Overview: A solid in-city luxury hotel
Strengths: Views from rooms, quality of room finishing, quality of room service
Drawbacks: No pool (unusual for a Mandarin), lobby is uninspiring, minor security concerns
Notable: Ideal location for financial services
After a boondoggle conference down in Orange County, I made my way up to San Francisco for two days of business meetings. This time, I decided to stay at the San Francisco Mandarin Oriental. I’d stayed here once before, in 2002, but hadn’t been back since. While the service was very good last time, I recall being disappointed with some of the physical aspects of the property. I am pleased to report that their renovation during the decade that I’d been away was impactful. While this is not a “wow” hotel (is there one in San Francisco?), located at Sansome and California, I’d struggle to nominate a more ideal property to stay at for business meetings in the financial district.
Entry to the hotel is perhaps the weakest aspect of the property. Frankly, it felt like an afterthought. Arrival is through a single set of doors which take you directly into a small and low-ceilinged lobby. My visit was in December, and it was quite cold outside. Due to the single door setup (no sally-port or revolver), every time the door was opened (reasonably often), a zephyr of cold wind filled the lobby. All of the desk clerks were wearing thick black scarves due to the cold. Twice, papers on the check-in desk were blown away by the wind from the door.
Other than the impact of the wind, check-in was handled very well. The agent was courteous and appropriately brief; she noted it was my first time back in a decade. Having booked through Virtuoso, she explained the benefits included with my stay and advised me that I’d been upgraded to an expanded room on the top floor, with exposures on several sides.
I was not offered an escort to my room or the elevators, but found my way on my own.
Rooms in the Mandarin span two towers and are connected by a skybridge. Perhaps not well suited for those with vertigo, the skybridge affords some very nice views.
Entry to my room was through a small corridor. The room included a comfortable sitting area, a work/desk area and bed area. The room had a tasteful tray ceiling with a gold paper inset. I did not hear any corridor noise at any time in the room.
The bed was very comfortable.
The bathroom was completely renovated since my last visit, but already showed signs of age.
Near the door, there was an area to store your valise.
The thermostat was not the most current! It made air release noises when the dial was moved.
Fresh fruit, and a note from the manager, were in my room upon arrival. The pineapples had an incredibly intense flavor (which I enjoyed).
Being on the top floor, the room offered wonderful views. This room wasn’t a premier view room, however – as the views of the landmarks were all “off to the side.” I was pleased nevertheless.
A small plant was in the room.
In order to tackle matters back at the office each morning, I ordered breakfast in both days. One morning, I selected the traditional American breakfast. The other day I went with Dim Sum. Both were excellent.
The hotel has only one restaurant, Brasserie S&P. The restaurant is located in the lobby, between reception and the guest elevators. It too had a low ceiling and was a bit noisy. It appeared that many of the people dining, at least at breakfast, were not hotel guests.
There is a small bar off to the side in Brasserie S&P. We had a drink there one night. The bartender was friendly. Whereas many Mandarins have notable bars, this one did not – it was just off in the corner of a restaurant.
I had needed assistance with several faxes and Fedex packages. I found the concierge to be quite friendly and helpful with these matters.
I did go for a run down on the Embarcadero, but didn’t check out the hotel’s fitness facilities.
This hotel takes up the top 15 or so floors of two  story buildings. While the direction of your view may vary, you can be assured of a high floor view at this hotel. For those looking for a view in San Francisco, I’d consider this hotel as tops, with perhaps the Fairmont as a runner up (better views, inferior hotel).
One drawback to the skybridge was that during my stay there were several amateur photographers in the skybridge taking pictures. They did not appear to be hotel guests (wearing winter coats, yet having all of their camera equipment in cases). This hotel, similar to most (all?) I’ve been to in San Francisco, doesn’t require a key card to access the guest floors. I’ve even seen “go to the Mandarin skybridge” suggested on several photography websites! Perhaps the hotel should tighten its security procedures – a hotel of this caliber shouldn’t permit non-residents to mill about on the guest room floors.
While I hope security procedures are tightened, I’d have no hesitation to return to this hotel the next time business takes me to San Francisco.
Mandarin Oriental San Francisco
222 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
+1 415 276 9888