Four Seasons Westlake Village
Driving up to the Four Seasons Westlake Village after being on the road for six hours, I thought I had made a wrong turn. The signs did say “Four Seasons” but the severe institutional exterior made me think I was at an office park or hospital, not at a luxury hotel.
Once inside, however, I found the light and airy reception area a welcome respite from the trip. Indeed, I found the hotel, which first opened in 2006 and is set on huge grounds, to be full of surprises. Not only did it house the California Health & Longevity Institute, whose atrium has water-smoothed boulders from the River Kwai in Thailand, but the grounds include numerous gardens with waterfalls, an orchid house, and a real Chinese pagoda (for meditation). There was even a Chinese footbridge; it’s in the spa and it connects the orchid-filled lounges.
From the moment I registered, staff seemed to anticipate my every need and many addressed me by name. When I discovered I had left my smartphone charger in San Francisco, the front desk sent me to the concierge, who had a huge box of chargers and who patiently found the right one, tested it with my phone, and didn’t even ask for my room number (I made sure to return it as I checked out).
Rooms are large, airy, and replete with the latest amenities such as flat-screen televisions and DVD players not to mention elegant furnishings. The embroidered laundry bag was a nice touch and the firm yet comfortable mattress was one of the few hotel beds where I didn’t wake up with a back or neck ache. Despite the fact that my room overlooked the main driveway, the double-paned windows ensured absolute quiet.
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Lighting is excellent all around; the desk and chair were adequate although I would have preferred a true desk chair rather than one that matched the furnishings. Internet access ($16 for 24 hours) was more than sufficiently fast for work-related tasks as well as watching high-definition video programs.
This was the first hotel I have ever encountered where meeting rooms are wired to a television production studio so the proceedings can be broadcast via satellite. There are many spaces to hold formal and informal meetings including the pagoda and the many gardens.
Onyx is one of the hotel’s two restaurants and, inside the restaurant, one of the first things one sees is a beautiful wall of onyx (a stone used throughout the facility: the concierge’s desk in the lobby is also a kind of onyx and it’s found on the ceilings in the spa; carnelian, a reddish stone, is also found throughout the hotel).
Onyx serves Japanese cuisine and features a full sushi bar, seating eight, under the direction of sushi chef Masasuke Shimakawa. I dined at the sushi bar the first night and told Chef Masa to forget the menu and choose what he thinks best. I started with the Goma–Ae, green beans with white and black sesame sauce and then the meal turned into a blur of sushi and sashimi. There is an excellent Saki menu as well.
The only area where the hotel didn’t do quite so well was a room service breakfast, where the entrée (an egg dish) arrived cold. This minor snafu was quickly remedied and a replacement entrée arrived both quickly and steaming hot.
Located on the Four Seasons’ grounds, the California Health and Longevity Institute is a complete medical facility (offering almost everything but invasive surgeries) and features comprehensive programs for individuals and groups covering medicine, fitness, nutrition and life balance. Staff includes physicians, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and lifestyle consultants. The Institute features a wellness kitchen where guests are taught healthy cooking and eating.
One diagnostic treatment I tried was the Bod Pod, which assesses body mass, using whole-body densitometry to determine body composition (fat and fat-free mass). It uses air displacement plethysmography (similar in principle to hydrostatic or underwater weighing) in a test that lasts only five minutes. You simply enter the Bod Pod (which resembles a BMW Isetta in shape) and the system provides the results, which include resting metabolic rate and total energy expenditure, which a nurse then reviewed with me.
The Four Seasons Westlake Village is set at the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Conejo Valley, about halfway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles International Airport and near major highways. Its suburban location might not seem like an obvious spot for a getaway or meeting. But its unique services, including the California Health and Longevity Institute, make it a memorable choice.
Four Seasons Hotel, 2 Dole Drive, Westlake Village, California
+1 818 575-3000
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.