Tucked into a hidden corner of Beverly Hills, The Peninsula hotel has offered classical fine dining at its primary restaurant The Belvedere for more than two decades.
Despite the heritage, it was time for change. In September, the hotel closed the Belvedere for a complete overhaul that updated the décor, expanded the use of outdoor space and transformed the menu with more Mediterranean-inspired offerings and an emphasis on seafood.
The refurbishment was under the direction of executive chef David Codney, who joined the food-and-beverage team at the 195-room luxury hotel in 2012. He spent years with The Ritz-Carlton, most recently in Naples, FL, where he was executive sous chef and a member of the team that opened new hotels throughout North America.
Codney describes himself as a fisherman and world traveler who loves to make old ideas new again.
The new-and-improved Belvedere is scheduled to officially reopen Jan. 19. Dishes will include grass-fed lamb-bulgur meatballs with raisins, almonds and feta as an appetizer; monkfish osso buco with charred Spanish octopus or a simply prepared whole branzino with lemon and anise as entrees, and sides like organic quinoa tabbouleh or house-baked flatbread with hummus, olive oil and baba ghanoush.
Here’s how Codney describes the re-envisioned Belvedere.
What was your goal in reinventing the concept?
It was a great place before. Now it’s better. With a hotel restaurant, you have to please a lot of people. You have international guests, locals and people that are in the entertainment business; the powerbroker business. It needs to be a catch-all, but at the same time you don’t want it to be a catch-all. You need to give the illusion that it’s safe, but also give them a little bit of intrigue. We also didn’t want to lose the identity of being a place for power lunches and being able to have conversations in the dining room.
So all that led to Mediterranean, with simply prepared food, all speaking to the quality of the ingredients. When you look at the size of the region, Mediterranean gives us the ability to bounce around and almost do anything you want.
The Belvedere has long been a special occasion restaurant, or power meeting spot. It’s expensive. Did you try to make it more accessible?
It’s in the upper tier if you look across the U.S., but if you look at Beverly Hills, we’re very competitive. Our comp set goes beyond the hotels. I’m trying to keep guests from going out on a Saturday night and to stay in the hotel.
We don’t want to be that special occasion restaurant. We wanted to be that place where you can conduct business meetings. We are local driven. About 80 percent of our guests are locals and not hotel guests. We have people coming in five or six days a week for breakfast, lunch or dinner, so we want to give them, with this large menu, a chance to come back.
Does the remodel add more seats?
Once the patio opens, we’ll be at about 180, which is 60 more seats. It will be roughly 50/50 indoor/outdoor, with a little more indoor. It’s flexible space, and that’s the beautiful part. Part of the remodel was gutting the infrastructure from the kitchen, to wear washing, to drain lines to flow going in and out. We created two entries to allow for banquets outside without staff having to walk through the restaurant. We can also do a banquet inside and still have the restaurant outside.
Are you also doing foodservice for the hotel?
Yes, everything for food and beverage comes out of our kitchen downstairs. The roof garden has a satellite kitchen, but the majority of prep is done down here. So everything for our annual $14.5 million or $15 million food-and-beverage operation comes out of our one kitchen.
Any changes to the beverage side?
We have something like 50 wines by the glass, a much broader offering than before. We’ve taken on a new identity with really odd pours, like vintage pours you can’t find anywhere else, to ciders and other things you wouldn’t normally find. They’re geeky wines, but, more importantly, they’re an experience. You can’t find this stuff everywhere.
You have a small garden on the roof. What are you growing there?
We have about nine different herbs. When you see the size of the garden, it’s exemplary how much we can do. I’m growing fennel, mustard seed, three different oreganos, basil, thyme and berries. I want to expand the garden to add more berries and hops. I’m a home brewer, so I like to experiment.