The bar scene in Santa Monica is eclectic, ranging from high-end hotel bars to dilapidated dives. Too often, new establishments cater to tourists with uninspired drink lists and inflated prices, leaving locals to frequent the same old haunts. Guest Room, a speakeasy-style bar that opened last month above Estate Bar + Restaurant, is a welcome departure.
Guest Room is like many modern speakeasies — secret venues inspired by Prohibition-era haunts that piggyback on existing bars and restaurants — except here visitors enjoy a roomy level above Estate Restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, in the former Parlor sports bar. Unsurprisingly, it’s easy to miss the door; look for the knob on the right of the sepia seaside mural before you enter the restaurant.
Upstairs you’ll walk into a roomy Art Deco lounge designed by O’Brien & Associates, more classy than cozy, with ample seating and its own bar. Black-and-white photos of Prohibition-era bar scenes add a playful touch to the walls, but it’s the 1920s Diego Rivera and Gustav Klimt paintings that set the sophisticated tone. Sheer, sparkling window treatments block out the 21st-century signage on Wilshire, while crystal chandeliers and candlelight pull you back to Old Hollywood. A brick wall is painted gunmetal gray, in contrast with the warm wood tabletops.
The cocktail menu speaks to a bygone era. “Select” and “Classic” drinks are $13, and they include the Eliot Ness–essity and Save a Little Dram from mixologist Greg Bryson (the Wallace), who uses old-school bar staples like Fernet Vittone and chartreuse. The Mob Rule (vodka, creme de peche, lemon, pear cider) is served with a fan of Granny Smith apple, and the I’ve Still Got 99 (gin, strawberry cordial, lemon, cava) is a sweet, tart tipple. Our favorite was Devil’s Candy, a unique spin on the Manhattan made with spicy Rittenhouse Rye, sour cherry bitters and Dry Sack Medium sherry, which provides the nutty, toffee aromatics.
Outside of spirits, Guest Room offers an assortment of wine by the glass, both California and international selections. Beers like Ballast Point Sculpin, Modern Times Black Oatmeal Coffee Stout and Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizenbock Vitus are available in bottles and cans.
Guest Room features a small selection of bar bites, an extension of executive chef Hisashi Yoshiara's Japanese-Euro menu from Estate. It includes saikyo-and-miso-glazed Japanese eggplant with roasted sesame seeds and char siu pork flatbread.
1519 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 394-7722, estate1519.com.