Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Michael Chow’s Los Angeles

Michael Chow has been a restaurateur since opening the first Mr Chow in London in 1968; he now has five restaurants. A designer, architect and art collector, he is also directing his first film.

November 29 2009
Mark C O’Flaherty

“I have a tendency to get up very early. I like the morning, and I like the sunrise. My brain functions with greater clarity; one gets fuzzy after lunch. I’ll get up and have a glass of water, bathe and dress. I am someone of extremes, so either I power-dress in a made-to-measure Hermès suit, or I dress very casually. On Saturday morning, I might put on Chinese canvas slippers, Levi’s 501s and a black T-shirt. Then I’ll have another glass of water and an espresso to shock the body.

My wife, Eva, and I do separate things until later in the morning. My daughter, Asia, is 15 so sleeps late, like most teenagers. I like to read the papers, a habit I have from growing up in England. I read the Los Angeles and New York Times, a Chinese paper, The Hollywood Reporter and the FT, which I love because it ran Asian news back when no one else did, and I like the colour.

I might go for a swim. I’m not good at exercising, but our pool is outside and we have wonderful weather in LA. We have everything here – the city, the sea and the mountains. Or I might go to the beach at Malibu. It’s incredible, very dramatic; just to know it’s there is wonderful. But I wouldn’t swim there; it’s for surfers. I’ll take Eva and Asia for lunch at The Fountain Coffee Room at The Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s a classic, designed by Paul Williams in the 1940s, with original tropical-leaf wallpaper and stools. There’s a feeling of nostalgia about the place and it’s very romantic.

We try to be good and have a salad but end up having a patty melt. It’s expensive, but I have a saying: ‘Expensive, difficult and heavy is usually good.’

There are some wonderful interiors in Los Angeles, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, which is open to the public. I stole the idea for the fire-and-fountain fireplaces in my house from him. I also love the modernist Chemosphere House, designed by John Lautner, which looks like a mushroom. It was in the Brian de Palma film Body Double and it’s owned by Benedikt Taschen, the publisher. Taschen’s Beverly Hills bookshop is one of the few stores I go to. I’m a visual person and I don’t read much, but I really like architecture and art books.

Saturday night in LA is always busy, so I’d rather not eat out as I don’t like to wait for anything, but we might go for Korean food to Chilbo Myunok, a family restaurant that has very fresh produce, or for a Shanghainese dinner at Lake Spring. Both are a touch of comfort food for me. My wife is Korean and I am Chinese, so it’s like getting in touch with our culture.

Even though we have a screening room, I like to go to the movies – good movies, bad movies, commercial movies… all movies. There’s a movie theatre on Pico, The Landmark; it’s private and comfortable, with sofas instead of regular seats.

I don’t want to sound too grand, but the wonderful thing about Sunday is that apart from Eva, Asia and the security, it’s the one day that no one else is in the house; no staff. It’s a very peaceful time. Sunday is a good day to go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since Michael Govan took over as director he has been working wonders; the museum is so important to the community here. Chris Burden’s installation of lampposts in front of the building, Urban Light [pictured], is a show-stopper, particularly when you pass the gallery at night.

I really miss the English Sunday lunch, and what I’d like to do is get a joint in the oven and have friends over at about 2pm; about 20 people. It would be whoever was in town – artists, and we might let a few movie producers come. We’d open a few bottles of wine and talk about politics and art, not business. Then at about 6pm, I’d tell everyone to get lost.”

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People, Chefs