Regent Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills

The zip code for the Regent Beverly Wilshire is not 90210, the name of the long-running hit on television about teenage life in Beverly Hills. But the enduring grandeur of one of Beverly Hills' best-known landmarks, built in 1928 during movieland's early glory days, surpasses the momentary glitz of a passing fancy. Far from being a Beverly Hills afterthought, today the hotel keeps watch at the crossroads of chic and celebrity, the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard.

Although the hotel doesn't occupy the center of the movie universe anymore, it offers unequalled access to Rodeo Drive, a shopping district mentioned in the same breath as the Faubourg St.-Honoré in Paris and Madison Avenue in New York. Rodeo's list of tenants is crowded with top-of-the-line retail stores: Bally, Buccellati, Cartier, Chanel, Alfred Dunhill of London, Gianni Versace, Gucci, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany and Yves St. Laurent. All these boutiques, plus department stores such as Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue are within four blocks of the hotel.

At the heart of the hotel's mystique is its presidential suite, a 5,000-square-foot abode available for $4,000 a night. In the past, long-term residents of the suite included Barbara Hutton (during her marriage to Cary Grant), Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Mick Jagger. At one time or another, nearly every member of Britain's Royal Family has stayed there, as well as Emperor Hirohito of Japan, the Dalai Lama and the Aga Khan. But the suite's biggest claim to fame in recent years may be its use as the room where Richard Gere romanced Julia Roberts in the 1990 box-office hit Pretty Woman.

While it may not be a priority for most visitors, the hotel public relations office prints a list of recent celebrity visitors. It reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood: Anjelica Huston, Al Pacino, Kirk and Michael Douglas, Walter Matthau, Farrah Fawcett, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Caine and Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. In a city where fashionable places to be seen come and go with each season, the Regent Beverly Wilshire keeps attracting the rich and powerful.

All the glitz and glamour might have faded, however, if not for a $100 million renovation undertaken by the Regent International Hotels group, which bought the property in 1985. The hotel added a modern spa and workout facilities, as well as updating all the rooms. It restored the main lobby in the Wilshire Wing, giving luster to its marble floors and its soaring ceiling. Today, Regent Hotels has joined forces with the Four Seasons hotel group, and the combined company now runs the hotel. The hotel also took steps to cater to the modern-day business traveler; there is a complete business center.

There's more than fancy exteriors here, however. The Regent Dining Room, a winner of Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence, wins high marks for its modern Californian continental cuisine. Chef Thomas Moran took over the kitchens late last year and has been offering dishes such as seared tuna with shiitake mushrooms and salmon cooked on the hotel's mesquite-fired grill. The grill also turns out excellent meats, such as beef tenderloin, veal, lamb and duck.

The Regent Beverly Wilshire hosted Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke in Los Angeles last year. The hotel maintains a cigar-friendly environment in The Bar. Filled with leather chairs and velvet sofas, The Bar welcomes smokers into a comfortable gentlemen's club atmosphere. The Bar keeps a teakwood humidor for customers, with cigars including Dominican Montecristos and Dunhill Peravias and Valverdes.

-- Gordon Mott

Regent Beverly Wilshire
9500 Wilshire Boulevard / Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: (310) 275-5200 or (800) 421-4354
California, (800) 427-4354
Rates: single, $255-$365, double $275-$385, one-bedroom suites, $425 to $660, presidential suite, $4,000