Welcome to Gjelina – one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles.
A tall blonde, wearing skinny jeans that look as if they are painted on to her body, tries to squeeze her willowy frame through a narrow gap between the wooden tables. Thankfully, I am not the only one who cannot access her table without having her derriere hover over another diner’s plate. Her boyfriend grins and tries to break the ice by saying: “We’re going to get real familiar here.”
We’re in Gjelina – a packed restaurant in Venice, one of the trendiest parts of town. Its interior is as hip as its status – it has a popular spot on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the street declared to be the “coolest block in America”. It is 8:30 on a Sunday night, the lights are low, old school ska is being pumped into the air and there is a loud hub of chatter.
Between the wooden ceiling and the brick-lined floor is a sea of beanie and flip-flop wearing hipsters. The dress code is smart but casual. Even my waitress looks effortlessly cool in a pair of black slacks, a white tailored shirt and a flat cap. With her good looks and flawless skin, she could easily embody the Hollywood cliché of the out-of-work actor making her way by serving tables.
Since it opened a few years ago, Gjelina has been the place to see and be seen. Through its doors has come a cast of high profile stars, from a screen heartthrob (Ryan Gosling), and the king and queen of hip-hop and R&B (Beyoncé and her rapper husband Jay-Z), to British royalty (Prince Harry). Back in 2011, a heavily pregnant Victoria Beckham reportedly caused a stir when she ordered a smoked trout salad with the dressing on the side in an establishment that has a strict “no substitutions” policy. Even her dining companion, outspoken TV chef Gordon Ramsay was stunned.
It is this caliber of visitors that represents a change in Los Angeles. Venice, L.A. used to be the best-kept secret in the world, now it’s the place where celebrities order their low-calorie salads and hipsters complain over substandard latte art in their cappuccinos. Even though I sometimes long for the old days, when I’m sitting in places such as Gjelina the new Venice seems awfully entertaining.
The coolest block in America – that's right. This Truly Wonderful hotel is just a 10-minute walk away from Gjelina. Ideal in every way!