Renovation Complete At The Fairmont Miramar Hotel
101 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, California 90401

Fairmont Miramar Lobby Even though Shutters Hotel and the Casa del Mar get the bulk of the publicity from the food and travel writers, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel which is just as close to the beach deserves to be checked out. The location on Wilshire Boulevard is even more central than the others, and with an impressive $16 million renovation just completed it is definitely ready for a major renaissance. There are 270 guest rooms and suites and every room has been redesigned. The lobby area is huge and is complemented by a grand piano and McGuire furnishings covered in fern pattern by Pindler & Pindler. Luxurious rugs imported from Nepal add to the atmosphere, and the lighting, which has been carefully planned by a specialist company from Dallas, enhances the discreet atmosphere.

The hotel began as a colonial Spanish style home in 1889 for the founder of Santa Monica, a former senator from Nevada, John P.Jones. Mark Twain was one of the regular visitors to the house, and no doubt he spent time under the giant Moreton Bay Fig Tree, which remains a landmark of Santa Monica even today. Fairmont Miramar Fig Tree Entrance The Senator died in 1912 and the new owner was King C.Gillette, inventor of the safety razor. He rarely visited the house, and after a brief spell as a military academy it became the Hotel Miramar in 1921. In 1924 an apartment block was constructed on the premises, and one of the first residents was an aspiring Swedish actress called Greta Garbo who had just arrived in town. She spent a long time in Santa Monica enjoying the long seaside walks she would take by herself. Betty Grable was spotted at the hotel in 1932 singing with the house band, and other stars who frequented the apartment complex were Jean Harlow, Susan Hayward, Louis Jordan and John F. Kennedy. The list goes on and on with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Claudette Colbert amongst the many others seen on a regular basis at the Miramar.

The list of more recent guests is also a who's who of the entertainment and political world's with Bill Clinton staying there several times before and during his presidency. Stewart Granger had his haircut there almost every day until his death, Howard Hughes used to take his breakfast there and more recently Chevy Chase and Alec Baldwin hang out at the Grille, the hotel's underrated restaurant. Fairmont Miramar Glamor I have eaten at the Grill a couple of times and find the atmosphere easy to take, with outside patio dining at lunchtime or early evening that seats 54, bringing the total seating at the restaurant to 149. It is far from being one of the trendy hangouts in town, but there is more to this place than just the famous breakfast that Howard Hughes used to enjoy so much. How about this to tempt your morning taste buds - apple fritter with crispy cinnamon and apples with warm dark Vermont maple syrup; eggs Dijon with poached eggs, camembert cheese, grilled spinach and Dijon over a fresh croissant; and Italian breakfast flatbread with eggs, Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, and Reggiana parmesan.

For lunch I tried the Tandoori chicken salad and crispy naan - a pleasant surprise indeed, and most of the other dishes on the menu appear equally fresh and suitable for outdoor dining on a lovely California day. Dinner menu is also eclectic enough to excite even the most jaded of diners, with such items as Ahi Tuna with gingered yams, citrus teriyaki and Wasabi cream or the New York Steak blackened with roasted pepper potatoes and vegetables. Another menu item that I will try next time will be the coconut crusted tiger prawns with fresh mango chutney and crisp taro root.

The Executive chef Andri Tscharner is a veteran of the hotel circuit with the Four Seasons Group and at Grand Hotel Euler, one of the most historic five star hotels in Basel, Switzerland. That was a long way from his early culinary career, getting up at 3:00 am every morning in the damp and rainy forests of Switzerland to cook breakfast for 500 hungry military mouths.

The Fairmont Miramar is ready to rise to it's former heights, and all I can say is to try it out for yourself next time you are in Santa Monica and see how the legends of the screen spent their leisure time.

Tel: 310-576-7777, 1-800-441-1414
Fax: 310-458-7912

Mike Hepworth, June 2001

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