THE SOPHISTICATED SIDE OF SOUTH BAY
Written by Caylee Matthews
Los Angeles is a land of contradictions. It’s a place where dreams are made and summarily crushed, where the aura of Old Hollywood glamour is juxtaposed with gritty post-industrial neighborhoods, and where endlessly gridlocked roads lead to beaches teeming with surfers and hillside trails offering an escape from the hustle and bustle.
The newly opened westdrift hotel in Manhattan Beach fits into this paradigm. The vast expanse of sand dunes that once defined this LA suburb have been supplanted by some of the priciest real estate in the United States. From the outside, the design of the hotel is in keeping with the other similarly-scaled office buildings that surround it, but once you step inside, any parallels between its neighbors quickly vanish. Stepping into the soaring lobby, the eye is drawn to the vibrant greens of a nine-hole golf course in the hotel’s backyard, a literal oasis in a concrete jungle. There is a pared-down punchiness to the open-concept lobby, where vibrant paintings by Eric Zener are the real star. His photorealistic interpretations of vintage beachgoers are rendered in technicolor hues that would make Hollywood proud.
The first luxury Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Los Angeles, this destination-focused property takes a boutique-inspired approach to its design and amenities and melds it with the proven protocols and service standards that are hallmarks of a respected brand. In addition to the aforementioned golf course, the property boasts 393 spacious guest rooms (112 with private balconies); Jute, a knock-your-socks off indoor-outdoor restaurant that celebrates farm-to-table freshness; unique meeting and banquet facilities; an outdoor pool; and, a CrossFit-inspired fitness center.
The westdrift moniker is derived from the area’s history. Before the area was part of the LA metropolis, it was known for the fine sand that would get whipped up by coastal westerly winds. The sand was so coveted, that for two decades tons and tons of it were shipped to Waikiki, Hawaii to help build up their beaches. A coin flip at the dawn of the 20th century decided Manhattan Beach’s name. “Manhattan” is a reference to developer Stewart Merrill’s New York City borough, and “Beach” was added two decades later at the urging of the postmaster.
Design elements throughout westdrift incorporate an East Coast-meets-West Coast theme. In the skylight-lit lobby, exposed concrete pillars have been treated to resemble pier posts. They are ringed with gold bands that hold mid-century inspired sconces at the mid-point, and leather sleeves near the base. Decorative gold screening suggests lobster traps. Board and batten on the wall behind the bed in guest rooms is an idea culled from the East Coast, while the design of the leather headboard is a nod to a vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag from the early 1900s. The neutral, driftwood-colored palette selected for case goods, wallpaper and window treatments in the guestrooms is reminiscent of both the haze that often greats early morning surfers in nearby South Bay, as well as weathered shingles endemic to homes on the East Coast.
Incorporating a central bar, various seating and working areas welcoming to both solo travelers and groups, and Jute restaurant, the lobby is always buzzing with activity. The inventive and impressive cocktail menu includes tequila-based cocktails on-tap. Being LA, the traditional happy hour is appropriately named “Rush Hour”. NanaWalls at the back of the space disappear to take advantage of the mild SoCal climate.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the cuisine at Jute is quintessential California: fresh, hyper-local, colorful and beautifully plated. Head chef Octavio Sabado had planned on being a rocket scientist and was accepted to the Naval Academy before a failed visual acuity test prompted him to take a different path. Super enthusiastic and intensely creative, he changes the bi-coastal inspired menu “more than seasonally,” and places heavy emphasis on being vegetable forward (his Beet Wellington is a must-try).
Complimentary beach cruisers make it easy to explore the area; Redondo Beach and its related attractions are just 4.5-miles away via a woodchip trail. Reward your efforts with lunch at The Strand House, which offers 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean and award-winning coastal California Cuisine. For newbie surfers, El Porto is a chill place to learn the "hows" and "whys" of surfing (onewaysurf.com). Toast your surfing success with a cold beer in the taproom at El Segundo (elsegundobrewing.com). Even if you walk in as a stranger, I guarantee you’ll leave with new friends and a greater appreciation for craft brewing. After dark, be sure to sign up for a glow-in-the-dark golf experience back at westdrift. The pros are outstanding and made the experience a blast for a non-golfer like me. Cap off the day with a nightcap by the hotel’s outdoor fireplaces.
Located just four miles from LAX, room rates at westdrift start at $229/night.
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