When the logo or brand is totally recognizable, then you know the product has proven itself. Think Target’s red and white circles, Saks Fifth Avenue’s swirling print, Adidas’s single slash of a line, and the fan of Mandarin Oriental Hotels worldwide. To keep this status is no mean feat. And the San Francisco property, located at the top of the third tallest building in the city which opened in 1987, the first Mandarin Oriental in the US, does the name justice.
When construction started, it was meant to be an office building, then when that didn’t materialize due to financial problems, the thought of turning this grant structure into condos was an alternative option. Enter the clever Mandarin Oriental hoteliers who decided it would be the perfect location for a 158 room hotel having the lower floors as office/business space.
San Francisco is filled with surprises, one is that this area not far from the famed Union Square, is all on land fill. One wouldn’t never have guessed this with the many massive edifices in this part of the city.
Located on perhaps one of the best properties in the city, the view from the rooms are outstanding. Since the hotel starts at the 38th floor to the 48th floor, there are no obstructions to either the bay or the city. The vistas are spectacular especially from the hotel’s famous sky bridge connecting floors 40-48. And one can’t ever walk though without seeing guests snapping photos from this great vantage point. If one wonders why the beds seem especially high, it’s a very conscious decision –better to see the sights without getting out of bed.
But from the very first moment you step over the entrance at 222 Sansome Street (2 being a very lucky number), there’s that familiar Chinese circle imbedded in the marble floor – Shou- for luck and longevity- and not wanting to lose the Chinese tradition was a very important issue which can be seen throughout the hotel. Behind the Asian- inspired matte gold curved reception desk are the two Michaels, both concierges, both remembered and known for their masterful take of what each guest needs and what will suit them. I wanted a hair appointment. But since the hotel is located in the financial centre, it isn’t the locale for these blatantly girlie things. You could see the wheels spinning as Michael ( he refers to himself as the Mean Michael but that it is so far from the truth). After checking his list, he decided on a swanky salon in the precious Maiden Lane and what a success it was. Not only did Xavier make my hair look full enough to toss for a TV shampoo commercial, but it also gave me the opportunity to discover this fine little English replica of a mews-like laneway. On this Saturday morning, a tenor was singing various operatic arias at the gated entrance to the street. (Later that day, when I passed, it was an off-key soprano but you can’t win them all).
The MO Bar off the lobby has a most soothing affect at tea time and for me was the perfect spot to speak with my editor. It’s subdued but busy while it does get a bit chattier after 5 but eased by the wonderful pianist. And although the elevators only stop on the 4th floor where there’s an state of the art, bright airy gym, it seemed like a sonic boom which took me to my 41st floor deluxe room in seconds which could be described as the Concorde of elevators.
Since the rooms were to be condos, they are larger than most and have small hallways before getting into the bedroom area. The décor continues with the traditional Chinese matte gold and ebony-looking black top consoles, persimmon and yellow decor, large flat screen, a desk, sheer curtaining embroidered with ginkgo leave ( and of course, heavier ones for nighttime), 400 thread count linens and stunning headboards of the repeated matte gold and black and actually the centre can be lit up in the evening for a romantic ambience . What I thought was particularly inventive, is that in the deluxe and VIP rooms, there are large pillows with the embroidered initial of the guest’s last name and also the personalized stationary left on the desk in a neat folder.
However, the large suites would have been perfect as condos with wide hallway, large living and dining rooms, large bedroom with attached and sizeable limestone bathrooms, binoculars for the view and a small but certainly adequate kitchen. How often would one want to cook in this city of about 2000 restaurants and millions of foodies?
And talking about food, the hotel’s only restaurant which serves three meals, is especially splendid in the evening. Silks, a great name for this green and burgundy round room, has a terrifically original menu and is always filled. I started with Red Beet Consommé with Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese Won Tons and toasted sesame. (see Cuisine section for recipe). Love it or hate it, the garnish was cilantro (which I detest) for color. I was able to remove the leaves quickly. Then there was one of the best Herb Crusted Sonoma Duck Breast with yam gnocchi and Port reduction. Dessert was also a triumph…squash soufflé. What’s not to like?
The green initiative is obvious from the get-go. The waste paper basket is divided into two..one for papers, the other section for anything but.
And talking about service, being somewhat of a ‘glotz’, I lost or misplaced a very important earring which I was sure had been put into the safe box. On departing, I mentioned this at reception and was empathetic, emphasizing that if it was found they would certainly let me know. Not only did I find it at the bottom of my valise when I arrived back home (how did it every get there, I pondered?), I received an email saying that although the housekeeping department had look hard to find it as they had hoped, it wasn’t found. Now that’s guest service and that’s what makes a hotel memorable. I emailed on my return to say I did discover the gem but also found another, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco.