Wednesday evening offered a full moon, yet there was no energy in the night. Looking out a window from Hotel Valencia’s Vbar one could see horse-drawn carriages moving listlessly down the street in search of tourists and a purpose. I’m no horse whisperer, but I took a hint. More evidence of the overwhelming languor — a few patrons to my right were mourning the Spurs’ recent collapse at the feet of the Portland Trailblazers, and in a sense, it was the collapse of the Spurs’ season, if not dynasty. At the other end of the bar, hotel guests recounted stories from the Majestic Theater’s production of Frost/Nixon — another tale of empire in disarray.
It was time for a drink.
The night’s other Bar Tab crewmember was caught up in the sporting life with a late-night game of poker. I stared at Vbar’s 15-foot high wall of booze and considered my options. The selection is impressive. I’m always surprised when bars carry a diverse array of vodkas (the tofu of liquors), but considering that vodka tonic has a stranglehold on people’s thirst, I suppose the variety comes in handy, even if it’s illusory.
On the last Bar Tab, our crewmember was rejected twice when he attempted to order a ginger-ale highball so I thought I’d try in their honor. (The night was slipping into melodrama, but I kept going with it.) The bartender had one bottle of Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew in the back, and I tried to pair this with a dark rum for a Dark and Stormy. Meyer’s Rum was what they had on hand, and it worked well enough. The spicy flavor actually overpowered the rum’s inherent sweetness; this was a good thing.
Talk of Tim Duncan’s ailing knees and David Frost’s probing nature waned and I had a moment to look around the place. The actual bar is probably the best place to sit at the Vbar. The architect and interior designer might not want to hear that, but the lounge floor plan is so decentralized one feels lost in the space. The opulence and individual details are impressive, but there’s no central narrative to give it direction. One can wander off into corners and patios, and for a hotel bar that’s probably the point, but as a local I felt like I needed a map.
For round two I tried a B&B on the rocks. B&B is a combination of cognac brandy and Benedictine, an aromatic liqueur whose recipe dates back 16th-century France, and is never known by more than 3 people at a time. It tastes like a less slutty jaegermeister, though that description misses its appeal.
Leaving the Vbar, I came across a wall of ornamental citrus oranges, autographed by traveling celebrities. It’s clear the Valencia succeeds very well in presenting a distinguished face to the city’s visitors. But will the Vbar develop a cross-over appeal with the locals? That remains to be seen.
The Bar Tab
Vbar in the Hotel Valencia
150 E. Houston
Vibe: West Hollywood celebrity hangout
Best Use: Post-Majestic Theatre nightcap
Innovative happy hour: Stiletto Heel Fridays. Beginning at 9 p.m., get $1 off first drink for every inch on your heels