A Room with a View – Mandarin Mantra 4 min read

I like to escape to hotels. - David Boreanaz

In the heart of Financial District of my beautiful City by the Bay, there is a magical oasis of calm and casual luxury.


I had a good fortune to recently stay at the elegant Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and it was a somewhat unexpected experience. Admittedly, given its reputation for luxury and grandeur, I anticipated a formal, stately ambiance. Instead, I experienced quite the opposite. The property offered the warm, charming, attentive service typically associated with small, intimate, boutique hotels.


Despite winning a prestigious Forbes Five-Star award, the hotel is the city’s best kept secret. It’s discreet and not immediately noticeable from the street. It just snagged its second five star award for both hotel and spa, the only hotel in California to earn both, twice.


Mandarin Oriental global luxury hotel chain began in Hong Kong in 1963, and went international in 1974. It now operates properties worldwide with the same uncompromising service standards of excellence.


The San Francisco property occupies the top eleven floors of a forty-eight story building, the third tallest in the city, and is a combination of twin towers connected by glass sky bridges that offer breathtaking panoramic city vistas. The hotel was fully renovated in 2012. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a magnificent Italian travertine marble lobby. The new decor is warm and is done in predominantly neutral tones that emanate a cozy, comfortable feel. The rooms, which showcase breathless views, are spacious and elegant. The 40th-floor Sky Deck offers a expansive panorama of the Transamerica building, Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate and Alcatraz Island.


Modern yet plush, this elegant abode combines timeless, classic beauty with California charisma. Ideally located for a business traveler, it is so much more than functional. Whether it’s a special occasion, romantic getaway or just a well-deserved break from routine, it is a perfect destination where one can relax, indulge in a serene spa treatment, or partake in great dining.


I have had an occasional opportunity to stay at the most iconic hotel chains, so I have a number of comparative reference points. I’m as obsessed with a comfortable bed and a million dollar view as Kanye is with Beyonce. The Mandarin Oriental San Francisco truly offered the best of both. I felt as though I had slept on top of the world, the land of the clouds and bird’s-eye views.


As if it’s easy to leave the room, there is more.


The Mandarin’s restaurant, Brasserie S&P, features understated decor and casual, yet highly attentive service. It delivers some of the best cuisine in the city. The restaurant offers a variety of very creative house designed cocktails and a terrific, thoughtful wine list that you can peruse on the iPad.


Executive Chef Adam Mali and his culinary team are known for using the freshest local ingredients. Mali, who resides in Petaluma, has a tendency to pick up fresh produce and protein from nearby farms during his commute. It is a farm to table affair in every sense! Trained as a fine dining chef, his culinary idols were Julia Child and his mom. Passionate about seasonal and sustainable ingredient driven dishes, he creates the kind of food that keeps locals coming back.


California clearly is a beacon for the rest of the country and top local chefs capitalize on the availability of food raised with no manipulation and maximum integrity, and pay close attention to the finest local sources.  Mali takes his guests well-being very seriously and only sources food he personally inspects and that is raised sustainably and humanely, in the spirit of time honored traditions. Adam believes that when it comes to Chef profession, skills are important, but ingredient integrity and creativity are simply paramount.


Chef’s favorite dish to make at home? Gnocchi with roasted sun-gold cherry tomatoes and basil.


The wine list features a number of outstanding local producers, most notably Sonoma Pinot Noirs. One of my favorite West Sonoma Coast wineries, Red Car collaborated with the sommeliers to create a special blend exclusively for Brasserie S&P.


I was impressed at the level of mixology creativity exhibited by the extraordinarily tasty cocktails.  They exemplify the best of what San Francisco has to offer. The bar has a friendly, Cheers vibe. The decor was modern, but the attitude was quite classic. The bartender knew his patrons by name. Evidently it has quite a number of “regulars,” both out-of-towners and city dwellers. It felt like an upscale speakeasy with a twist.


If you are a Bay Area resident or a visitor, and want to experience the ultimate in views, accommodations and stellar service that entirely lacks in pretense and is plentiful on thoughtfulness, I strongly suggest you get your full allocation of Mandarin Oriental San Francisco timeless charm. You will feel refreshed, renewed, ready to wrestle with your world. Most importantly, you would discover that this jewel, a Faberge Egg of travel, has a hidden secret on the inside that is entirely magical.


Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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