If you ask me, Santa Monica is the perfect city.
A coastal town with one of the best beaches in Southern California, it has everything you could want: beautiful weather, luxury shopping, tons of amazing restaurants, a quintessential oceanside pier complete with a ferris wheel, and an environmental consciousness not found in many other places.
Arriving at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, I could immediately tell it was the embodiment of everything that is wonderful about Santa Monica.
Located right on the Pacific Coast Highway and walking distance from not only the beach and pier, but also the famed Third Street Promenade shopping area (Anthropologie, anyone? Maybe Lush? J. Crew?), this is the place to be for the ultimate Santa Monica vacation.
You don’t even have to travel far for one of the best dining experiences in the area; the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalow's signature restaurant, FIG, is just in the lobby.
Featuring the Mediterranean creations of Chef Yousef Ghalaini (inspired by his childhood in Lebanon), FIG has been voted the best happy hour location in Los Angeles. Which in the land of literally hundreds of incredible bars and restaurants, is really a testament to the food and libations at FIG.
And the best part? All the items of the menu are sourced locally from hand-selected farmers and purveyors in California, predominantly acquired from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. How awesome is that?
After being shown to my table next to the terrace overlooking the pool (don’t forget those Ray Bans!), I ordered one of their specialty cocktails, the Cucumber Press, to help cool off on this hot summer evening.
Crafted with Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, cilantro, and hand pressed citrus juices, this light and refreshing cocktail was the perfect choice. Each sip made the hot weather slowly disappear as I settled in to peruse the menu of Mediterranean-influenced, wood-fired dishes.
Now, it is my firm belief that if you see an item on the menu with an interesting or funny name, you should always order it. A touch of whimsy makes any meal better. So clearly I had to order FIG’s "Bread Balloon."
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but you can’t go wrong with zaatar, EVOO, and sea salt. Plus it's served with your choice of spread; I chose the Muhamara (charred green onions) and the Labneh (Persian cucumbers and sumac).
When it arrived, I was delighted with what I saw—a loaf of airy, delicious bread the size of my head that absolutely lived up to its namesake. The bread was wonderful enough to eat by itself, but with the spreads? Just amazing. I particularly loved the Labneh: creamy, cool, and tangy.
I then decided to sample a couple of the appetizers. I started with the "Warm Olives," coated with thyme and Meyer lemons, and goodness were they addicting! I could easily have eaten several bowls of them by myself. But there were dozens of other delectable dishes to try, so I set aside the olives and ordered the Wood Smoked Manilla Clams.
Frankly, they just LOOKED beautiful, served in juices with fresh thyme and a zesty lime relish, accompanied by a slice of crunchy bread. And the good news? They tasted even better than they looked. Nothing beats the taste of fresh seafood when you’re right next to the beach.
After seeing that pizza was on the menu, I knew I just HAD to have one. While all of the pizzas sounded incredible, I decided on the "Squash Blossoms Pizza."
I can never resist pizzas with innovative and creative toppings, and this one did not disappoint. Packed with fresh vegetables like Brentwood corn (the sweetest corn imaginable) and charred zucchini, this pizza has a California flair perfect for its Santa Monica location. And the thin crust and parmesan cheese topping were simply perfection.
Finally it was time for the main course. There are several delicious-sounding options available (lamb pasta, coffee rubbed NY strip steak, and Jidori chicken, to name a few), but the "Wood Grilled Whole Fish" was calling to me.
Because like I said, seafood and the beach go together like movies and popcorn, am I right? Featuring tahini, a ginger mignonette, and served with charred broccoli, this fish was ah-maze-ing! Even if it may have looked a little scary. Trust me, just try it- your taste buds will thank you.
At this point I was full beyond belief… but there is always room for dessert!
I enjoyed the "Wood Roasted Strawberries" as I relaxed at my table with the cool ocean breezes blowing through the terrace. The strawberries were served with a brown sugar streusel, aged balsamic, and wait for it... cheesecake ice cream!
Does life get any more perfect than this?
Always available by foot and Uber, but should you take the Bentley, valet parking is available.