All hotels are judged on their location, amenities, and service, but a unique sense of style is usually what separates the good from the remarkable. San Francisco’s historic Clift has all of these qualities in ample supply.
Since being opened in 1915 on the corner of Geary and Taylor St., the luxury hotel has offered a variety of room styles to discerning travelers, ranging from comfortable standards to opulent private apartments. Thanks to a recent renovation, though, all of the hotel’s accommodations were reshaped in a contemporary style that pays homage to the city and the sensibilities of its guests. For example, the cheap and laughable wall art that litters most hotels was purposefully avoided by the designers, who opted instead for clean bare walls painted with a unique sand color that balances the strange lighting of frequent fog cover. Likewise, the persistent theme of lavender and orange was consciously made to mimic the city’s sky during twilight. Check out our photo gallery after the break, and you’ll see it’s true.
Despite the welcoming quarters, it was hard to stay put knowing that the landmark Redwood Room was just a lobby visit away. As the quintessential lounge for the city’s movers and shakers over the last century, the Redwood paneled walls and enormous back-lit bar are a cathedral to the cocktail. We had the good fortune to try almost every libation on the bar’s specialty menu and tottled away impressed. In particular, the spicy House of Pisco made with Campo de Ecanot Pisco, charred pineapple & fennel gum syrup, green chartreuse, and fresh lemon juice, left us wondering whether all drinks might be improved with a little heat kick. We were also pleasantly surprised by how scene transitioned as the night wore on — turning to high gear after midnight with DJ sets and a new influx of locals in search of more than just a quiet conversation in a stuffed leather chair.
The adjacent Velvet Room packs all the qualities of a top-notch restaurant for sustenance onsite. Chef Ewart Wardhaugh is cut from the same farm-to-table cloth of Bay Area food greats like Alice Waters, and works with local organic farmers to create ever-evolving seasonal menus. A parred-down version of the restaurant’s offerings are always available for room service as well, which we’re sure has saved many a late night Pisco-fueled guest.
Stepping outside of the hotel’s rich atmosphere to explore the surrounding neighborhood is also a must for those who want to enjoy SF beyond postcards of the Golden Gate bridge. We took a short Uber ride on our first night to visit The Slanted Door, one of the city’s most popular Vietnamese restaurants situated right on the water. It was a difficult decision over near-by China town, but after devouring the institution’s crispy imperial rolls and famous Shaking beef, we could swear our stomachs murmured “you chose wisely” on the drive back. A handful of lychee spun cotton candy for desert echoed the sentiment.
Curiosity then lead us around the corner from the Clift for a Negroni nightcap, which just happens to be on tap at Jasper’s Cornertap and Kitchen. Normally, we’re not fans of premixed cocktails, but when Campari flows like beer, our first reaction will never be “no”.
Our area exploration continued Saturday afternoon with a leisurely 15 minute walk to the galleries of SF MoMa. After a few hours of awe over Magritte’s incredible still life and quick hit of espresso on the museum’s inviting roof garden, we topped off our venture with an extensive beer tasting flight at Press Club. It was easily the most informative session on beer we’d ever experienced and provided the opportunity to taste incredibly rare brews of almost every imaginable style.
Once Sunday rolled around, our satisfaction with the previous 48 hours solidified while waiting for our ride to the airport. Sitting quietly in the lobby for the first time since we arrived finally afforded us a moment to notice the eclectic furniture placed throughout the space, which included chairs by Ray and Charles Eames and a coffee table by Dali. Any student of interior design could likely spend hours assessing the collection in this one room, and we hadn’t given it a moments thought in our haste to wring the life out of one short weekend centered around the Clift. San Francisco native Jack London once said, “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” We couldn’t have put it better Jack.
Rates: $200+ (per night)