You probably recognise Dominic Bowden as the face of Dancing with the Stars NZ or perhaps as the champion of extremely drawn out pauses on X Factor NZ. The Kiwi personality is a hot ticket in the presenting business. Having just wrapped up a spell as backstage host for the stateside version of the celebrity dancing competition, he nabbed a role as the co-host of an Australasian-focused show on entertainment mega E! Channel. But when he's not rubbing shoulder with the Backstreet Boys or draping Britney Spears' python around his neck, Dominic can be found living like an Angelino in the land of opportunity. This is Dominic Bowden's guide to Los Angeles.
By far my favourite restaurant in Los Angeles, located in the heart of the ever-growing Downtown LA Art District, is Bestia. Its "ingredient-driven” Italian food, from the house-cured salami to the homemade pastas and lamb ragu with saffron, are superb. The head chef's wife is Bestia’s phenomenal pastry chef. The chocolate budino tart is guaranteed to be a delightful end to an unforgettable meal. This place is in high demand with a six-month reservation policy but here’s some advice, don’t book online, ring them instead and they might fit you in, even with a 10:45pm booking, the place still has a great atmosphere.
Broad Beach, Malibu
The best beach to remind yourself that you are in LA is Broad Beach in Malibu. It’s one of those beaches where the multi-million dollar houses hang out over the water. Cindy Crawford and Leo DiCaprio both have houses on this beach and so it's very difficult to get to, but there is a secret path just off the Pacific Coast Highway, right above Jeffery’s restaurant. Head to the Malibu Country Mart, grab some sandwiches and then head to Broad Beach for the day but don’t leave without admiring all of the insane houses. The trick is to walk along the beach, looking in at the houses acting like you own one of them to avoid annoying the locals and dive into Jeffrey’s for some drinks to watch the sunset.
Bootsy Bellows and The Nice Guy
These two places are great for spotting celebs but hard to get into, one is across the road from the famed Soho House. Bootie Bellow personifies the LA scene to a T; expect the unexpected. Puppets that look like Michael Jackson and other fallen celebs share the dance floor with you, it’s an experience to say the least. David Archqette is part owner and his great grandfather was a famous puppeteer, which explains that. The Nice Guy on the other hand is young Hollywood, it's full of cool kids with ironic facial hair and fedoras but a real LA experience. It’s a great place to see LA at its coolest.
Republique make some of the best flat whites in Los Angeles, and the best brunch in the city. In typical LA fashion it has a story to it, it used to be the 1920s studio of Charlie Chaplin and has been converted into a restaurant. At night it turns into a swanky hotspot and the prices go up but only the locals know that it’s open during the day and I head there five or six times a week. Great spot.
Modo Yoga and Soul Cycle
No town is more obsessed with the way they look than here in lala land but it also means that there are a ton of new things to try. LA also loves a fad and the latest would be hot yoga. This place is near work for me, so I gave it a try and it’s great. As much as it’s about the yoga, its about the experience, everyone takes it super seriously and it gets packed - 80 people in the studios per class. I’ve ended up chatting to everyone from hip hop tycoon Russell Simmons, to Kiwi covergirl Rachel Hunter in this studio.
A more ‘Hollywood’ gym experience would be to attend a Soul Cycle class in Beverly Hills. This is celebrity spotting central. Imagine a concert mixed with an Anthony Robbins motivational course. Low lights, scented candles and a hell of a work out, at about $38USD a session it’s pricey but worth it.
One of the oldest delis in LA, Greenblatt's is an institution. Situated right next to the famed Chateu Mamont, it’s a really old Hollywood, old school place with a traditional deli and fine vintages at an attached retail wine shop. The Matzo ball soup and the pecan pie are what I drive across town for. From the outside it looks small but it’s really one of the city’s hidden gems and last time I was there, I was sitting next to Charlize Theron and Sean Penn and no one bothered them once, which is something that doesn’t happen in the selfie-crazed world of celeb spotting.
While the "quintessential LA” cafe chain is the place to be seen by paparazzi, Urth Caffe at its WeHo location, right in the middle of the art district is a great place for out of towners to come down and soak up the atmosphere that up until a few years ago was considered off limits. A few streets over from skid row, it may seem like no man's land at first glance but the art district is my favourite place to wander, it’s part warehouse wasteland and part creative hub for LA's young creative professionals. If you go to Urth, get the Green Tea Bobbas, wicked.
As nice as Los Angeles is, there are many great spots for weekends away. After spending many a weekend in Palm Springs, I recently discovered Healdsburg, which is wine country, up in the Sonoma Valley. Think of what Arrowtown is to Queenstown, that’s what Healdsburg is to its nearby, bigger brother, Napa. It’s quaint, super low-key and perfect for a weekend away. There are dozens of vineyards and quaint little places to stay. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery is one of my favs, only ten minutes drive from the middle of town.