Although she moved from London less than four years ago, restaurateur Marissa Hermer has quickly charmed Angelenos with her spot-on dining destinations and her warm, welcoming personality. Through Boujis Group, Hermer and her husband, Matt, have opened three celeb-favored hot spots—J. Lo and Ben Affleck were recently spotted at Olivetta—and have plans to debut more, including a new concept at Ago. Here, Hermer shares what inspires her, how she keeps her restaurants relevant and what’s next.
As a whole, how would you generally describe the vibe of the restaurants you’re bringing to L.A.? The basis of everything we do goes back to our overall ethos of Boujis Group. Whether it’s our food, cocktails and wine; our design and vibe; or our service standards, it needs to be a thoughtful and soul-enriching experience at the heart of it. It needs to be delivered with intent and fun, inspired by Europe with a California sensibility. While The Draycott, Olivetta and Issima are all unique dining experiences, they all transport our patrons to moments of shared memories with friends and loved ones. The triumvirate of intentional design, excellent service and a premier dining experience has always been paramount, but now more than ever, we are focused on creating the ‘grace notes.’ We yearn for these embellishments as we have all been desperate for a divertissement after the last 18 months.
A selection of nibbles—including the caviar chips and dip—at Issima
How is that similar and different from what you and your husband did in London? What do people here want that’s different from London and other places? My husband, Matt, created Boujis nightclubs in London and Hong Kong; Eclipse bars in London, Barcelona and Istanbul; and Bumpkin restaurants in London boroughs of Chelsea, South Kensington and Notting Hill. For the London brands, it was really his vision of what he wanted as a Londoner and also his intuitive understanding of what his neighbors wanted. I was just fortunate enough to meet him and be along for that ride. When we moved as a family to Los Angeles, however, we continued what he started in London—listening to what our neighbors wanted and also understanding what we wanted as Angelenos—to create The Draycott, Olivetta and Issima.
Olivetta in West Hollywood
Where do you get your inspiration for each restaurant? We’ve been lucky to both travel the world and also live as locals in so many inspiring cities. Not to mention, we’ve also been fortunate enough to witness many a spirited party and gathering, which has always informed our goals for a night out with Boujis Group. Through our team’s combined rich experiences—as well as research, diving into books, photo archives, au courant music obsessions and eating our way through menus and home kitchen tables—we’ve created our concepts as collages of our favorite moments of time and special places around the world. For example, Matt and I moved from London, so of course The Draycott’s fish and chips with beer-battered cod, mushy peas and triple-cooked chips finished off with an Eton mess come straight out of our local Chelsea pub. And if there are french fries in heaven, I’m pretty sure they will be the pommes allumettes at Chez l’Ami Louis in Paris, which inspired our matchstick-thin golden sharp-edged beauts at Olivetta. And everything at Issima is inspired by our go-to Mediterranean haunts. I love the wood fires at Formentera’s Juan y Andrea and Mykonos’ Sea Satin Market restaurant, and all of the caper bushes that grow native around Santorini, which you’ll see a nod to in our martini infused with caper berries. Our poolside at Issima was inspired by my friend’s Ibiza pool design, and our water glasses are the actual glasses I love at Eden Rock at St. Barts that we tracked down from an Italian factory. We are bringing our favorite elements from our favorite spots back to L.A. After the last 18 months, we are all ready to escape––if only for an evening— and Boujis Group is really about escapism.
Olivetta’s savory rigatoni with fennel sausage, black kale and breadcrumbs
What excites you about what you do? While we all love the magic of creating new restaurants, it’s that moment when a restaurant becomes part of the cultural zeitgeist that really drums up the excitement for us. Whether it is when The Draycott became the local gathering spot as the flagship restaurant of the new Palisades Village, which really became the center of town for Pacific Palisades; or when, right after our Olivetta opening, Olivetta became ‘the last spot’ our guests dined before lockdown, as so many of them were with us several times per week. Or how Issima, because it was outside and because we had a late license, became the much-needed departure from the global pandemic, if only for one evening of martinis and music under the stars. Creating a restaurant that becomes the living room of our patrons’ lives truly gives us the most joy and fulfillment.
Issima’s bar in the main dining room.
I’d imagine that you’ve learned something new with each restaurant. Do any of those lessons stand out? With The Draycott, Matt and I had just landed from London, not really knowing anyone in town, nor did we know about the L.A. restaurant scene or California hospitality industry in general. We just decided to do it. We thought of W.H. Murray in 1951, who led his Scottish expedition to climb Mount Everest. He said, ‘The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.’ We just committed (and certainly if he could lead his Scottish expedition up Mount Everest, we could open a restaurant). With Olivetta, we had the success of The Draycott behind us. We were propelled by our intuition that Angelenos wanted a clublike Mediterranean respite. We were excited to continue to create—an object in motion stays in motion—so we leaned into our creative juices. Issima was born out of the pandemic. We needed an outdoor space to continue to operate. We learned that there is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken, a shatteredness out of which becomes the unshatterable. There is a sorrow beyond all grief that leads to joy, and through crying, we learned to sing!
A seating area in The Draycott’s lounge
Restaurants seem to have a short shelf life here in L.A., even before the pandemic. How do you ensure that your spots endure? We’ve focused on hiring the best of the best, the most talented, passionate and creative players for our show. From there, we are just grateful for the support of our patrons.
The Zapateca cocktail at The Draycott.
I’ve heard you’re opening a new restaurant in the old Ago space. What can you share? We are still very much in the mood-boarding and ideation stage of this Ago experience, but it is a true honor to breathe fresh life into such an iconic L.A. spot that played host to so many memories and moments for Angelenos.
A cheese selection at The Draycott paired with crispy soft-shell crab
Lastly, how do you balance running all of these restaurants and being a good mom, wife and friend? You do so much! Balance isn’t a word that I’m familiar with, and it certainly doesn’t apply to the juggle of working and living life! At Boujis Group, and at home, we run a triage unit. Whatever needs the most attention gets the attention. It is our team at Boujis Group who lives and breathes the ownership of their roles across our brands, our team at home who share the logistical challenges and love our children with open hearts and compassion, and my chosen group of friends who love me hard and know that I love them hard. With anything, if it is a challenge at work, home or with friendships, I always try to remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘How do I eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’
The Draycott’s gorgeous bar
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF BOUJIS GROUP