MY first Los Angeles meal is dinner at the over-hyped restaurant of an overexposed reality star. And not only are we packed in like sardines but it’s so dark we need iPhones to illuminate the menu and so noisy we have to shout.
Breakfast the next day is at a glitzy hotel, where suspicious attendants hover around the buffet to ensure I don’t take anything I’m not entitled to eat. Rows of empty plates suggest I should have set the alarm to arrive before the morning rush.
So, when I meet LA-based mates for lunch we decide to hit The Original Farmers Market, where a menu featuring literally hundreds of options, made from the freshest ingredients, guarantees a great feed.
The market – which sits beside The Grove, one of the city’s favourite shopping malls – is far from fine-dining fancy but, in a city often accused of lacking soul, it bursts with laid-back character.
Forget what you know about farmers’ markets. This one has been the business of a local family since 1934, when they set aside a corner of their dairy farm for neighbours to sell fresh produce from parked trucks.
Today restaurants, cafes and even licensed bars out-number fruit and vegie stands, and 60 eateries offer gourmet goodies seven days a week.
After doing a lap to see what’s on offer, we decide on a mini do-it-yourself degustation. We start with fried shrimp and seafood chowder from Tusquellas Fish & Oyster Bar before following with Mexican at Loteria Grill, and Brazilian barbecue from Pampas Grill.
We devour cheesy slices from Patsy D’Amore’s Pizza, Asian-inspired curry from Singapore Banana Leaf, a fat slice of apple pie from Du-par’s Restaurant, salted-caramel crepes from The Fresh Crepe Company, and sticky jam-filled doughnuts from Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts to ensure we sample flavours from the market’s most famous vendors.
We tag team to resupply, with one person dashing off to find the next delicacy while others guard the table in a shed packed with vintage 1950s-style furniture and, with no rush to leave, we sit to watch the world pass by.
There are just as many options when hydrating – including alcohol – but we settle for iced tea and homemade lemonade from Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts as well as a blend of the two that’s known as an Arnold Palmer. Then milkshakes from Bennett’s Ice Cream make the perfect end to an epic, and quintessentially LA, feast.
And the best thing of all, we’re a one-minute walk from The Grove, the perfect place for a spot of post-lunch shopping at my favourite US stores.
The writer travelled to Los Angeles a guest of Qantas.
FULL MENU IN THRIVING DINING SCENE
FINDING somewhere to eat in LA can be an intimidating prospect, especially for first-time visitors.
A tip is to rely on the hotel concierge — they can make recommendations and reservations — while a second option is simply sticking to the green and gold with a gaggle of Aussies chefs and restaurateurs making their mark on the southern Californian food scene by opening restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars around La La Land.
1. Eveleigh, 8752 West Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood
The casual but cool Eveleigh occupies a 1920s farmhouse that once sat at the centre of a sprawling fruit orchard. A neighbourhood favourite since opening in 2010, its menu focuses on “the freshness of California cuisine’’. More theeveleigh.com
2. Maude, 212 South Beverley Drive, Beverly Hills
Australia’s favourite exported celebrity chef Curtis Stone called his “tiny restaurant” in Beverly Hills Maude after the grandmother he credits with opening his eyes “to cooking and food’’. A monthly menu of nine tasting plates is inspired by a single seasonal ingredient. More mauderestaurant.com
3. EP & LP, 603 N La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood
Grant Smillie — the Aussie DJ who co-owns Melbourne bar Ponyfish Island — opened a drinking and dining destination on Melrose Ave in trendy West Hollywood last year. EP & LP is a dual-level address boasting fine dining downstairs and a rooftop bar with cocktails crafted by Alex Straus. More eplosangeles.com
4. Paramount Coffee Project, 456 North Fairfax Ave, West Hollywood
Paramount Coffee Project — or PCPLA — opened in November after Mark Dundon of Melbourne’s Seven Seeds and Russell Beard of Sydney’s Reuben Hills joined forces to hop the Pacific. More pcpfx.com
5. Qantas Business Lounge, airside at LAX’s Tom Bradley Terminal
Neil Perry is weaving his magic in LA, now responsible for shaping the cuisine at LAX’s renovated Qantas Business Lounge. The renowned Aussie chef is using multicultural “Los Angeles flavours’’ to craft the pre-flight menu. See qantas.com.au
ESCAPE ROUTE – LOS ANGELES
Qantas offers daily flights between three Australian state capitals — Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne — and Los Angeles. See qantas.com.au
The Original Farmers Market is open seven days from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm on Saturday, and 10am to 7pm on Sunday. See farmersmarketla.com
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ESCAPE ON SUNDAY, MARCH 6, 2016