As you may already know, I’m a big fan of revolving restaurants, and given a different life and a different budget I’d happily spend all my time touring the world, spinning from one revolving restaurant to another, from the Orbit in the Sky Tower in Auckland, to Seventh Heaven in the Ostankino Tower in Moscow, to the 7 Hills Revolving Restaurant, at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala. If Wikipedia is to be believed there are 16 revolving restaurants in Iran alone, though possibly these are not the best places to get a good martini.
So last week, on a more local scale, I went, not for the first time, to the Bona Vista Lounge on the 35th floor of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Now the Bonaventure is a very special, landmark building, one of my favourites, and it has a fabulous cylindrical glass exterior, and one of the few disadvantages of being in the Bona Vista Lounge is that, for entirely obvious reasons, you don’t get a view of the Bonaventure itself, though in the course of the one hour it takes for the lounge to complete a revolution, you do get a view of all the rest of LA.
Frankly things looked less glamorous in the Bona Vista Lounge than I remembered them. The place was more or less empty, the upholstery a little careworn, the staff kind of frazzled though not from overwork. Our waiter, an older Asian man, was cheerful enough, though he did push a little too hard to encourage us to order the more expensive cocktails. “They are bigger.” And when called upon to pour a bottle of beer the result looked like this:
But he was friendly enough and when I asked for extra olives for my martini (and it was a good one) he didn’t let me down. The place was also involved in some kind of Crystal Head vodka promotion so that certain cocktails – the Red Rush, the Mule Kick or “your favorite martini blend” - came in a souvenir skull-shaped shot glass. I resisted, not wanting to drink a martini, or indeed a martini blend, from a shot glass, skull-shaped or otherwise. I have written elsewhere that everything tastes better out a skull – but in the case of a martini I think not.
There was also a menu of “Skull Bites” - $10 appetizers including mini pupusas, Guatamalan banana leaf wrapped tamales, and “Parisian Cheese fondue, dried figs, French olives and toasted garlic brioche points.” We ordered the last of these. It looked like this:
And the taste? Well, those are shredded tarragon leaves on top, but otherwise the “fondue” itself actually tasted as though somebody had opened a can of Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup and poured it, unmediated, into a glass. Now I do believe there’s a time and a place for Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup but this really wasn’t it.
But you know: bad fondue, erratic service, slightly careworn upholstery, so what? The fact is, when you’re in a revolving restaurant, 35 stories up, the sun going down over L.A., you can forgive lot of things, it's just a shame that you have to.