JONAS
Jonas Rask Eilersen
Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
4th April 2017

A surefire contender for San Francisco’s most opulent and decadent hotel, The Fairmont, opened in 1907 on the top of Nob Hill, is reputedly also one of the best hotels in the city.

We put it through its paces…Read on for our, as always, painfully honest review.

Location
Very central - but also in a way slightly removed from the action. Literally at the apex of the exclusive, but also mostly residential enclave of Nob Hill, The Fairmont is close to the shops of Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Financial District. Even China Town is a quick walk away downhill.

However, the fact that the hotel sits "Atop Nob Hill" (the hotel's marketing does not miss an opportunity to mention this...) means that almost every sight is, steeply, downhill (which makes for good exercise - but also not very conducive for popping out to the local drugstore).

Notably, however, The Fairmont is the only place in San Francisco where each of the city’s cable cars meet, so everywhere is easily accessible via this charming, yet useful, mode of transport.
Who stays?
Make no mistake, this is a very classic hotel - and while we encountered our fair share of young families, single travellers, the well dressed (and the not-so-well dressed...), The Fairmont is predominantly the territory of the slightly older, impeccably styled - and coiffed - guest.
Style and Character
Built in 1907, the building reflects the grandeur and opulence of that time, especially the grand foyer, with its high ceilings, marble floors and elaborate chandeliers.

It is no surprise that The Fairmont is on the well-trodden tourist trail of San Francisco, so don't be surprised if you are caught on a visitor's camera (tours are available to the general public).
Service
I was very surprised that the service was not immaculate (and actually not even close to that) - after all, this is truly one of the world's classiest/classic hotels, and with that comes a certain expectation that each and every guest is waited on to no end.
This was not the case here, to be honest - and while the doorman indeed did assist with bags on arrival, it still took a full two hours (and phone calls...) to reception to get the bags delivered to the room (!)

Front desk and concierge were kind, but nothing you wouldn't experience "at the Marriott". An example: with our room being in the tower quite a walk (and 19 stories up from the reception), I was not happy to be told by the concierge that I "should bring my own umbrella from the room" (clearly, borrowing one from the concierge so I could pop out to the pharmacy without getting drenched was a no-go).

Also, to be completely honest, housekeeping was not great. For example, at the rates The Fairmont charges, I don't like to be queried multiple times by the housekeeper about when I will be leaving the room for the cleaning staff to enter (once should be enough, particularly when advising that I'd ensure to remove the Do Not Disturb sign before leaving) - and only to then have the room cleaned relatively sporadically both days of our stay (no tidying up, discarded shampoo bottles on the floor and so on).
I know this sounds picky, but I do expect that, if my pajamas are in the bed when the maid comes to clean, then it's not just thrown in a pile on the floor and left there for me when I return.

I was also quite peeved that, despite my partner and I literally lugging 7 pieces of baggage (as we're spending a while in the States), on departure there was no offer of help getting our bags from the lobby into our taxi, despite us schlepping all bags, taking several trips back-and-forth, and literally passing the doormen/bell boys each time.

Among the hotel's own staff, it was with the room service attendants (more on that below) with whom we had the sole outstanding interactions. I am mentioning "own staff" as several of the outlets, such as the gym, are outsourced.
Rooms and Suites
The Fairmont is a big, almost huge, hotel - 591 rooms on 23 floors, over two buildings with seven lifts. There are 62 suites, which offer views of the city and the bay if you are lucky enough to have an outward-facing room.
The rooms are surprisingly modern-looking and have been recently updated in mainly bright colours. Most have marble baths, flat screen televisions and pillow-top beds.

I adored our Deluxe room in the Tower building. The Tower is a more contemporary building and was built to take advantage of the stunning views atop Nob Hill. All rooms have been completely renovated, and include marble baths with glass-enclosed showers, as well large desks and a small sitting area.
Now, while the décor and upkeep, despite the rooms' relatively recent renovation, are not the best, the views are world-class. Stunning. I could spend the whole day looking out over the city - everything was within sight; Golden Gate, Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge. Just gorgeous.

Be sure to ask for a room with a view!
Food and Drink
There are three very good dining options here, including the Tonga Room, Laurel Court and Caffe Centro, with the former two both deserving a special mention.

As for the Tonga Room: it's quite unique that something as (let's face it) tacky as a "tropical rainforest restaurant" has endured so many years in such a classic hotel as The Fairmont. But here, it works - don't just go for the Mai Tai; there are actually lots of fabulous cocktail concoctions, fun décor and great Asian food.

Laurel Court is the classier, slightly more uptight option - a venue for both an incredible breakfast spread, and for ladies who lunch (and do tea). Fabulous.

I was very impressed with room service; both concerning the quality, quantity and service.
Features, Wellness, and Amenities
With The Fairmont being a five-star establishment (well, "only" a four-star according to US standards, it should be said), the hotel offers pretty much any amenity one would expect, including a well-equipped gym (managed by an external operator).
However, do not believe the hotel when they tout the club as "one of the premier health clubs in San Francisco,"; it's alright, but not *that* amazing.

Further, and slightly surprisingly, The Fairmont does not operate its own spa here- one would think that this hotel would be the perfect venue for a flagship Willow Stream spa, but it isn't. No need to fret, however, what is on offer is fine.
Perceived Value
This is an expensive hotel, and one which you should stay in if you're looking for a historic, palatial, and atmospheric abode, and are ready to pay for the privilege.
The Fairmont is easily in the most sought after location in San Francisco (albeit, as mentioned, one which does not feel like it's in "the thick of it"), and its guests are happy to spend this kind of money for the location alone.
Verdict
A gloriously luxurious, historic hotel - with a few hiccups - The Fairmont is a gorgeous and atmospheric hotel, sensibly updated to be equally appealing to the classic and a the more timeless traveller. Not too many surprises, and all the better for it.