loosely be called, Mediterranean with an Asian twist.
An honorable mention here also for the pastry chef Donald Wressel. The Seattle native has been with the hotel since opening day, and supervises a staff of six in the pastry shop. His tour de force are chocolate sculptures, gingerbread houses and pulled sugar designs. The awards and accolades he has picked up in his career are too numerous to mention. His annual salute to the Oscar’s where he creates a chocolate sculpture for each of the five nominated movies appears in the hotel lobby every March. He remains a vital member of the culinary team at the Hotel.
I enjoyed a visit to the Hotel a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the Autumn menu was in full swing, and the crowd which is definitely upscale old money with a sprinkling of new music/showbiz types were lapping it up. It remains one of the places to be seen in town. The room only holds 76 plus a private dining room that can accommodate a further 22, but it looks larger, thanks in part to the giant murals in the elegant dining room. The dinner menu is pretty adventurous and quite eclectic, with no more than a dozen or so choices including specials. It has obviously been very well thought out to complement not only the skills of Conny, but also of restaurant chef Sean Griffin.
A superb starter of seared Hudson Valley foie gras, apple brioche pudding, Upland cress salad and sauternes anglaise was a real tender treat at $17. It was as good as anything I have tried in France. My wife and a guest who was a lot more familiar with the menu selected a special for the night - a risotto/scallop dish with Serrano ham and asparagus, and a menu item - homemade crab, salmon and prawn sausage with cognac cured gravlax in a honey dill mustard sauce ($15). All three dishes were very well presented, with the scallops in particular, outstanding. I suspect the giant bay scallops were from Massachusetts, and the trick with these is not to overcook them. These were seared to perfection. Other starters on the menu include hog island oysters, warm wild mushrooms with naan bread and goat cheese, organic field greens with citrus segments, lobster with morel mushroom pot stickers, and organic tomato tarte tatin.
The main menu consisted of just nine entrees plus two or three daily specials, depending on the fresh catch of the day. Chefs at a restaurant like this have the luxury of being very selective when the fish arrives each morning from the Santa Monica Fish Company, so seafood provides the backbone of the menu. John Dory, Chilean sea bass, lobster and Artic char reign supreme here, along with the meat dishes. My wife had the sautéed California spiny lobster with morel mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, wilted pea shoots in roasted pepper butter at $36. Again the presentation was a delight, with the shell parted in such a way to make the lobster easy to get at and savor. Our guest played safe and went for the most popular item on the menu at $33, the steamed Chilean sea bass with Asian herb salad, smoky hot sesame oil, garlic tossed baby bok chow, and a ginger beat vinaigrette. It tasted absolutely succulent and just melted in the mouth. I went for the special of lamb medallions with potato gratin and fresh vegetables, beautifully cut and the highest-grade lamb available.
Desserts as you would expect are also of a high standard, with my choice of the Mont Blanc of chestnuts, chocolate, vanilla ice cream and poached cranberry absolutely stupendous. My wife tried Donald’s special, the non-classic banana split in yet another Michelin Star type presentation. A comprehensive choice of dessert wines of varying quality and price ranging from the $7 a glass Bonny Doon Frambois to the staggering $88 a glass Chateau d’Yqem Sauternes 1990 add the finishing touch to a meal.
A word here about the wine list. It is very comprehensive as you can imagine, but as soon as I saw my favorite wine on the list - Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand at $37 the decision was made. This is a wine that goes with anything - it comes alive in your mouth and simply complements quality food so much.
The Gardens Restaurant is a perfect place for a special evening or important business dinner, and not even the most experienced traveler would fail to be impressed with this place.
Mike Hepworth, January 2001
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Tel: (310) 273-2222
Fax: (310) 385-4927
Parking: Free to guests or valet parking
Dinner for two with wine: $150
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