Here’s to Hotel Zeppelin, where Mr Smith morphs into a young John Travolta and Mrs Smith rediscovers the joys of super-strength hairspray: the 1970s are back at this ex-speakeasy city stay, and they’re as groovy as ever. In the heart of San Francisco’s theatre district, Zeppelin is as dramatic as its locale. The decor is certainly anything but minimal – there’s an old-school black light-lit bar, red resin front desk and enormous, newspaper-printed peace sign for starters. Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of elegantly clever design touches to keep it chic, from slick steel tables and glass-orb chandeliers to dark leather armchairs.
Double rooms from £217.59 ($290), including tax at 16.45 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of $33.77 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include free WiFi, a welcome drink, in-room Nespresso coffee and bottled water, an hour of local calls and bike rentals (subject to availability). Breakfast (à la carte) isn’t included; prices start at $8.
Zeppelin was designed by Seattle-based team Dawson Design Associates, who are also responsible for kitting out saucy, black-and-gold bar Dirty Habit. Swing by for a drink: it’s 10 minutes away from Zeppelin.
At the hotel
The hotel has WiFi throughout, and a 24-hour modern gym with free weights, yoga mats, fitness balls and cardio machines. In rooms: TV; air conditioning; mini fridge; tea-making facilities and Nespresso coffee machine; digital edition of the New York Times (via a free-to-download app); bath products by Neil George.
Our favourite rooms
For a touch of local history (and a black and yellow carpet that’ll make your eyes water), we like the Mr Smiley Suite, named after a beloved street performer known for his Union Square serenades; each individually-designed Deluxe Suite is randomly allocated, so cross your fingers if Smiley's your style. Only high-rollers need apply for the Zeppelin Suite, where there’s enough room for P Diddy’s whole entourage. Pour a vodka soda at the wet bar in the living room, take in the views from the rooftop deck, or hit the private media room for a late-night movie.
Take your inspiration from the Bee Gees and Barbara Streisand, and dress to hit Studio 54. When you’re not trying to squeeze into your sequinned catsuit (not again, Mr Smith), you’ll want trainers for exploring the area.
Zeppelin has some rooms adapted for guests with mobility issues, and a lift.
Children of any age are welcome at Zeppelin, but little Smiths won’t have much to occupy them. If you do bring your brood, the hotel are very accommodating, and will even heat up milk and baby food for you in the bar.
Grab a spot by the air hockey table in the Den, or perch on a leather stool and nibble some antipasti at the Fireside’s steel-and-brick bar.
Big hair and Seventies flair go down well at free-and-easy Zeppelin: don’t forget your platform boots.
In the mornings, the à la carte bar breakfast of classic pastries, Sightglass coffee and Dynamo Donuts will keep you going until lunch (and far beyond, if you stack those waffles high…). At night, visit the artfully distressed Rambler restaurant, with its black-and-white tiled floors, exposed brick walls, wooden bar stools and polished, copper-topped tables. Chef Robert Leva has composed a Californian menu of locally sourced cuisine; have the Bay-fresh oysters, wood-fired pizza and white sea bass with beans and basil for a flavourful slice of the West Coast.
Zeppelin’s all-day brick-walled bar is aptly named: the gothic fireplace is nearly always filled with dancing flames. Playing homage to Hotel Zeppelin’s former use as a basement speakeasy, an enormous overhead cage is lined with row upon row of gin bottles. The squashy, leather armchairs underneath are very tempting for sightseeing-worn Smiths eager to nurse a (purely medicinal) Cucumber Gimlet. Pop by in the morning for coffee and a crispy Dynamo Donut, and see the bar in a different light – groovy black light, in fact, as lit-up graffiti poetry by Austin street group Colour Cartel adorns the walls.
The Mantel Bar is open from 5pm to 11pm every night. Weekday breakfasts are served in Rambler from 7am.
The Mantel Bar's menu is available from 11am to 11pm in rooms.
Two blocks from Union Square in the heart of San Francisco’s central theatre district, Hotel Zeppelin couldn’t be better placed for top shops and metro stops.
Most airlines operate regular flights from the UK to San Francisco International Airport. From here, it’s a 25-minute drive to Zeppelin, and the hotel can organise a transfer for $85 (or more depending on the vehicle and number of guests). Alternatively, fly to Oakland International Airport, from which it’s a 35-minute drive to Zeppelin; hotel transfers cost upwards of $85.
San Francisco Station, well-served by Amtrak, is five minutes from Zeppelin, and there’s a tram service to take you to the hotel.
Hire a car from one of San Francisco Airport’s outlets. To get to Zeppelin, join the 1-80 West from Fourth Street, then take the US-101 down to the hotel, which has valet parking for guests for $55 a day. However, the hotel’s efficient transfer service and San Francisco’s nippy tram network mean you won’t be in much need of a motor during your stay.
The San Francisco Bay ferry serves Oakland, Alameda, Harbor Bay, Vallejo, AT&T Ballpark and Angel Island.
Worth getting out of bed for
You can spend days without leaving the hotel: get playful with a game of foosball, shuffleboard or indoor basketball in the Den, cosy up in the Fireside bar with a cocktail or pump some iron in the modern, plexiglass-decorated gym. But why not explore further afield? Take a tour around Alcatraz and visit Battery Lancaster for perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get lost in San Fran’s Chinatown, the oldest in the US and just a few blocks away from Zeppelin: nosey around the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley; sample the dim sum at tiny Dol Ho on Pacific Avenue; and, for more high-end fare, hit Mr Jiu’s on Waverly Place.
All that disco-dancing and hair-smoothing at Zeppelin will work up quite an appetite, so get yourself to The Cavalier at Hotel Zetta for some hearty British fare. A 10 minute walk away on Jessie Street, the fish ’n’ chips and steak pies are as good as you’ll get in any English pub. In fact – whisper it – they might even be better… For classic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, head to Murray Circle at Cavallo Point for Californian cuisine in a former army fort, and grab a table on the porch for the best bay vistas. If you won’t get out of bed for less than a Michelin star, Sons & Daughters on Bush Street will be your new favourite hotspot: the seasonal tasting menu is rushed here double-quick straight from the restaurant’s own farm. Dear Inga's 'new old-world cooking' gives Eastern European classics a shake-up: kielbasa, brats and dumplings are present and correct, but sit alongside dishes such as Manila clams with green adjika sausage and jalapeño, or chicken and pork-jowl meatballs in a rye glaze. Wash down with their comprehensive list of Georgian wines.
Crepe-lovers, Honey Honey Café will make you flip your lid (or pan) – order the strawberry, banana and kiwi creation, which comes dusted with cinnamon and brown sugar. Ming Lee Trading Inc (759 Jackson Street) has a tempting selection of Chinese crackers, gummy sweets, and snacks (try the candied anchovies if you’re feeling brave). Or, explore artistic Tenderloin and Lower Nob Hill by buying melting, salted caramels at Hooker’s Sweet Treats and sampling the bright sponges at Cako Bakery.
Try out Rye on nearby Geary Street for top-notch tipples, exposed brickwork and polished wood. If that’s not your style, head over the street to Redford, which has a serious whiskey selection.
As we make our way into San Francisco from start-up capital Palo Alto, it seems appropriate that we’re travelling by Uber. We pass by outposts of Google, Facebook and the rest of dotcomville, until the rolling green hills give way to uniform stacks of terraced buildings, and the iconic streets of San Francisco stretch out (and up) before us.
A perfect dichotomy of past and present, this city is a marriage of grand deco, Sixties swinger and futuristic tech giant. Hotel Zeppelin’s revamped frontage perfectly encapsulates that old-meets-new ethos. It might be spring 2017 but, round here, the Summer of Love never truly finished…
Our eyes dart up and down the buzzing footpath in search of a besuited bellboy. Within seconds a serene being appears, clad, of course, in head-to-toe denim (forget double; we’re in triple territory). The Zeppelin team do their best to bolster the city’s peace-loving friendliness: service is top notch at every turn; Diego on reception whisks us through check-in with ease and provides a lengthy list of local haunts to satisfy our audible appetite for supper.
The reception area sets the tone: welcoming and warm, with a large shared workzone sitting alongside the cosy bar area, and ample seating hung around a toasty open fireplace (San Francisco falls a little short on our Aussie spring temperature gauge).
Cowhide upholstery, industrial lighting, luxe leather loungers, exposed brick walls, generous ceilings and ornate cornice details – it's a canvas to inspire a thousand Instagram stories. (Notes to self: must up cushion game; need plush leather armchair; should invest in actual art.)
Though the curved double staircase beyond reception provides delightful eye candy with its grand exposed-bulb chandelier centrepiece, we opt for the lift up to our room and are pleasantly surprised to find we've been upgraded to a suite (groovy!), providing more than adequate space to spill out our ambitiously packed luggage.
The chic styling continues: a structural Foscarini floor lamp, modish occasional chairs and plump crushed-velvet cushions contrasting with the florid ceiling roses and vintage rock'n'roll art.
A quick caffeine boost from the in-room Nespresso and we're ready to take in all that San Fran has to offer and, given our Union Square address, there's no shortage of late-night haunts to keep us satisfied until the wee hours. I'll blame the final round of margaritas up the road at Matador for us not putting the hotel’s on-site fitness centre through its paces…
Instead, we spend our days pounding the dizzyingly steep pavements of surrounding Nob Hill and Chinatown, thankful for the exercise to balance out all that we consume from See’s Candies (be sure to hunt down their ‘Toffee-ettes’).
By this point, our over-exerted calf muscles were incapable of peddling the cruiser bikes provided by the hotel – our original plan – so we decide to see out our time in the games room, followed by night time Negronis at the speakeasy influenced bar.
The Zeppelin may well celebrate its counter-culture past but it’s as modern a boutique hotel as you could wish for – hippy by way of hipster. Colourful, crazily furnished and kitsch in all the right ways. So would we stay again? You bet, baby…