How does one luxury hotel stand out from another? The gal is continually amazed at unique qualities in any property that really does make it to the top. Take Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco and its room service menu, shown to the left. This is a glorious A4-sized production: open the full-colour cover one side and you get menu items, turn it through 180-degrees and you open up to a full-colour essay, with illustrations, of the art of Nicole Markoff, with details of such works as her 20 by 48-inch diptych on brushed aluminium, Watershed. You find out that the San Francisco-based artist dabbled for a time in her own fashion brand, Nicacelly, but that is now in archive mode, for which read she has given up on fashion.
The 277-room hotel switched to these art menus about a year ago, and the artist changes with the seasons. Apparently having such menus does not increase either the number of orders, or the size and value of them, but the concept certainly fascinated me, and encouraged me to order dinner. It was a really happy experience, as you can see from the right: delivery was in 20 minutes, I liked the stylish checked cloth, and the really ample amount of spinach. I looked again at the menu. It includes breakfast packages, to go, and dishes for little kids (Happy Camper, with silver-dollar pancakes) and for teens (say a small beef tenderloin with mash or rice, and broccolino or carrots). The all-ages, all-night menu suggests a Kobe beef burger which shows that there is someone around at 2 a.m. who knows how to cook.
Doug Housley the GM here for the last seven years, is constantly upgrading. The hotel had sensational art from its very start, in October 2001, but enhancements include not only the room service menus but also his own welcome cards, as shown above (does he colour them himself?). The hotel’s integral wellness facility has been upgraded – it is now an Equinox, much more professional than before. Three years ago the hotel revamped its main dining, leading off the lobby on the fifth floor of the building, which opens directly off Market. The re-done bar and restaurant, designed by AvroKO, are called MKT, accordingly.
As Doug Housley says, it is tons better for a luxury hotel to have a really great bar than a really great restaurant. Come late afternoon, especially weekdays, MKT Bar is such a post-work hang-out for regulars in the financial district around that it spills over into the lobby proper, and there is a buzz of noise. A really great bar, even if it offers food like this one, also channels business to the restaurant, especially if one is easily reached from the other. But even at breakfast, when the bar is empty, MKT, the restaurant, is regular start-the-day hangout for scions of banks and private equity. Many around us chose healthy berries and steel-cut oats, as did Doug Housley. No, do not ask me what I ate. NOW SEE A VIDEO OF MY ROOM, BELOW