I finally had breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel's Fountain Coffee Room, which had been on my To-Do list since I first saw the banana-leaf lined lunch-counter in the Wallpaper* Los Angeles city guide. Perhaps uneasy about the location (Beverly Hills isn't really my town), or the exclusive atmosphere of the hotel (would there be a dresscode?), I continually delayed going until today.
The setting of the Fountain Coffee Room, at the base of a curving stairway on the way out to the swimming pool and spa, seems almost incidental, and adds to the casual atmosphere of the room. The Fountain Room is small, truly just a long black lunch counter, lined with dark green vinyl stools. The fixtures and decor effortlessly evoke the late 1940s, when the Fountain Room opened, without seeming like either a stale museum piece or a plastic re-creation. Water and cream are served from silver pitchers, and coffee is poured into lattice-work porcelain cups, by a waitress in pink uniform and white apron. The understated fixtures are contrasted by the Fountain's signature banana-leaf wallpaper, which evokes an era when Los Angeles could still market itself as a subtropical destination.
Despite its location in the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Fountain Room is a casual spot, where the waitress has time to chat with hotel guests as the chef prepares their waffles. The menu is classic diner food with a few upmarket touches, such as a caviar and sour cream omelet, and brioche french toast, served with mini jars of warm maple syrup. While a coffeeshop with the history and style of the Fountain Coffee Room could easily choose to rest on its reputation, the Fountain continues to offer an impressive, well-prepared menu. So many old Hollywood spots have either been torn down (Schwab's Pharmacy), or been allowed to age gracelessly (Canter's) that it's nice to see one that still retains an aura of understated glamor.