Westlake Village, 38 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, seems farther. It straddles the Ventura County line, its golf courses, man-made lakes and gated estates sprinkled among gentle hills. Some weekend visitors golf. Some loll in the spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village or chase immortality at the California Health & Longevity Institute. (David Murdock, the soon-to-be-90 founder of Dole Foods, owns the hotel and institute.) It's a good place to lie low. My wife, daughter and I spent $142 on lodging (one night, including tax) and $150 on meals and snacks at Stonehaus, Mediterraneo, Brent's Deli and the Hyatt dining room.
The Hyatt Westlake Plaza (880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village;  557-1234) was our launching pad, not our highlight. It's a generic Spanish-style building with 262 rooms and a '70s look. Our room cost $129, a discounted special-event rate. The hotel restaurant was being renovated, so in-house dining was in an awkwardly reclaimed part of the lobby. The restaurant is expected to open any day with a new name: Harvest Kitchen.
Head for Stonehaus (32039 Agoura Road, Westlake Village;  483-1152). The great thing about this wine bar/coffeehouse, which opened in late 2012, is its outdoorsy Tuscan feel. (The owner is Swiss, which may explain the name.) Besides the 32-page wine book and the rugged stone building, the grounds include a 1-acre vineyard, fountain, picnic tables and fire pits — a far cry from the gas station they replaced. We sipped, snacked, played a little boccie. Then we walked next door to the busy bistro-style Mediterraneo (32037 Agoura Road, Westlake Village;  889-9105); main dishes $17-$38), where our Italian dinners were slow to arrive but tasted terrific, especially my pasta special with sausage ragu and black kale.
The Westlake Village Inn (31943 Agoura Road, Westlake Village;  869-8518) dates to the early days of Westlake Village (the late 1960s, that is), but keeps evolving. Stonehaus and Mediterraneo (and a nightclub called Bogie's) stand on the inn's 17 acres, a short stroll from 141 Italianate guest rooms that start as low as $170. (Some face a little lake.) It all feels like wine country. If you go, keep an eye out for Swiss-born owner John Notter, who developed Westlake Village 45 years ago and remains a frequent and dapper presence on the property.
The lesson learned
The Four Seasons and Hyatt get mostly business and midweek travelers, so their rates drop on weekends. The Four Seasons often drops under $260 nightly; the Hyatt is often around $150. The Westlake Village Inn often hosts six weddings in a weekend, but its weekday and weekend rates aren't too far apart.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times