The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Special Dispatch: Chateau Marmont and The Standard, Hollywood, California

Chateau Marmont
8221 Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90046
+1 323 656 1010

The Standard Hollywood
8300 Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90069
+1 323 650 9090

by Des Ayuno

“M,” I say. “Darling.”


“Eggs Benedict and a pot of Earl Grey.”

He relays the order to the waiter on his other side, who must have heard me with perfect clarity. “Certainly, sir.” Without so much as a thank-you, we turn back to T magazine’s impressive new website, which we are browsing on matching 17” MacBooks. Through sunglasses (his, Helmut Lang; mine, Prada). Indoors. In December. But such behaviour is practically a condition of entry, for we are in the lounge of the Chateau Marmont. “Darling. Natalie Portman. Dreadful make-up.” “Darling!”

Slowly, the too-small table in front of us fills with linen-wrapped silverware, Perrier, butter in white pots, complimentary jars of preserves (four kinds) and honey (two kinds). Tea arrives after half an hour and the waiter apologetically offers sourdough in place of an unavailable “English muffin” base. An agonising 45 minutes after ordering, an enormous plate is waved in my direction; with no space on the table, I perch it on my knees. “M. Ketchup.” “Darling. Yes. Er, excuse me, yes, you…we’ll have some ketchup.” A pause. “Certainly, sir.”

The service may be Euro-lazy, but the staff respond to our imperious behaviour with gratifyingly obsequiousness. Each time they pass we order more, each dish a sumptuous study worthy of Fantin-Latour. Strawberries, plums and pineapple are sliced paper-thin and fanned out in an elaborate arrangement. (At $18, though, the fruit plate had better have been a work of bloody art.) Coffee is espresso-strength but served, irritatingly, in soup tureens. And the eggs…darling, the eggs! They’re organic, enormous and beautifully, gently poached; bright orange yolk mixing with a delicate, almost unnecessary Hollandaise. I’d forgotten the wonder of chewy, savoury American sourdough. Ham is thick, succulent and faintly charred with grill marks. Sauté potatoes – both the normal sort and some fashionable purply-black ones – are chewy and crispy and redolent of rosemary. A salad of exotic leaves is dressed delicately with lemon, chiming with the Hollandaise in gentle harmony. After polishing it all off, I can barely move and recline on the sofa, internet-surfing, people-watching and gently digesting, for what seems like forever.

The next morning, sadly, it’s back to the real world – i.e., the hotel I am actually staying in, which, though owned by the same permatanned millionaire, is several steps down the wrought-iron spiral staircase of luxury. I breakfast in sunglasses again, while B is in a louchely unfastened terry robe and swimming trunks. We are excused, though, for it is 27° and aggressively bright and we are eating poolside.

Today the waiters are in shorts and offer a laminated menu. I tell B wistfully about yesterday’s leather-bound parchment pages. We both order the set breakfast, which nevertheless offers an impressive number of options for the bread and meat elements. I tell B wistfully about yesterday’s ham and sourdough. His choice of a bagel over toast strikes me as both stupid and inappropriate, and he eats it piled with cream cheese and jam. I tell him wistfully about yesterday’s nicer, posher jams, and he is by now gratifyingly irritated.

He needn’t be, though. It’s a fine breakfast and service is snappy. I am given four enormous pieces of sourdough as well as potatoes, though they call them “home fries” here, that are virtually identical to yesterday’s. (I don’t tell B this.) Eggs are, again, huge and expertly poached. The sausages look British supermarket-standard but taste distinctively American, being fattier and flavoured with rosemary instead of sage, which is discomfiting. Still, with the ubiquitous side salad, decent tea (or coffee) and fresh juice (five choices) for $12, it feels like a bargain. We are delighted by the waiter’s affectionate exclamation of, “Oh, you guys!” when we ask for ketchup. “We should, you know, move here,” we murmur coyly. I have lived in the hellhole that is LA, and should know better, but that’s just the kind of place the Standard is.


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