Beverly Hills' "Bazaar" defies dining downturn

Tue Jan 6, 2009 12:36pm EST
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By Mary Milliken

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters Life!) - Spanish celebrity chef Jose Andres worked on his Beverly Hills venture The Bazaar for two and a half years, only to open in the midst of the worst economic and financial downturn in decades.

But Andres may have found the recipe for a successful recession-era restaurant: offer customers a menu of options under one roof and offer them something they can't find elsewhere.

Like a bustling Middle Eastern souk, The Bazaar boasts several spots where drinkers and diners can stop -- a cocktail bar, a traditional tapas spot, a contemporary tapas space and a patisserie complete with deluxe candy jars.

Customers can roam from one section to another and their checks will follow them through the Philippe Starck-designed space on the ground floor of the new SLS Hotel. Drink in hand, they can meander over to the design boutique and drop a few thousand dollars for a paparazzi celebrity photo or a replica of the Titanic.

If money is tight, diners can order just a few small plates, which Andres says are a good value at under $10.

Alas, not even a celebrity and luxury shopping mecca like Beverly Hills is immune to this deep financial crisis. And although Andres, 39, has never been more popular thanks to his "Made in Spain" television series and cookbook, he can't ignore the economic chill.

"Of course, I am worried. You can only not be worried if you are a multimillionaire not invested in anything and with cash in the bank," said Andres, who is based in Washington D.C. where he opened a string of acclaimed restaurants over the last 15 years.

But a recent feverish Friday night at The Bazaar belied the economic downturn and Andres said he was pleased with the bustling crowd and the critics' reviews in the first month.   Continued...

<p>Guests sit at the Patisserie section of The Bazaar restaurant at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, California December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>