Overview: A solid in-city luxury hotel
Strengths: Rooms in good condition and silent, in-room dining, overall service experience
Drawbacks: Location is not prime, a few service glitches
Notable: Gym is a public facility, artwork throughout the hotel
A long weekend planned in San Francisco for a friend’s milestone birthday earlier this year turned into a hybrid leisure/business trip. My four night stay at the Four Seasons San Francisco included two nights with my wife as leisure guests followed by two nights solo, as a business traveler. Overall, I was very pleased with this hotel and would not hesitate to return.
I made my booking a few weeks in advance through a Virtuoso/Four Seasons Preferred Partner (FSPP) agent. I reserved a Premier room, with the hopes of an upgrade to a suite.
Through the hotel, we arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport. Our driver met us at the baggage claim holding a sign with my name and the name of the hotel. He assisted us with our bags (we checked) as we went out to his car. The driver had a BWM 535 GT (a four-dour hatch back). The car was new and reasonably comfortable. Chit-chat was at a minimum, which was fine. We made it to the hotel in about 25 minutes.
The Four Seasons is on Market Street, which is a busy main-street within San Francisco. The hotel has a covered circular drive on the back side of the hotel, which is where our driver dropped us off. There was no coordination between the driver and the hotel, so we had to identify ourselves to the bellman. (Often, when you book a car through the hotel as we did, the driver will call ahead to the hotel five to ten minutes prior to arrival and the bellman will greet you by name.) We had the bellman handle all of our luggage.
Like many Four Seasons hotel, the lobby is not on street level. The entrance from the circular drive, as well as from Market Street, brings you to a small street-level lobby. From there, you take a one-stop elevator up to the main lobby. A drawback of this, of course, is you need to take two elevators to get to your room. I quite like the setup, in that it makes the lobby (and facilities located adjacent to the lobby) feel a bit more private and not flowing into the street.
When we arrived in the main lobby, we found our way to reception. Unfortunately, there was one staff member working and several guests queuing. The man at the desk called for “SOS backup” on the telephone, but alas, it took three calls before anyone came to his assistance.
Due to the wait and limited staff, check-in took about 15 minutes. When we were finally helped, our FSPP booking was acknowledged and we were offered an upgrade to a suite. I welcome an upgrade, but really prefer not to have to dicker for it; I appreciate that he offered. Arrangements were made for our bags, and the staff member at the desk walked us half way to the elevators to the guest rooms. Though clearly harried, he kept his poise and composure at all times.
I had Fedexed some materials to the hotel in advance of my stay. The package was acknowledged when we checked-in and was delivered to our room with our bags.
Whereas the street lobby is principally finished in stone, the upper lobby is principally finished with a rich maple which had a very warm feeling to it.
Throughout both levels, the hotel displayed modern works by known artists.
There was a small conference going on at the hotel while we were there (we were not part of the conference). While there were some people in the lobby milling around with conference name tags on lanyards from time to time, by and large, the co-existence of the event didn’t detract from the experience of the stay.
We were assigned room 1001, which is mid-way up in the hotel’s stack of floors. The top floors of the building are residences, accessed via a separate lobby off of the street-level lobby.
Though the man at the front desk described our room as a “junior executive suite,” it was in fact a full, divided one bedroom suite. (I suspect there are larger one-bedroom suites available, though ours was more than sufficiently spacious.)
Our room was appointed at the upper-end of where I would expect a domestic Four Seasons room to be. The living and bed rooms appeared to have been renovated in the past few years. The bathroom was in very good condition, but showed some age in the style of the materials used. We had no complaints.
The room was very quiet. The fabric on the walls behind the sofa and bed was a thoughtful touch.
Throughout the stay, I ended up eating more meals at the hotel than I might normally do. Breakfast was included with the FSPP booking, and the credit provided for $87 a day in breakfast. The booking also included $100 in other food and beverage, excluding alcohol. As I was working half the time and busy on calls and running out to meetings, I made the most of these benefits when I was at the hotel.
The hotel has only one restaurant, MKT. MKT is located off of the upper lobby and has a large bar, a large lounge/sitting area, and a full dining room. I ate here several times and was pleased. On all nights but Sunday, the bar was full (full, but not too full) at cocktail hour – seemingly mainly with locals.
Room service was very good, perhaps some of the best room service experiences I can recall. Playing on the “farm to table” concept, their room service menu was billed as “farm to room.” They offered a variety of traditional and non-traditional menu items, including a “15-minute guaranteed menu.” Whereas often room service menus are often uninspiring and the food comes cool, without exception, everything I had from room service was remarkably good and served at ideal temperature. I’m not fully sure about the actual implementation of farm to room, however.
There was no signing required for room service meals. This was a very nice touch.
Beyond the challenges at check-in (first world challenges, I recognize!), I did have a problem with housekeeping one day. My schedule involved going in and out for meetings, so I called at about 7am and asked for service at 8:30am. I would be out from 8:30am through 11am, then had calls to take in the room from 11am till 3pm. Of course, when I got back to the room at 11am, it was not serviced. I called back to housekeeping to see what happened and to re-schedule my service for 3pm. They were very apologetic, and said “I recall your request; I don’t know why your room hasn’t been serviced.” While it all turned out fine and the staff were quite apologetic, mix-ups like this should not happen.
When considering a stay at this hotel, there are two other facts to consider:
Location: The hotel is located at 757 Market Street, at the corner of 3rd. It is a little outside the main financial district and I ended up taking Uber cars to get most places. I certainly had the ability to walk to my destinations – but I didn’t have 20+ minutes required to get to most of my meetings. Had I stayed at the Mandarin (review coming shortly) I would have been within four blocks of all of my meetings. From the Four Seasons, things were less convenient. The part of Market Street that the hotel is located on is by no means a choice location. While not “rough” by any means, a left turn out of the hotel delivers you into certainly a lower-end part of the city.
Gym: The hotel has a Sports Club/LA gym in the building as its gym. The advantage of this setup is you get a full size, world class gym. The downside of this is you are in a public gym with literally hundreds of other gym-goers (who are not hotel guests). For reasons I can’t fully explain, I prefer a smaller, more private hotel gym than these large extravaganzas – so I went for a run down by the water instead of using the gym. My wife used the gym and said it was nice. Whether this fact is a plus or a minus will depend on your personal tastes.
I’d have no problem staying at this hotel again. I think the Mandarin wins on location, but the Four Seasons wins on most other measures.
Up next….A great weekend touring the Bay Area…
Four Seasons San Francisco
757 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94103
+1 415 633 3000
* * * * *
Of the Virtuoso and other hotels I’ve visited in San Francisco, my current ranking is:
- Four Seasons (Virtuoso)
- Mandarin Oriental (Virtuoso)
- Ritz Carlton (Virtuoso)
- W SoMa
- Fairmont (Virtuoso)
- Le Meridien (formerly Park Hyatt)
- InterContinental – Mark Hopkins (the worst!)
Also, special mention also goes to Cavallo Point. While not in San Francisco proper (and therefore far less convenient), this property is also worth consideration due to its unique location and historic facilities.
Not yet visited:
St Regis (Virtuoso) (I will stay here on my next visit)
Kimpton Palomar (added at Mr. Tondoleo’s suggestion)
Taj Campton Place (Virtuoso)
Fairmont Heritage Place (Virtuoso)