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40th birthday celebration for 20 women

Looking for a place (restaurant, hotel, or even a caterer if the caterer can suggest locations) to host a milestone birthday meal. At most I expect 20 people--ages range from 30s though 65-ish.

Ideal venue (I doubt I can find one that meets all of this!) would have: farmer's market ingredients; solid interesting seasonal food that isn't too frou frou or contrived; ATMOSPHERE and/or a view or indoor/outdoor space that allows guests to linger; good service; ideal location would be West LA-ish but since this is a special occasion, driving is ok (so don't hold back if you know a great place in Malibu, Pasadena or wherever); good pastry chef (since there must be birthday cake) OR are willing to let me bring in a cake on my own

My ideas so far:

Hotel Bel Air (went to check out the restaurant today as I'd never been before, what a beautiful place);

Getty Center (have eaten here before and liked the food well enough)

Inn of the Seventh Ray (never been I see food gets mixed reviews, but location sounds fantastic)

Bel Air Bay Club (was just told they are taking parties by non-members--know nothing except it overlooks the ocean)

Saddle Peak Lodge (I've never been)

Other upscale hotels (good for lingering): Peninsula, Beverly Hills Hotel, Four Seasons, Ritz MDR.

Also, having searched this board it sounds like a lot of people recommend a restaurant in SM called Wilshire.

Please HELP?! Would love to hear from those who have been to any of the above places and/or those who can recommend other possibilities.

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  1. i would avoid inn of the seventh ray.
    aside from the fact that i am not at all a fan of their food, the service is so amazingly terrible that for a party of your size it wouldn't surprise me at all if some NEVER get their food.

    do you have a budget or is the sky the limit?

    1 Reply
    1. re: westsidegal

      Right now I'm just in exploration mode, so I'm willing to entertain expensive places. The Hotel Bel Air (the first place that came to my mind for this event), without my even having to ask, was willing to waive their usual fee for a private room in their initial proposal.

      Too bad about the Inn, it sounds like a lovely location.

    2. Just went to the newly remodeled Shangri La Hotel/restaurant. It's a great location...on Ocean. They have a restaurant in the front, and seating in cabanas around the pool.
      They boast of all organic food. We didn't have a good experience at lunch. We waited a very long time for two hamburgers, and when we finally got them they were medium well, not medium rare. They were very apologetic, and I would go back in the hopes they've worked out the kinks. I just read that they've hired a new executive chef, so I'm guessing things will get better. But it's a great space. Maybe worth checking out some night for a drink and appetizer.....before booking for the big event.

      1. Wilshire was the place that first leapt to mind (market driven and they have a large patio and a private room just off of it that would probably suit) but it would be on the higher end in terms of budget. The back room at Riva and the annex at Cafe Del Rey are two other thoughts. The poolside cabanas at the Viceroy might be fun but I do not know how the food is under the current chef and whether they would do a full meal out there.

        Wilshire Restaurant
        2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

        Viceroy Santa Monica
        1819 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        Cafe Del Rey
        4451 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

        312 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        1. Why not consider Cafe Pinot?

          With a group of 20, you could reserve their entire outdoor patio area and dine under the stars and the gaze of Downtown LA skyscrapers with the LA Public Library as a backdrop.

          And the food by Meehan is solid and consistent.


          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Thank you for this suggestion. I will check this place out for sure, it sounds really good.

            I also look at the Patina group site and I also saw that (while granted, it wouldn't be the same chef) that they also have Descanso Gardens as a location.

            Do you think that the farmers market focus would extend to the rest of Patina group? (I am not totally against downtown so Cafe Pinot is worthy of consideration, but my initial thought was to have something a bit less urban than downtown.)

            Thanks for expanding my horizons.

          2. I can't help but ask...why are men banned from a birthday party?

            1 Reply
            1. re: wutzizname

              No ban. It's quite simple really--most of my friends are female. Believe me I'd like nothing better than to have a boyfriend/husband to invite to this party--and no doubt I'd know more men if the SO was already in place. (Actually, if I had said SO, he'd be throwing this party for me.)

              Hope that satisfies your curiousity! NOW--do you have suggestions on locations? ;-)

            2. Wilshire was my first thought - the patio is gorgeous. Saddle Peak is also a really special setting, if you're ok with a game-heavy menu.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cookie monster

                Having never been to Saddle Peak, I took a lot at their menu and I thought it sounded really nice. I figure for a private dinner that I would probably have to pick a limited menu anyway, so I could reduce the "game factor" if needed.

                I am going to check out Wilshire later on today to see what it's like.

                Also, I checked out this place called Fig at the Fairmont Miramar. It looks lovely foodwise and I liked the atmosphere.

                1. re: sablouwho

                  I went to Saddle Peak Lodge recently for the first time, for brunch, and based on what you are looking for I don't think it's really the right atmosphere. I always thought it had a nice view of the mountains or something, but nope, no view at all, it's either indoors or a closed-off patio which looks like any pleasant patio in LA. It's certainly nice,but it would be a long nighttime drive with little visual payoff, and unless if you're going FOR the game-heavy dishes, also not a whole lot of culinary payoff either (well, relative to all the great options not as far away, just saying it's not gonna eclipse them). The inside is exactly true to its name -- it's a classic rustic yet upscale lodge. Doesn't really have the vibe of a place for 20 women to have a 40th birthday party. It's more along the lines of where you would expect George H.W. Bush to have his 80th. The patio, maybe, but again, not worth it for 20 people to drive all the way out there.

                  It's the right place for certain occasions, but not this one, IMO.

              2. Just adding to my original post--I realize it might be a tall order to get great food, great atmosphere, great service AND organic/sustainability all at the same time. For instance, the Hotel Bel Air certainly has great atmosphere and service, but the food isn't particularly exciting (I ate lunch there yesterday, it was fine but not noteworthy).

                So I guess that atmosphere is going to be really important as this is a birthday celebration. I'd rather have great atmosphere and serviceable food than a place w/ great food but whose physical set-up makes isn't conducive to interaction or lingering.

                2 Replies
                1. re: sablouwho

                  I think that any of the places you are considering would be willing to honor your special request for organic/sustainability.

                  I really like Josie for this - although it's not the most beautiful location.

                  1. re: sablouwho

                    Given those criteria I would add the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel to your list. I know the food gets pretty consistently trashed on this board, but the setting is spectacular. I was there on Saturday with some out of town guests and we were pleasantly surprised by the food.

                  2. I think your most recent post hit the nail on the head. I last gave a party about the size of your party a year ago (90th birthday party for my Dad - 30 guests). Most important thing was the space - whether it was nice. We had our event at the pro's restaurant/lounge at the TPC at Sawgrass (our golf club in north Florida). Good size room for 30 people. Lovely terrace - beautiful view and Tiger Woods' locker in the pro's locker room was a big attraction :).

                    Second was the food. With 20 or more guests - it is most economical to have a nice buffet. What will most people eat? In the case of my father's friends - most of whom live in senior facilities - relatively expensive meat was the #1 choice. So the "main main" was baby lamb chops - grilled to order. There were also fish and veggie mains (the veggie for the 4 people who wouldn't eat the lamb or fish (the fish was local grilled shrimp - so that was a hit as well). The sides had a mediterranean theme to go with the lamb. I guess I should explain that our golf club set up a grill outside. Grilling to order gets rid of a lot of the "made 3 days in advance" atmosphere of a lot of catered food. YMMV with your friends. Total food cost was about $50pp.

                    Don't forget about liquor. It can cost as much as the food. In our case - we had an open bar - start of party to end - and our liquor bill was about $25pp (about 2 1/2 premium drinks pp - or 3 glasses of nice wine). And that's with the average age being about 85. I suspect your friends drink more :).

                    Then add taxes and gratuities (++ as it's known when you do most catered events).

                    Go with a place that is used to catering parties. A golf club - a hotel - maybe even a museum (if it has appropriate space and its own caterer) - not a restaurant that has a crummy back room that does something like this once every 2 years.

                    I am familiar with beautiful places that use outside caterers. Have been to many weddings in places like that. And I did a party in a place like that once (50th wedding anniversary for my in-laws - my MIL picked the place where she lived in North Carolina). They are usually a horror show in terms of prices and place/caterer coordination - and my experience in North Carolina wasn't any exception to the general rule. Never again.

                    Also - provide transportation for your guests. This was necessary in the case of our "senior seniors" (who don't drive at night) - but it is also important in the case of people who want to party and don't want to worry about getting picked up for DUI at the end of a fun evening. We hired a couple of airport vans here in the Jacksonville FL area - but 40-something girlfriends in Los Angeles might enjoy the stretch limos with the bubbly more <wink>. Robyn

                    1. Wilshire is the best idea yet. Joe's is another idea, perhaps you could take over the patio?

                      1. check out the new Montage Hotel in BH. I have been to a few events there-- private 70th birthday tea in the downstairs library, corporate event in the ballroom, 40th birthday dinner upstairs and have enjoyed meals in the downstairs dining room and the roof dining room and have enjoyed them all. The food might be what you're looking for and the venue is beautiful and the service is top notch. At the tea, my kids came (6 year old twins) and they made special "kid sanwiches" for them with berry jam, nutella, etc. and brought lemonade and hot chocolate for them. It is pricey but probably on par with the Getty and Hotel Bel Air.