Nightlife to me means restaurants. I’ve hit that age where, unless I’m in Ibiza, clubs are really out of the question. Once in a while, when I’m prepared to be hungover for the following two to three days, I might allow myself one too many at a bar or somewhere dark that plays loud music. I may even dance a little. . . if there’s enough tequila in the mix. But ideally, a night out starts with a delicious meal in a quality venue with enough décor to transport me into whatever wonderland they are attempting to create. But given that I’ve eaten my way around Los Angeles for a number of years, I’ve already experienced many of the local faves. And sure, I like to return and repeat my favorite dishes, but nothing gets me more excited than a new restaurant on the block – especially when the owners have a long history of five-star service. So when I heard Nick Mathers of the Wish You Were Here Group was opening a new spot near the sand in Venice Beach, I was anxious and eager to give it a taste test.
Now, if you don’t know Nick Mathers by name, I can guarantee you know his venues. Élephante, which I may argue is his most popular restaurant, is a Santa Monica sensation, and eager diners have to book weeks ahead just to get a seat, even during daylight. I tried his West Hollywood eatery, The Eveleigh on (you guessed it!) a first date. (If you’ve been keeping up with my Voices column, you know I go on way too many of these). I ordered the Dungeness Crab Pasta, which is served in a white wine sauce that has an intense depth of flavor, and I was so utterly in love with the dish that I forgot I was slurping up noodles in a way that could not have been sexy. Oh well, another one bit the dust, but the pasta got a callback. Not only are these (and his other locations) delectable, they provide refined ambiance, each decorated in their own unique way. In other words, Nick Mathers really hits the mark for me.
Belles Beach House, his latest venture, is his take on a modern tiki bar. When I first heard that phrase, I was a little skeptical. Tiki can get a little cheesy in my imagination – I start thinking plastic leis and bamboo torches. But the second I stepped through the wooden doors on Winward Ave, any unnecessary worries were completely put to bed.
On Saturday, October 16th, I joined a special crowd of LA’s elite for the private opening party for Belles Beach House. The location, for starters, could not be closer to the beach with parking lots galore along the side streets for easy access. The inside did indeed look like a modern spin on a tiki bar but in the absolute chicest way possible. One step into the venue, my plus one turned to me and said, “this is giving Saint-Tropez.” When it comes to beachside dining, I’m not sure there’s a greater compliment than to note reminiscence of the most luxurious coastal town there is. The main room was enormous, a spacious expanse with low lounges, each organized like a sectional couch so that the group seating arrangements felt particularly intimate. The bamboo bar (think high-end bamboo you might see at a Four Seasons on a tropical island) was flanked by stylish wooden bar stools. With customer access on three sides, the bar wrapped around to a slightly smaller back room that was dimly lit and set with date-style dining: cute tables and chairs all facing one another. The establishment itself was everything I’d been looking for: roomy, fashionable, and full of ambiance.
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First stop: the bar. With open bar options (oh we love an exclusive event!), my friend and I vowed to take a tour of the menu. And there’s no better place to start than tequila. I tried the Watermelon Mezcal Margarita, and to my delight, it didn’t overwhelm me with faux sweetness. The watermelon mixture was subtle but potent and the mezcal added the fire I was looking for. When I noticed the Boardwalk Beat on the menu, I knew I had to make this concoction drink number two. Another Mezcal-based choice (okay okay, I know I have a very specific liquor preference), this cocktail is shaken with fresh-pressed Lemon, Beet, and Carrot Juice and sprinkled with Turmeric. Have you ever heard of anything like it? It was absolutely divine, serving complete freshness while the earthy undertones complemented the smokey mezcal in a way that only root vegetables can – and who knew!? Well, it seems Nick Mathers did because the menu actually includes a whole list of cold press combos to which you can add your choice of liquor (I mean. . . I’m totally in love). However, to my surprise, my potential favorite sip of the night was from a whiskey drink my guest chose, the Japanese Goldrush. Mixed with lemon and honey, the craft cocktail was truly balanced, and the flavor from the honey gave a sense of tea-time comfort. I absolutely cannot fail to mention the most sought-after highlight of the bar menu: the alcoholic slushies. Adorned with real flowers, these gimlet glass slushies were a work of art, and selections included familiar flavors like Pina Colada and more unique options such as Sour Apple with Yuzu and Lemon. I can guarantee I’ll be sipping one of these at a brunch in the near future.
I arrived hungry and gobbled down a Loco Moco Spring Roll before we’d even made contact with the bartender – thank goodness for passed hors-d’oeuvres. The crunch of the exterior was sharp, and the flakey dough had just enough oil to cater to the slightly intoxicated crowd without losing any sophistication. Served with a watermelon sweet and sour sauce, another unique flavor combo burst on my taste buds, leaving me scanning the room for more waiters with full trays. I already have my eye on a number of larger options on the menu, and I look forward to setting up camp and diving into a few of these dishes. I’m definitely starting with the Char Siu Pork Ribs, which feels like a tiki classic that I’m sure will be delivered upscale, and I have my eye on the Miso Brown Butter Black Cod. They serve their Wagu Steak with wasabi cream, and I can guarantee I’ll be placing that order as well. Looks like there are already multiple returns required!
The party itself matched the overall aesthetic: adult, trendy, and with new age elegance. The celeb-studded crowd included a Bachelor in Paradise favorite couple: Dean Unglert and Caitlin Miller-Keyes. Actress and singer Victoria Justice was in attendance with sister Madison Grace, donning two-toned leather pants (I definitely need a pair!); and stylist Maeve Reilly was clutching some green New Bottega. If you’re not following Maeve on IG just yet, you may want to do so immediately. Most recently, she’s been dressing Megan Fox in all the sheer, scandalous get-ups that I’m personally using for workout inspiration. The music definitely reminded me of my time in Monaco this summer: smooth electronic beats with some island influence. Categorized as “jungle inspired disco” the sounds added to the overall feeling of posh tropics circa South of France. Remember when I said I wanted to be transported? Check and check!
Buzzed and giddy, the night winded down leaving only one question on my lips: how soon can I come back? Well, lucky for us, Belles Beach House is officially open for business. So book now to try this year’s swankest spot by the sand.