The Barfly’s Guide to Los Angeles

By: Maxine Sheppard

January 11, 2011

It’s time to add some pure Hollywood glamour to our pages, and who better to ask than our very own Flying Barman and Bacardi global ambassador Marc Plumridge, who’s been shaking it up behind the onboard Upper Class bar for the past six years.

We just caught up with Marc after a recent trip to LA and got the lowdown on his current pick of Tinseltown’s hottest hangouts – but before we reveal all, we want to know what’s been kicking up a storm in the sky lately.

Tell us about the high life, Marc – what’s been happening onboard?

“Well, on my last flight to LA, I thought I’d try something out – I introduced a personalised service and took out a ‘martini tray’ to our Upper Class passengers’ seats. To elaborate, the tray was loaded up with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, a bottle of Grey Goose, some martini vermouth, a mixing glass and a chilled coupette. Placing it on the ottoman in front of the seat, I then ran through the virtues of how to make the perfect martini and demonstrated by pouring from a great height into the glass for added theatre. Went down a treat and everybody loved it…”

Sounds like an appropriately sybaritic way to begin a trip to this most decadent of cities. Where then, does our Barfly suggest we continue the intoxicating quest for the ultimate cocktail?

It’s over to you, Marc…

Soho House West Hollywood

“Based on the top two floors of the Luckman Plaza building on Sunset Boulevard, this is one of the most recent additions to the ever-increasing collection of Soho House urban retreats, and one of my personal favourites. With 180 degree views over Los Angeles, an incredible interior filled with vintage furniture and a wonderful Californian olive tree-lined terrace garden, this is definitely the #1 spot to enjoy a cocktail and unwind.



Soho House West Hollywood © Soho House

Soho House West Hollywood © Soho House


“What to drink – well, with a menu sporting a great host of modern day interpretations you won’t go far wrong with anything you choose. Highlights for me include the Lady Marmalade, the Palma Fizz and of course the classic Mary Pickford.”

Tip: As this is a private members’ club you will need to know a member or be a member to gain entry or book a table. Soho House offer an “˜every house’ membership which allows you to be part of the Soho House community and gain access to all the venues worldwide for a fixed yearly membership fee.

Cecconi’s, West Hollywood

“I remember being here at Cecconi’s when it opened and it’s a must everytime I visit LA. Classic Italian food is served up with style, and it’s perfect for either lunchtime grazing or dinner. Sipping classic Italian cocktails like the Bellini or a Sapphire Negroni while the sun shines is the perfect Hollywood experience, and you’ll see A-listers in abundance here on a regular basis. There’s a newly opened Cecconi’s in Miami, too.”



The Bar at Cecconi's © Cecconi's West Hollywood

The Bar at Cecconi’s © Cecconi’s West Hollywood



The Varnish Bar

“Winner of LA Weekly’s Best Speakeasy 2010 Award – think dark wood and a sophisticated crowd with an ambience that harks back to a more glamorous era. The bartenders at this downtown venue at the rear of Cole’s Restaurant on East Sixth Street serve up great drinks with fresh produce and take enormous pride in what they’re doing. A refined clientele remains in attendance here all week long, lounging and socialising in wooden booths while listening to the twinkling sounds of a guy playing the piano. There’s a great spirit selection available.”



The Edison

The Edison ©

The Edison ©


The Edison is a true Hollywood hangout and a perfect place to start the night. The award-winning venue retains many architectural features from its days as downtown LA’s first private power plant and needs to be experienced to be appreciated. There’s a great atmosphere and a number of hidden bars spread throughout this ‘industrial cathedral’, so find your own nook, order the Brown Derby or Edison Cocktail and imbibe at your leisure.”


La Descarga

“This East Hollywood Cuban-themed bar typifies the increasing popularity in ‘speakeasy’ style drinking establishments, and brings the fun back into enjoying great drinks in a relaxing environment.


“With the laid back atmosphere of a friend’s apartment, you’ll be greeted by a hostess on entry and in true speakeasy style, taken to the entrance of the bar area which is hidden not behind a door, but instead through a wardrobe (with shirts hanging within). Once through you’ll be presented with a birds eye view, and a wrought-iron spiral staircase leads you down to the main bar where a collection of great rum can be found. For me there is just one choice as a first “˜welcome’ drink; the El Presidente, lovingly stirred down using Bacardi 8yr Old Rum. Here, classic Cuban cocktails take centre stage and if you’re feeling in the mood to treat yourself why not try a drop of Bacardi Reserva Limitada, simply with a block of ice.

Tip: Make a reservation through the website (a quick and simple process) to ensure there is adequate space for you and your friends ahead of time and to avoid disappointment at the door.

Caffe Luxxe

Caffe Luxxe © Tom Benedek

Caffe Luxxe © Tom Benedek


“OK, so we’re veering away from cocktails slightly now, but I couldn’t write about places to go in Los Angeles without mentioning (what I consider) the best coffee house I’ve ever visited and I do love my coffee!

“The small team of genuine baristi have perfected the art of producing the finest hand-crafted coffee you could ever hope to experience, alongside small-batch artisanal foods, all in an elegant European-style cafésetting. I always pop in and often chat to the guys and it’s great to hear that they have to train for six months before they’re able to say that they’ve mastered the technique of pulling the perfect espresso.”

And finally, can you suggest some cool hotel bars for us to check out too?

“Sure, take a look at the Sky Bar at the Mondrian, The Bazaar at SLS Hotel, Drai’s at W Hotel Hollywood, the Cameo Bar at Viceroy and the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel, both in Santa Monica, and the Standard Hotels in both West Hollywood and Downtown.”


Sky Bar at Mondrian LA © Morgans Hotel Group

Sky Bar at Mondrian LA © Morgans Hotel Group


Virgin Atlantic operate daily flights to Los Angeles from London Heathrow – check out our website for the very best deals on fares, and read more about Marc in our recent introduction to the Flying Barman.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

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