Food Mecca – Manhattan Beach, California (the other Manhattan)

Jetting into Los Angeles on Thanksgiving Day is like arriving on the set of the recent Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Day the World Stood Still’.

The airport is eerily deserted. The streets are silent; shops are closed; and LA’s famously gridlocked traffic is nowhere to be seen.

Where is all the bling and noisy brassiness we’ve come to expect from this sun-kissed Mecca?

Our cab driver is one of those brooding, silent types (read: grunting Neanderthal) so our questions go unanswered.

It seems Thanksgiving is a holiday Americans genuinely spend at home with each other – not hanging out in shopping malls or at multiplexes.

OK, all the shops may be closed but a big plus to arriving in LA on a traffic-free, public holiday is being able to breathe. Gone is the occasionally oppressive pollution. Instead I suck in deep gulps of fresh, salty, sea air.

I could get use to this.

We’ve based ourselves in LA at the low-key, coastal village of Manhattan Beach. It’s the perfect pit-stop for travellers. You’ll be amazed that the shimmering Pacific Ocean and swaying palms could be only 8 kilometres (five miles) south of LAX airport.

Manhattan Beach’s remoteness has helped protect its unique old-fashioned seaside charm. The closure of its Red Car light-rail line in 1954 ended up being part blessing in disguise. With no efficient public transport system, Downtown LA day-trippers switched to closer beaches such as Santa Monica and Venice.

This left Manhattan Beach almost exclusively to local surfers and beach volley-ballers (beach volleyball was invented on Manhattan Beach) until the late 1960s when a new generation of Californians discovered its charms.

Four years ago Manhattan Beach was bestowed with its first luxury boutique hotel – SHADE – built by local restaurateur Michael Zislis. A rave recommendation in travel bible ‘Conde Nast Traveller’ soon followed and now Manhattan Beach has become chic all over again.

Shade Hotel may be just two blocks away from the beach but it’s oh, so very chilled.
Its 38 dark wooded suites with duck blue fabrics are modern, stylish and intimate. All rooms have deep two-person hydrotherapy spa baths and ‘tempur-pedic’ beds wrapped in luxurious Mascioni linens.

A light breakfast buffet of cereals, yoghurts, pastries, fresh juices, teas and coffee served in the downstairs Zinc lounge is included in the room rate.

In the evenings the lounge transforms into a hip, ever-so-cool bar populated by local shiny happy people. Later, some saunter up to the sky-deck pool and roof-top bar for a little dose of Hollywood glamour under the stars.

The hotel is surrounded by the village’s main shopping precint bordered by – Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue. You can find everything from beach-house nic-nacs to designer clothes and shoe shops (Sketchers sneakers has its headquarters here).

Eating well and cheaply isn’t difficult either. Wonderful fresh seafood including crab and lobster is served at Michael Zislis’s Rock’N Fish restaurant on the beach. For some authentic Mexican cuisine done with a deft touch a dinner at Mucho Ultimate Mexicana is a must. Among the memorable dishes we tasted was a crispy, sticky dish of grilled quail in a piquant sherry vinegar sauce with slices of waxy purple potatoes and crunchy straws of celeriac.

Great Asian offerings at Manhattan Beach are thin on the ground but if you need a sushi hit Fusion Sushi on Morningside Drive is the go.

The best view of the beach is from the appropriately named ‘Beaches’ bar where you can sip on a Long Island iced tea and watch the joggers, dog walkers and roller bladders zip along the famous 282 metre long (928 foot) cement pier.

Sunsets from here are a light show only nature could choreograph. In early winter they are slow and lingering with a mesmerising array of water-washed hues.

This is one stopover you won’t want to stop.
—————————————————————————————-
Getting There
Qantas flies to Los Angeles from Sydney and Melbourne daily.
Manhattan Beach is a 15 minute cab ride south from Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley International Airport.

Shade Hotel Manhattan Beach
1221 N Valley DriveManhattan Beach CA 90266
+61 1 310.546.4995 phone+61 1 310.546.4985 fax
info@shadehotel.com
Rock’N Fish
120 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
MANHATTAN BEACH, CA 90266
+61 1 (310) 379-9900

+61 1 (310) 379-9986
rocknfishllc@aol.com

Mucho Ultimate Mexicana
903 Manhattan Avenue
MANHATTAN BEACH, CA 90266+61 1 (310)374-4422+61 1 (310)374-4402

Fushion Sushi
1150 Morningside Drive
Manhattan Beach
MANHATTAN BEACH, CA 90266
Beaches
117 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
MANHATTAN BEACH, CA 90266
310 545 2523

A-Team Shoe Shop
1112 Manhattan Beach BoulevardMANHATTAN BEACH, CA 90266

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