Most of Paul Cézanne’s paintings are still-life masterpieces – palette of palatable food, wine, and dining experiences, something you would expect from a Frenchman, and that may be the reason that the restaurant within the French-styled Le Merigot boutique hotel in Santa Monica is named after him.

The restaurant walls are adorned with replicas of Cézanne’s still-life gallerias from the originals that hang in museums in St. Petersburg Russia, and Paris, France.

Cézanne is noted as the “Solidifier of Impressionism'', and the Cézanne restaurant is noted as the solidifier of impressive cuisine, with fare of delicate tones and atypical tastes. Cézanne's still life’s are both traditional and modern. The fruits and objects are readily identifiable, but they have no aroma, no sensual or tactile appeal, and no other function other than as passive decorative objects coexisting in the same flat space. Not so the cuisine at Cézanne's, which was sensual, tactile, and not still-life at all, but lively gustos to the palate. I quess in his pursuit of the essence of art, Cézanne had to suppress earthly delights.  But then again, how can a painting ever express aroma or taste?

Executive Chef
Desi Szonntagh

Cézanne’s Executive Chef Desi Szonntagh has taken his restaurant to a high profile Provençal level with an infusion of contemporary Mediterranean cuisine and a hint of Pacific Rim zest, thus attracting Hollywood’s powerful elite celebs such as Terry O’Quinn, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Courtney Cox.

Prior to joining Le Merigot, Szonntagh was the Executive Sous Chef at the acclaimed Terrace Restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air where he created a menu that earned the restaurant accolades in the pages of Saveur  magazine.  Many of the items on Cézanne’s menu are fresh from the local farmers’ market right here in Santa Monica.

Szonntagh has more than 20 years of experience working as a chef for an impressive roster of fine dining establishments, including Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica; 2087, an American Bistro in Thousand Oaks, where he was partner/chef and received an exemplary review from the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Irene Virbilla; Tatou in Tokyo, Beverly Hills, Aspen, and New York City; Provence Restaurant, and LaBoheme, and Le Cirque, all in New York City. 

In addition to his extensive experience in these renowned restaurants, Szonntagh was named as a featured chef at the James Beard House.

Szonntagh also has enhanced his career with an estragiere at the Moulin de Mougins in Mougins, France and an apprenticeship at the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia.

Read the Jetsetters Magazine feature.

Le Merigot Beach Hotel and Spa.
Click photo for the feature story.

Le Merigot Beach Hotel and Spa is included in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2005 Gold List, not bad for a hotel that only opened in in 2000. The new diamond in the J.W. Marriott crown for the new century adds more appeal with Cézanne’s delightful dimensions to beachside lounging.

Cézanne’s is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.  Thursday’s Bistro Night offers a unique experience; a Spa cuisine is available for the health conscious (see the menu below). A tapas menu, hors d’oeuvres, and cigars are also available, but because restaurants are now smoke free in California, smoke that cigar on the patio deck or poolside. In-room dining offers a full selection of food, wine, and beverages around the clock.

Le Troquet serves drinks in
intimacy of C
ézanne's . . .

I played a “stump-the-bartender” game with the head mixologist at Le Troquet, the lobby bar at the top of the stairs at the restaurant’s entrance.  I ordered a St. James, the drink of choice by Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, during their days in Paris in the 1920s, expressed exquisitely in Hemingway’s famous novel written 30 years later, “A Moveable Feast”.

Le Troquet offers a relaxed and elegant ambiance and you can select from an impressive selection of fine liquors and premium wines, including aged cognacs and single malt Scotches.  If you came to the West Coast to learn to surf, get one of the signature martinis to celebrate after your first wave.

. . . or al fresco pool side.

Just outside Le Troquet is the inviting outdoor terrace called Café Promenade, outfitted with comfortable couches and teak tables and chairs. Café Promenade can be reserved for special events overlooking the courtyard, pool and ocean, with a vibrant mural of the Côte d’Azur along one wall, which helps create a delightful Mediterranean ambiance.  The tri-level Courtyard would be a great spot for outdoor mixers and parties because the broad terrace on the lobby level comes with the great view.  A triple-tiered fountain flanks the stairway down to the second level.

For elegant luncheons or special dinner occasions, Cézanne boasts a lounge separated from the main dining room by a wall inlaid with exotic Indian alabaster that was illuminated this evening. We all made thoughtful comments about it.

St. James

Ah, I didn’t stump the bartender after all, but he stretched it a little, using the internet (wi-fi in all the public places and meeting rooms) to search for the recipe for a St. James:

2 ounces (60 mL) lemon juice
1/2 ounce (15 mL) Cointreau
1 ounce (30 mL) amber rum
Ice cubes

Pour lemon juice, Cointreau, and rum over ice cubes, into a shaker. Shake; strain into a champagne glass. Decorate with cherries.

Our waiter, Haas, from Iran, was a delightful gentleman that kept the wine flowing for my three dining guests while I sipped my St. James. Tonight was indeed going to be a “Moveable Feast” at Cézanne's because we were celebrating Kathleen and Ray’s 6th wedding anniversary.  I met the two lovebirds at the Catalina Country Club Restaurant and they were also staying at the Zane Grey Hotel on Catalina Island, and we became immediate friends. Also along for the gustatory ride was Suzy, the gorgeous Goldie Hawn look alike who ordered the Broiled Veal Chop with Wild Mushrooms and Polenta, while I opted for the steamed Red Snapper with white beans, tomato and pesto.

Le Merigot Beach Hotel and Spa is centrally located in the heart of Santa Monica on Ocean Avenue. The beach and Santa Monica Pier carousels are just short walks away if you need to work off that feast by moving around a little.

I had a belly laugh when I found out that the hotel offers a pet menu, along with a mini dog park, mobile grooming services and an on-call veterinarian.  No, you won’t see any fidos dining at Cézanne’s.

If staying at the hotel, check out the Range Rover Wine Tasting  package that runs $600 per night/double occupancy, a savings of more than $150. Why order this package? Wine aficionados will be glad to learn about the area’s burgeoning wine industry. Rosenthal Estate Wines recently began offering tours and tastings that can be arranged from the hotel. The package includes: 2006 Range Rover, superior guest room, picnic basket with baguette and artisanal cheeses, map to the Rosenthal winery (near Malibu), and a 4 p.m. check out.

Or how about this gals? is a $840 per night/double occupancy package for you and your best girlfriend, designed for the gourmet-in-her/you. Package includes: in-room wine amenity, superior guest room with two queen beds, massage for two, gourmet dinner at Cézanne’s with wine pairings, map to Malibu’s Rosenthal Estate Wines, and a chick flick with gourmet popcorn. Additional nights start at $310 per night/double occupancy.

Le Merigot Meeting and Banquet Facilities

Le Merigot was specifically designed to serve the corporate meeting and event market, with ten meeting rooms accommodating from 10 to 450 people. There is a professional meeting coordinator and staff on duty that can supply complete audio-visual equipment and a convenient business center with computers, printers, and copiers. Many of the meeting rooms can be separated from or openly connected to other meeting rooms, providing maximum flexibility for breakout sessions and smaller groups. Ask about event menus, including breaks, cocktails, multi-course meals.

Many locals also dine at Cézanne’s. and normally valet parking is $28 plus tax/per day for overnight hotel guests, $11 for event attendees, but only $6 if validated for guests of Cézanne’s.

After the massage, try the Spa Menu.

Spa Menu

Please note that the following Spa Menu is an offshoot of Cézanne’s. main dinner menu.

Salads and Light Entrées

Finely Chopped Cobb Salad with Chicken, tomato, cucumber, Hearts of Palm, artichoke and red onion with non-fat Thousand Island dressing  ($18); Seasonal and Tropical Fruits, non-fat cottage cheese ($16);Chicken and Shrimp Salad with Papaya and Honey-Poppy Seed Yogurt dressing ($22); Grilled Tunaburger wrapped in Boston Bibb Lettuce with a marinated Vegetable Salad  ($18); Egg White Omelette with asparagus (low cholesterol - $12.50); Half Papaya with non-fat cottage cheese  ($9.50).

The palette for the palate
at C
ézanne's at the beach.

Spa Menu Courses

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with tomato, and basil ($12); Bowl of Le Merigot Turkey Chili with onions, avocado and tomato ($14); Poached Breast of Skinless Chicken with spicy broth with Chinese Vegetables   ($24); Miso Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with asparagus and Soy-Ginger dressing   ($28); Steamed Snapper with White Beans, tomato and Pesto ($27).

Desserts: Medley of Sorbets with fresh berries  ($9.50); Fresh Fruit and Granola Cobbler  ($9.50).

Hors d’Oeuvres:  French Onion Soup  ($8); Lobster Bisque  ($11); Dungeness Crab and Artichoke Salad  ($12); Terrine of Foie Gras with Brioche  ($15); Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Gnocchi ($11); Oysters of the Day on the Half Shell  ($12); Crispy Shrimp with Jalapeno Pepper Jelly  ($13); Duck Confit with Savoy Cabbage, Papaya, Salsify and Olives  ($12); Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare  ($12); Lobster Cocktail a là Russe  ($14).

Spa Salads: Mesclun Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, St. Maure Goat Cheese  ($10); Bibb Salad with Fine Herbs  ($9); Le Merigot Caesar with Baby Romaine ($9); Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula with Dijon Vinaigrette  ($9).

Extras are all $5 each: Sautéed Baby Spinach with Olive Oil and Garlic Buttered Baby Carrots; Grilled Zucchini with tomatoes; Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Haricot Vert with Shallots and Herbs and Steamed Asparagus; and Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks.


Le Merigot Beach
Hotel and Spa

1740 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: 310/395-9700
Fax: 310/395-9200

Read The Jetsetters Magazine feature about Le Merigot

es Entrées

Wild California King Salmon with Honey Shallot Glaze and Baby Artichoke Barigoule ($26); Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp with Porcini Risotto and Ginger Red Wine Sauce ($28); Pan Roasted Hawaiian Snapper in West Coast Oyster Butter Sauce with Baby Spinach  ($27); Whole Roasted Mediterranean Loup de Mer in Tomato and Fennel Emulsion  ($32); Oven-Roasted Range Chicken “Paillard” with Lemon, Garlic, Sage with Garlic Mashed Potatoes  ($24); Grilled Baja Swordfish with whipped Potatoes, Crispy Prosciutto, and Smoked Bell Pepper Sauce  ($26); Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Chanterelles, Swiss chard, Israeli Couscous, and Pinot Noir Essence  ($27);  Moroccan Rack of Lamb with Provençale Lamb Stew and Riso Pasta  ($38); Filet Mignon  with Yukon Gold Smashed Potatoes and Béarnaise Sauce  ($32); Entrecôte Au Poivre with Sautéed Potatoes and Green Peppercorn Mustard Sauce  ($29);  Broiled Veal Chop with Wild Mushrooms and Polenta  ($32).

- By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.