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Descanso Gardens' Secret Summer Hot Spot

Like an exclusive club, the Camellia Lounge has limited hours, signature cocktails and an almost hidden location. Shh ... don't tell anyone!

Over in Hollywood, the hip and happening stand in line for hours to hit up a club with radical decor, hand-mixed drinks and other hip and happening people. Looking at the street and the unmarked entrance you wouldn't even know the club was there if not for the hordes outside.

has its own secret club serving up a unique experience. There, hidden in the trees and trails and garden landscapes, where one would least expect it, there's a stylish lounge with limited hours and a cool ambiance.

It isn't labeled on the map. It only exists in the summer. It's only open Tuesday through Thursday afternoons. Surprisingly, it hasn't appeared on an episode of Entourage.

It's the Camellia Lounge. But shh ... don't go telling everyone.

Location, location, location.  It’s true for real estate, and it’s true for al fresco dining.

For just a few more afternoons this summer, the Full Moon Tea House in Descanso Gardens transforms into an elegant picnic-meets-happy hour hybrid hot spot.

Set in the Japanese Garden with water flowing, rocks aligned for maximum zen, low lights, and quiet sounds of easy afternoon breezes and the occasional buzzing bee, the Camellia Lounge vibrates with the feel of a dining hall at an upscale summer campr for grown-ups or sleep-away yoga retreat.

You’re not going to the Camellia Lounge for an epic culinary experience.  Nor are you going for the strong drinks. You’re going to the Camellia Lounge because it is, right now, the best place in town to have a lovely cocktail, nibble on hearty snacks, and watch the light change in the trees--completely away from sidewalks and traffic and errands and commitments.  

The Camellia Lounge is, for maybe just a few moments our of your day, a tiny slice of Nirvana.

Serviced by Patina

Serviced by in-garden caterer Patina, the Lounge serves up a regular menu of Caprese salad, mixed greens and other picnic-appropriate side dishes, as well as daily specials.

Tuesday means carne asada and grilled chicken tacos, complete with a selection of toppings all ranging on the low to really low end of the spice scale. The tacos are soft-shell truck-style, small enough to eat without making a mess and double-tortilla-ed for strength.

Wednesdays offer sliders, both mini-burgers and shitake mushroom varieties. Skewers round out Thursdays with jumbo shrimp, curried chicken and BBQ rib skewers offered with mustard slaw.

There's not a dessert option, but there are bags of crispy cracker cookies that taste like an ice cream cone. Or you can just have another drink.

Garden-themed cocktails served in party cups add to the camp-meets-lawn party energy of the lounge. All the drinks come with ice, unless you ask otherwise.

The Pollinator--combining green tea, cherry vodka, cherry liquor and a hint of lime--and the Pink Perfection--made of crimson betty tea, vodka and champagne--were both refreshing and fun and not so strong as to render one intoxicated and stumbling into bushes or the zen sand garden.

The lounge also mixes up a mean Lady Bug and Lizard--secret Descanso names for a Rob Roy and Shirley Temple.  Other non-alcoholic drinks, beer and wine are also served.

The Camellia Lounge will shut down for the season on Sept. 9. It is currently open 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  It's the best spot around right now for a quiet cocktail and light meal, so let's keep it a secret.

The Camellia Lounge

Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive. 818-949-4200.

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