We like: The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

By Guy Woodward on February 01, 2017

Photos courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

First impressions
Within the exclusive environs of Nob Hill, the white, stately exterior of this century-old building is a welcome retreat from downtown San Francisco’s endless criss-cross of extravagantly contoured streets. The interiors have been updated from the original décor, but they retain a suitably grand feel, all floor-to-ceiling glass, pillared marble and brightly coloured, deep button-backed sofas.

Service, please
While we’re sure the rest of the hotel is perfectly comfortable, we can particularly recommend the exclusive Club Level. Not only is there the assurance of being greeted personally by staff who are falling over themselves to attend to your every need, but the room rate includes access to the airy, seventh-floor sanctuary that is the Club Lounge. Here, you’ll find a never-ending supply of complimentary food and drink that takes in a typically wide-ranging American breakfast (pancakes to pastries, muffins to mimosas); finger-food lunch options; and evening hors d’oeuvres alongside individually presented desserts.

And for dinner?
Arriving straight off a 10-hour flight from London, we wondered if we would do justice to the five-course tasting menu from heralded chef Michael Rotondo (previously of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago). We needn’t have worried. Astonishingly, the globally influenced, Californian-conceived dishes of his increasingly reputed Parallel 37 managed to charge rather than drain our energy levels through a light yet flavourful approach. Black cod was lifted by cucumber and dill, seared octopus refreshed with green shiso and garlic – all served with a considered and deft touch.

A glass of wine
The tasting menu’s wine matches were thoughtfully and imaginatively conceived, though it helps when you have such a wealth of material to work from. The extensive selection in the main restaurant is a showstopping balance of classics (Araujo Estate Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru) and new wave (Wind Gap, Château Valandraud) from California and the Old World. The latter includes a notable array of Burgundies young and old, including selections of Domaine Lafon’s Meursaults, Domaine Marquis d’Angerville’s Volnays and Domaine François Lamarche’s Vosne-Romanée Grand Cru Monopole La Grande Rue. It is the Californian selection that takes centre stage though, via the likes of Opus One; Louis M. Martini Cabernets from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s; and magnums of the ultra-rare Grace Family Vineyards wines from the early ’90s, a time when even those on the winery’s mailing list received just one bottle each. Meanwhile the hotel’s Jean-Charles Boisset Tasting Lounge provides a suitably lavish environment in which to taste a range of wines from the larger-than-life French-Californian winemaker – notably the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from his DeLoach Vineyards in Sonoma that ape the family’s Burgundian historic holdings, and an array of high-end Cabernets from the Raymond estate in Napa.

The flip side
Those streets. The hotel’s extensive gym is rendered redundant by the one-kilometre walk down to the Bayside – and the uphill return leg. On the plus side, Nob Hill sits at the intersection of the city’s trademark cable-car routes.

Oh, and the rooms?
Straight lines, accent colours and modern art make for a thoroughly contemporary feel – with plenty of space.



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