“Every British person loves Los Angeles,” Ken Friedman says, as he leans back in a wicker chair at Chateau Marmont, surrounded by the lush greenery of the iconic hotel’s garden terrace. “It’s sunny, it never rains, and they all grew up seeing it in movies.”
The James Beard Award-winning restaurateur, clad in a loosely buttoned leisure shirt, flip-flops, and a couple day’s worth of stubble, is explaining to me the sentiments of his longtime business partner (and British expat) April Bloomfield. The widely acclaimed New York chef is—along with a wave of other widely acclaimed New York chefs—currently getting ready to open her first Los Angeles restaurant. Not just any restaurant, but a sprawling, 200-seat, project in Hollywood, one that promises to provide one of the city’s most jaw-dropping courtyard patios and is set to open Friday, December 8.
If you’ve eaten around Manhattan in the last decade or so, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of both Friedman and Bloomfield. In 2004, they opened the Spotted Pig, the Michelin-starred gastropub often credited with kicking off the whole gastropub trend altogether. In the years since, the restaurateur-chef duo has opened six more projects together, including the Breslin, Tosca Café in San Francisco, and Salvation Burger and White Gold Butchers in New York. But for the last couple years, Los Angeles has been on their minds.
“We had offers to open a Spotted Pig in Vegas,” says Friedman, a music industry veteran who in a previous life managed bands like the Smiths and UB40. “But I think about each restaurant as its own album. We didn’t want to do another Spotted Pig, we wanted to make a new album.”
As it turns out, the site of that new album is on a busy stretch of Sunset Boulevard, housed in an expansive indoor-outdoor space that up until last year was occupied by longtime British pub Cat & Fiddle. The building itself dates to the late 1920s, built by Western film star Fred Thomson and his wife, Frances Marion, as a sort of Spanish-themed shopping court. In the ensuing decades, it housed mostly restaurants, from the Mary Helen Tea Room to the Polynesian-themed Mouling, up to its most recently displaced tenant. Friedman recalls spending a few debauched mornings at Cat & Fiddle in the 1980s, mostly because it was a favorite of the British rockers he managed; they cherished it as the sole place in Hollywood to find a proper pint and watch live football matches that were broadcast from distant time zones.
After being approached by the building’s landlord to open a British pub, Friedman and Bloomfield reached a deal to take over the space, though they resisted being forced into the pub concept. “We told them ‘we’re going to do our own thing’, and they were fine with that,” Friedman says.
Their design concept sought to pay homage to the building’s history, a goal made easier once they realized the previous tenants had been somewhat rough when they moved out. “Most of the wallpaper was torn away, so we really had to strip it back to the beams,” he says. The dining room’s drop ceiling has been removed to reveal old vaulted wooden beams and glass skylights. Moroccan zellige tiles were used to line the walls, and wide white brick hearth was built to anchor the open kitchen. The 100-seat garden courtyard—home to a century-old olive tree—will be accented with succulents, climbing ivy, bougainvillea, citrus trees, and other native flora, capped off by a restored tile fountain in the center.
In the kitchen, Bloomfield will be focused on what draws so many chefs to Los Angeles: pristine ingredients. “I’m super excited to be working with California produce in general, so we’ll see where that takes us. I’m hoping to get a few spices and smoky elements in there for sure,” she wrote in an email. Her menu will revolve mostly around grilled vegetables, game birds, and whole animals roasted on a spit, all seasoned with a strong base of Mediterranean flavors and cooked over the kitchen’s wood-fired hearth.
“It’s food that is focused around wood and live-fire cooking, so I guess you could say that I’m pretty stoked about that. Pun intended!” she wrote. Unlike many bicoastal chefs, Bloomfield plans to move to Los Angeles full-time, at least for the foreseeable future: “I’m ready to spend time in L.A., and I’m ready to start a new chapter. I’ve been drawn to California for a while, hence opening Tosca Café in San Francisco.”
For Friedman, who grew up in L.A. before heading to Berkeley to attend college, the move westward feels more like a prodigal son’s return. He envisions his main role as supporting April’s culinary vision, transporting to Hollywood the convivial-but-low-key atmosphere that has made the Spotted Pig a fixture with celebrities ranging from Jay-Z to Bill Clinton. “Most chef-driven restaurants are boring,” he says. “When a chef walks into a restaurant, they look at the food and that’s about it. My job is to focus on everything else.”
There will be a big bar, of course, offering classic cocktails and refreshing vins de soif (roughly translated as “wines that quench thirst), and although Friedman says that in Hollywood “neighbors are used to nightclubs,” he hopes to obtain local permits that will allow him to serve after midnight, providing a needed boost to the area’s late-night dining scene. Much like the “secret” third floor of the Spotted Pig, the Hollywood restaurant will also feature a semiprivate back dining room to host industry types and investors (which includes L.A. restaurateur Bill Chait, with whom Friedman partnered for local logistical support).
How did they settle on calling it the Hearth & Hound? “Generally we decide on the name at the last minute,” Friedman tells me. Before opening the Breslin, he grins, the restaurant was tentatively called the Old World Swine. Oddly enough, it was David Chang of Momofuku, another chef expanding to Los Angeles, who suggested the name that ended up sticking.