Thursday, Oct. 09, 2008

Clift Hotel

In 2001, Ian Schrager took over this 1915 Theater District landmark (it's also close to the not-so-scenic Tenderloin), and the entire city agonized over what he might do to the beloved Redwood Room. Today, the bar looks better than ever, and the 363-room hotel (now part of the Morgans group) has been fully Schragerized: a dimly lit lobby littered with art furniture, lavender-hued corridors, and guest rooms done in restful beiges, grays, and more lavender. (The orange Lucite cubes flanking each bed echo the color of the Golden Gate Bridge.) The old TV's have been switched out for flat-screens, which helps dispel a faint 1990's air. Perhaps the miniblinds could go, too.

Insider Tip: Pack portable speakers for your iPod—the clock radios don't have hookups.

Room to Book: Rooms with numbers ending in 32 have views with a slice of Union Square, as well as separate dressing areas.

Mandarin Oriental

San Franciscans are obsessed with views, and the Mandarin Oriental indulges them: its 158 guest rooms occupy the 38th to 48th floors of a downtown tower that's the third tallest, at present, in the city (the lobby and restaurant are down at ground level). This means top-of-the-world views, and the rooms are ranked in price accordingly. With all the eye candy outside, the management could skimp on the décor, but everything in the hotel has been done up in warm reds and golds, making the rooms feel like cozy aeries. And the windows open—only about six inches, but if you need fresh air, that's enough.

Insider Tip: If you're prone to vertigo, avoid any room in the eastern end of the dumbbell-shaped hotel above the 39th floor: to get from the elevator bank to them, you have to traverse a glass-walled skybridge.

Room to Book: Room 4811 (or any room ending in the number 11) has bridge-to-bridge views. That's from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way around the bay to the Bay Bridge and beyond to Twin Peaks. You'll pay for those vistas, of course; 2012 rates start at about $615 per night.


Like metropolitan Ritz-Carltons across the land, the San Francisco incarnation is distinguished by its location; this one occupies an imposing palace halfway up Nob Hill. (Translation: good views, but not as far from dining and shopping as, say, the Huntington or the Fairmont.) Outside and in, it resembles the West Wing, only without the drama. The public spaces recently underwent a complete renovation to match the 336 rooms' modern classic décor. The new interior brings of the main restaurant, Parallel 37, brings an urban edge to this luxury hotel with a very relaxed and lively atmosphere. Think of it as a Greenwich-away-from-Greenwich for road-weary CEO's.

Insider Tip: The eighth- and ninth-floor club-level rooms give you exclusive access to a city-view lounge with complimentary food and beverage throughout the day for an additional $150 per night.

Room to Book: The Club Level floors boast the best vistas; the higher up, the better the view.

St. Regis

Unlike its predecessor in NYC, this St. Regis is modern—Jean-Michel Frank modern, that is—in both style and amenities: master panels that control all the lights and shades; a fax/copier/printer in each room; "rainforest" and regular showerheads; plus the usual flat-screen TV's, DVD/CD players, and Wi-Fi and Ethernet Internet access. The hotel and its 306 rooms are furnished in a symphony in beige and wood grain. (In the vestibule, the walls are covered in beige leather; behind the headboards, a beige faux shagreen.) Even in the standard rooms, the bathrooms feel monumental, like the Met's Temple of Dendur; each has a separate tub and shower stall with bench.

Insider Tip: The team that runs Ame, the hotel's well-regarded restaurant, also manages the lobby bar; there, you can order from a modified Ame menu, even at lunchtime (when the restaurant itself is closed).

Room to Book: The Metropolitan Suites, at opposite corners of each floor, are nearly 1,000 square feet. Ask for room 2008, on the highest floor—it faces northwest, which means a cube's-eye view of Daniel Libeskind's geometric Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Taj Campton Place Hotel

When the honchos from LVMH and Neiman Marcus come to town, the 110-room Taj Campton Place is where they stay. The hotel is on the preferred (i.e., east) side of Union Square, convenient to their SF stores yet insulated from tourists and the dodgy Tenderloin. "Insulated" personifies the guest rooms in this pair of joined prewar buildings too; fitted with warm pearwood paneling, built-in dressers, and flat-screen TV's, they feel plush and snug, like the staterooms on a ship. The restaurant has for years been one of the city's best; Campton Place's owner, Taj Hotels, appointed Srijith Gopinathan, of Taj Exotics Resort and Spa in the Maldives (and the former sous chef at Campton Place), to helm the kitchen in 2008 — so far, so good, earning a Michelin Star in 2010.

Insider Tip: Dogs are welcome in any room for a $100-per-visit fee.

Room to Book: At the "deluxe" level, the largest rooms are in the -15 and -16 series and the -01 series from the ninth floor up.