The city is ablaze with inventiveness, daring fashion and state-of-the-art restaurants. Stay at the Clift on Geary Street, the city’s oldest boutique hotel, which has been turned into a style haven by Philippe Starck – a surreal, dimly-lit lobby, oversized chair, Salvador Dalí lamp and coffee table, and lavender-hued corridors. The lift lights up orange to reflect the Golden Gate Bridge. On the 14th floor, the room with its large windows and soft colours is an eyrie above this energetic, vibrant city.
In this city you walk, especially on warm evenings. It’s Cape Town’s doppelgänger, with hills and dips, views of the ocean, and ‘The Rock’, America’s most notorious penitentiary, Alcatraz – Robben Island’s grim twin. We tramped through Chinatown to the Financial District, one area leading into another like colourful scene changes, looking for Quince restaurant. Every time we asked for directions, people looked envious and raved about it. We realised why immediately. Quince envelops you with its artistic, calming atmosphere and classy details: chandelier, dark sophisticated colours and – perhaps unusual for a restaurant bent on seducing your tastes – arrangements of flowers bloom-jammed for effect. As restaurants get brighter, louder and more crowded, Quince gives you space, comfort and the exceptional – small servings of delicious freshness and delicacy, and exciting wine-pairing options.
The only other food destination that lived up to Quince was the two-Michelin-star Saison, where food really is ‘art’. The food levels the fields in the fame stakes but you pay for the privilege of the experience. Saison’s open kitchen is like a stage set, each course producing a rallying call with lights that illuminate intriguing dishes, all 13 of them checked for detail and taste delight by head waiter Scott. It’s a steel-and-brick setting, with well-groomed waiters looking like Prada models, an easy atmosphere, and an air of quiet exuberance.
The food appears as miniature artworks – smoked, grilled, roasted, a discovery of hundreds of new taste buds. Beyond food, there are other earthly delights: shop the groovy Fillmore Street, and invest time in the spectacular SFMOMA, with artworks that will keep you engaged for hours. Walk along the coast above Cliff House to gaze out to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and go up Coit Tower with its colourful murals depicting the city’s history.
Back at the Clift, there was a jewel in the crown: Redwood Room. It has the quality of a vivid dream, a cave of redwood, the bar carved from a single redwood tree with a Murano glass top, Art Deco wall pieces and moving digital art images. It’s everyone’s favourite bar in San Francisco and the ‘light bites’ are superb. You could sit here all night – the perfect sweet spot for saying goodbye to this glittering city.
By Sharon Feinstein, from Private Edition, Issue 35