I’m a budget traveler who has spent more time in dives with droopy mattresses than luxury hotels with spa treatments that cost more than Suriname’s annual GDP. So on the rare occasions when I get to stay someplace truly swanky – usually when the Priceline roulette wheel shines favorably on me or if I’m accompanying my wife on a business trip – I sometimes feel a bit like Jed Clampett arriving with Hillbilly family in tow in Beverly Hills.
Did I shave that day? Is my car the cheapest one on the premises? How much do I need to give the bellboy who is charging over to open my car door? I had this same fish-out-of-water feeling when we pulled up to the Andaz, a luxury hotel in West Hollywood that is part of the Hyatt chain last week. But the place turned out to be very different than any other fancy hotel I’ve ever stayed in.
“Now everything in the minibar except the alcohol is free,” he said to my surprise and puzzlement. “So all the soft drinks, bottles of water and snacks are free.”
I asked him to repeat that because I’ve never heard of a free minibar before and I didn’t want to get a bill for a $9 bag of chips, but I’d heard him right. The Andaz also has free wireless Internet and serves good, free California wines from 5-7 p.m. each night. Before I gush about this place a bit more, I should point out that unlike many “reviews” of luxury hotels, this is not a paid endorsement or quid-pro-quo deal. At Gadling, we do not write about free press trips or accept other free travel perks, so you can trust the integrity of our reviews.
Our double room was stylishly decorated and had a curtained off little section in the back with a love seat, comfy chair and Ottoman. My kids immediately claimed this area as their clubhouse, but it was also useful for my wife and I after the kids went to bed.
The hotel was renovated and turned into an Andaz property, one of just nine around the world, in 2009. Gene Autry once owned the hotel and in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, it was known as the Riot House because rock stars used to routinely trash their rooms. John Bonham reportedly once rode his motorcycle down the hotel corridors, Keith Richards once dropped a television set from his room out onto Sunset Boulevard, and Jim Morrison lived there until he was evicted for hanging out a window by his fingertips.
Those days are long gone, but recording artists still patronize the place. A big contingent of Brits including the singer Laura Mvula was there during our stay. And they still play great music in the lobby – I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to The Smiths at any other hotel I’ve ever stayed at besides this one.
The Andaz has everything you might expect in a luxury hotel: incredibly comfortable beds, high-quality toiletries and linens, plus a very nice rooftop pool that offers lovely views of the area. We found the Sunset Boulevard location to be convenient but thanks to the notorious L.A. traffic, it can take a lot longer to get around than you might think.
And now for a few niggling complaints. No hotel is perfect and that includes the Andaz. I found the free wireless to be extremely slow at times and when I called down to inquire I was transferred to an off-site tech support person who suggested I pay a premium to get better speed. No thanks. The valet parking is $32 per night (there is no self-park option), which isn’t exactly a bargain and the sumptuous buffet breakfast is strictly expense account territory at $26 a head.
But you don’t come to a luxurious hotel like this one to pinch pennies, you’re there for a treat and the Andaz certainly is one. Aside from the free snacks, soft drinks and wine, my other favorite perk was the selection of free newspapers. I’m an old-school hard copy newspaper reader and the fact that the Andaz was willing to deliver copies of the New York Times, the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal right to my doorstop made me very happy indeed. On my last night at the Andaz, our neighbors stumbled back to their room at 2 a.m. and commenced a noisy party worthy of the hotel’s glory Riot House days. At the time, I was annoyed but in retrospect, it was a fitting end to a memorable stay.