reality tv

'I went to Lisa Vanderpump's restaurant while they were filming Vanderpump Rules. Here's what I saw.'

I will be the first to say that I am no long-term Vanderpump Rules fangirl. I, like so many of you reading this article, jumped on board when Scandoval broke, and suddenly the most important names to know in celebrity gossip were Tom Sandoval, Ariana Madix, and Raquel Leviss. 

You could not go ONLINE without the drama finding you, truly.

I tried to catch up on Vanderpump Rules when all of this went down, but I struggled. Ten seasons! That’s a lifetime of viewing. 

Watch: 5 'Polite' Habits Restaurant Staff Secretly Dislike. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

But I had a trip to the US planned and, in a fit of airport boredom, decided to follow the show’s catch-up guide designed to prep non-viewers. It’s here, by the way.

Hooked is an understatement. By series six, I was well-versed on everyone’s chaos in the show and also messaging anyone I knew who was going to be in LA on the dates I would be to see if they were a) across the drama and b) wanted to go to any/all of the Vanderpump restaurants. 

For the uninitiated, those are SUR (the original and still main focus of the series), Pump, TomTom (run by the now-notorious Tom Sandoval and his BFF, Tom Schwartz) and Schwartz & Sandy’s (owned by the Toms). 


SUR was a given, but I’d heard good things about TomTom - that the cocktails were amazing and the food genuinely delicious. Also, it’s literally a stone’s throw from SUR, unlike Schwartz & Sandy’s, which is in a whole other neighbourhood.

In the end, only one person I knew could go - of all people, Angie Kent, Australian reality TV royalty and extremely passionate Vanderpump Rules fan. Bet you didn’t expect this crossover! 

When we walked in, we had this weird feeling like everyone was staring at us. They weren’t – we quickly realised it wasn’t us they were staring at.. it was TOM SCHWARTZ, like THE Tom of TomTom. Just walking behind us heading into filming for the show. Yes, somehow, I’d managed to book a visit to TomTom on the same night they began filming for season 11. CAN YOU EVEN DEAL.

Angie was beside herself. “I’ve watched this show since season one,” she told me before we dove into an analysis of whether it was morally okay to be excited to see Tom Schwartz. Before we could get anywhere with our theories, a server approached us – an absolute delight of a man called Chad, who guided us through the cocktail list. 

Angie went for Clockwork Pink, a spicy Mezcal thing, and I picked the Doc Holiday, which was basically a spicy marg. Red flags were raised when Chad told us we couldn’t get them “skinny” (what you say in America if you don’t want sugar syrup in your drink) because they were pre-mixed. But honestly, when they arrived, you could not tell. 

They were SO yum! Like peak cocktail deliciousness. 


Image: Supplied

But whatever you don’t care about the DRINKS! You want to know what the future plotlines for Vanderpump Rules are going to be! Well, I can’t tell you because the filming happened in another room. Angie had a front-seat view as Tom did to-camera pieces, but we couldn’t hear anything.

Then, James Kennedy walked in.

As in, DJ James Kennedy, See You Next Tuesday James Kennedy, “Sandoval’s a LIAAAR” James Kennedy. 


Some people at a table near us couldn’t contain their excitement and said, “Omg, James Kennedy!” He was gracious but not interested in stopping for a chat – he seemed pretty busy and distant. He went into the other room to film, so for a while, Angie and I weren’t even talking, I was just making her give running commentary on what was going on in that room. It wasn’t super exciting because we couldn’t hear anything.

Then, KEN walked right up to our table. WITH THE DOGS.

Yes, Ken Todd of Lisa and Ken with the house with the ponies and swans and million fluffy baby dogs was standing next to our table, holding what we thought was one fluffy dog, but turned out to be TWO! He literally pulled a second, smaller dog out of the side of the first dog. Like a magic trick. I can’t tell you what their names are because I am not deep enough in the Vanderpump universe to work it out. But here they are:

Image: Supplied


We patted them. PATTED THEM! And we chatted to Ken about their rescue dog foundation. And patted the dogs some more. 

So that was probably the highlight of the night until LITERAL LISA VANDERPUMP WALKED IN. She was even more distant than James Kennedy, though and clearly is used to everyone wanting her attention, but she did take some photos with a mum who had a newborn. Her distant energy wasn’t rude, really; it was more like “I’m at work” vibes. Which she was, I guess.

By now, we really had to get a move on because our booking for SUR was in 15 minutes. So we didn’t get to eat at TomTom, but the goat’s cheese balls (a Vanderpump staple) were on the menu, and other people’s food looked yummy. The place had pretty chill vibes, and while at least 50 per cent of the crowd were definitely VPR fans, I’d say the other half were just there as a cool spot for drinks and dinner with friends. 

Image: Supplied


Angie had mentioned to Chad, our server, that Tom Schwartz had the same makeup artist on a reality show he recently filmed in the outback that she’d had on a past show. The next minute, Chad is WALKING Tom over to our table to meet us. Angie was cool, calm and collected, I was internally screaming. 

Tom, if I’m honest, is my favourite on Vanderpump Rules. I know, I know - he’s a controversial figure at the moment, and I won’t diminish the crappy stuff he’s said and done on the series. But I don’t know, humans are humans in my eyes. And he’s so funny! When he was faceplanted into the bed in Mexico with the disco lights on! A great moment. He’s like a big labrador, and I can’t help but find him endearing. 

So I was having a tiny internal meltdown, but in the end, we all chatted about the Aussie outback and how much he loved Australia. I even drummed up the confidence to ask for a photo.


Image: Supplied

Tom was actually the most engaged of everyone in the cast that evening – after he chatted to us, a bunch of other fans asked for photos, and he graciously took them all, even though he said he hadn’t expected TomTom to be open that evening and had come in what may have actually been a pyjama top. He did not say it was a pyjama top. It was just giving pyjama top vibes. 


He was chatting to everyone and hung around for ages. Again, not saying this makes him a saint. But I’m also not about how we turn real people on reality TV shows into demons based on what we see on television. The guy we met was really nice, and yes, he is clearly aware that his reputation isn’t the best right now, so he is probably trying to mend that, but he did seem really genuine.

Okay, on to SUR. 

Image: Supplied


I actually have way less to say about SUR because, honestly, it was a disappointing experience. 

Firstly, it is TEENY. Way smaller than I expected. It’s also far more entwined with the show – it felt like everyone there was just there to experience SUR, and the big glass cabinets of merch made it feel less fine dining, and more theme park.

Image: Supplied

The food was okay? It wasn’t bad, and everything was presented well and tasty. It just wasn’t mind-blowing except for the goat’s cheese balls which truly are delicious.


I think given I’d seen it so often on the show and had had such a wild, star-studded experience at TomTom, I figured it would blow me away, and it just… didn’t. We were in and out in under an hour.

I don’t think you can guess where and when they’ll be filming Vanderpump Rules across the four restaurants (well, five if Ariana and Katie’s sandwich shop opens this year!), so I have no tips on where to book. But what I can say is BOOK EARLY. I booked weeks in advance, and it was still hard to get the times I wanted.

Also, book indoor tables - the outdoor section of TomTom especially is small, so I would say you’ve got a better chance of catching filming if you’re inside. Even the bar seating is primo, to be honest, for glimpses! 

Would I do it all again? Absolutely. But I’d probably spend more time at TomTom and maybe even check out Pump or Schwarz & Sandy’s – again, a controversial opinion, but I disagree with blacklisting a business over a cheating scandal. Or people, to be honest – no one is perfect, and we really tend to categorise people as “good” and “bad” with no nuance, you know? 

But that’s just my opinion and I’m sure a lot of you disagree with me – so let’s get back to the star spotting. If you’re visiting LA in the next few months, you’ve got a good chance of some Vanderpump Rules action! But TomTom was just a good time, even without our chance stumble into a film set.

Melissa is a freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok.

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