Straddling the line between trendy SoMa and the Union Square shopping district, the consciously hip Hotel Zetta San Francisco is pure City by the Bay. With all the latest tech gadgets and works by local artists in rooms, plus a lively lobby café-bar filled with repurposed vintage decor and one of the city’s hottest restaurants, this urban bolthole has finally put the Bay Area spin on boutique luxury.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £119.69 ($156), including tax at 16.45 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of $33.17 per room per night on check-out.
Rates do not usually include breakfast (à la carte breakfast, from $11) or the amenities fee ($29.11 each), which includes a welcome drink, in-room Nespresso coffee and bottled water, an hour of local calls and bike rentals (subject to availability).
At the hotel
Game room and lounge, DVD library, gym. In rooms: G-Link smartphone dock with Bluetooth and streaming-to-TV capabilities, flatscreen smart TV with access to the internet and apps like Netflix, Illy espresso machine, minibar of locally sourced snacks, radio, bathrobes, Neil George bath products, Nintendo Wii and Atari game consoles upon request, free standard WiFi and high-speed WiFi is available for $14.95 per day, for up to ten devices.
Our favourite rooms
For space, we’d pick the Premier Studio King any day, which has a cosy and stylish sitting area in addition to all the gadgets already included. If you’re traveling with friends or a group, though, the Deluxe Double Queen rooms have the best views.
Your iPad, Kindle, smartphone, laptop… Indeed, all of your electronics, which connect to the G-Link dock and smart TV in each room, so you can have all the entertainment you’d have at home, for free.
The hotel does not have a spa, but they do have an arrangement for guests at the neighbouring Burke Williams spa, and can provide in-room spa treatments.
The Cavalier has a room for every mood. We’re partial to the people-watching in the Blue Bar, the liveliest room, but, when it comes to romance, we’d go for the red-leather banquettes and Orient-Express-inspired train carriage accents in the Rail Car.
T-shirt and jeans – sustainably and responsibly made by a trendy local brand like Everlane, and paired with either a tailored blazer or designer heels for a tech-giant-next-door look.
The third venture from the team behind two of San Francisco’s most acclaimed restaurants (Marlowe and Park Tavern), the trendy and lively Cavalier puts on old-world spin on one of the city’s most contemporary neighbourhoods. Anglo-inspired dishes like Welsh rarebit soufflé and steak and oyster pie are served between four elegant and atmospheric rooms – with names like the ‘Rail Car’ and ‘Wine Stables’ – and paired with classic British club cocktails and an extensive wine list. Additionally, the lobby’s S&R Lounge (which stands for ‘salvage and rescue’) serves basic breakfasts, Stumptown coffee and small plates and sandwiches every evening.
In addition to the Cavalier’s room-length bar where well-mixed gin, whiskey and rum cocktails are the order of the day, the lobby S&R Lounge and its attached mezzanine Playroom are a popular watering hole for the trendy after-work crowd, as well as an all-day work spot for techies and freelancers. Pick your poison from a range of inventive cocktails, West Coast wines and craft beers, then nab a spot on a sofa or in the hanging chair. If you’re feeling social, challenge a new friend to a game of shuffleboard, pool, Connect Four – or any of the over 50 Nintendo WiiU games. Behind Cavalier's lies Marianne's, a hush-hush, living-room-style drinking den where San Francisco's elite come to unwind; however, you'll need to use all your powers of persuasion to get in – its private entrance usually only opens for the lucky (very) few with a door code and friends of the owners…
In the Cavalier, breakfast is served from 7 to 10:3am; lunch from 11:30am to 2pm; and dinner from 5:30 to 10pm on weekdays, 11pm Thursday to Saturday. In the S&R Lounge, breakfast is from 7 to 10:30am; it operates as a bar nightly from 4pm to 11pm.
The full restaurant breakfast menu is available in your room from 6 to 10:30am; the restaurant dinner menu can be ordered to your room from 5 to 11pm.
Just off Market Street, on the border of SoMa and San Francisco’s downtown shopping district, the Hotel Zetta San Francisco is an ideally situated home-base for those looking to explore the city.
San Francisco International Airport lies 13 miles south of the hotel, and the city centre. Most major airlines operate direct, daily flights in and out of SFO. Other options are Oakland International Airport – 25 miles away – or San Jose – 60 miles to the south.
The BART metro system (bart.gov) connects the city with the East Bay and both SFO and OAK airports’ domestic and international terminals. The journey from SFO takes around half an hour; the Powell St stop is just around the corner from Hotel Zetta. If you’re going down the Peninsula, Caltrain (caltrain.com) is the best way to get around; the San Francisco/4th and King stop is two-and-a-half miles away, best traversed by taking Muni or a five-minute cab ride.
San Francisco is one of those cities that can’t decide between cars and public transportation as the best way to get around. So, if you’re planning to explore the ends of the city, or even venture out into Marin or wine country, you’ll want to rent some wheels, but be aware that valet parking at the hotel costs $62 (excluding tax) per night and parking throughout the city can get expensive.
Various ferry companies run services from the San Francisco Ferry Building – a mile down Market St from the Zetta – to several drop-offs around the bay, including Sausalito and Marin County. See sanfranciscobayferry.com for details.
Shopaholics, too, will find themselves ideally situated for filling their suitcases. Not only is the Hotel Zetta around the corner from the Westfield San Francisco Centre – home to the likes of Nordstrom and J.Crew – but the designer boutiques of Union Square are only minutes further away.
For a truly only-in-San-Francisco experience, make your way down Market Street to the Ferry Building Marketplace. An icon of Bay Area architecture picturesquely situated on the bay, it’s now also home to one of the city’s biggest artisan food markets. Stock up on provisions for a picnic or to take on the ferry to Sausalito, or indulge in a gourmet meal at one of the many acclaimed restaurants and cafés. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the city’s best farmers market – frequented by many of the city’s top chefs – takes over the plazas around the building.
San Francisco is known for having one of the most exciting food scenes in the United States, and even within the Hotel Zetta’s direct neighbourhood, you’re spoiled for choice. The Michelin-starred Sons & Daughters does a seasonal tasting menu nightly that highlights the cream of the local produce crop in innovative and delicious ways. Another favourite, Benu, also draws on Northern California’s bounty in its regularly changing tasting menu, with an emphasis on seafood and Asian influences. Both restaurants have exceptional wine menus.
A few blocks across Market from the Zetta, Rickhouse serves up some of the city’s top cocktails in one of its liveliest after-work neighbourhoods. An extensive wine list complements craft drinks made with all natural products.
Mr Smith and I spot Hotel Zetta moments after we emerge blinking from the underground at Union Square, the Times Square of San Francisco. Around us, people queue at the quaint Powell Street turntable, where the cable cars get switched around and sent back up the steep streets. A huge Levi's store serves as a reminder of hippies who propelled the brand to fame by adopting the working man's denim as uniform in the sixties.
Zetta's neon sign shines like circus lights down Fifth Avenue. True enough, this is a boutique hotel that has put the work into making sure you have a good time. We dodge a man flailing around in virtual reality goggles in a booth by the door and head for the reception desk. It’s 6pm on a Saturday and the bar is bustling. People lounge with cocktails on a snaking camel leather couch down one side of the entrance. There’s a queue to use a pool table.
As we’re welcomed and handed a key, we notice a distinctly anglophile theme to the decor. Huge framed portraits of the Beatles hang in the two story bar area and a bright red phone box has been installed, for decorative purposes, by the lift. The British touches add to other quirks: a chandelier made of folded spectacles and a giant plinko board that is played with footballs. Later we learn that there used to be a slide in the lobby before it had to be removed for health and safety reasons.
After a long day of traveling, it’s all Mr Smith and I can do to pull ourselves away from the sumptuous bed, set back from the corridor by a generous entrance hallway, giving the room a sense of seclusion. We stretch out on it for a moment and sync Spotify with the in-room bluetooth jukebox, searching ‘California’. But a sliver of bright blue sky is visible from our hotel window. We decide it’s too early to call it a night. Especially when Spotify selects the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ as the next track.
We refresh in the long bathroom with luscious smelling Roil toiletries by the celebrity hair stylist Amanda George, taking turns on the soothing grey mosaic tiles in the shower.
Back downstairs, a generous cocktail and snack menu helps this bar live up to its name: Salvage and Rescue. But the second storey playroom, up a staircase hung with classic album covers from Nirvana to Radiohead, is clearly the main draw for passing evening drinkers and hotel guests alike. The alcoves are lined with amusements, from beanbags around a piano, a photo booth, table tennis and football.
Settling into cocktails and snacks from the bar, we watch Saturday night unfold around us for just as long as jet lag will allow then sneak off to the peace of our room.
We wake hungry the next morning and make a beeline to the Cavalier, a Brit-influenced restaurant connected to, but not owned by, Zetta. While the high ceilings and pristine white tablecloths are promising, both the scrambled eggs and the service are on the chilly side. But later we discover the fabulous Bluestem Brasserie just around the corner. It manages to be both cosy and cool, with an inventive brunch menu comprising focaccia with glistening burrata and bright marinated beetroots with feta as well as the usual eggs and toast.
Zetta’s location in Soma is perfect for exploring the city. We travel on the colourful antique trolley, which stops right outside, to the pier for the obligatory trip to Alcatraz (well worth it for the views of San Francisco from the island, even if your interest in prison history is patchy). Any time spent at Fisherman’s Wharf, a touristy market area at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula, is wasted time however, unless you like dodging children trying to convince their parents to buy sweets.
Another hack: it’s the first game of the San Francisco Giants baseball season while we are in town, which turns out to be a five-hour game that has fans flooding into the stadium in up-and-coming Mission Bay. Tickets are gold dust. But at Atwater Tavern, right on the water’s edge, you’re close enough to hear the stadium roar. Plus you can watch the game on big screens while sipping cocktails, or slip upstairs for great views over the water.
Back at Zetta that night, Mr Smith and I do a ritual rifle through the minibar, giggling at the distinctly Californian flavour to the snacks on offer, from protein powders to ‘activated’ nuts. Right above the fridge, a secret drawer appears containing a ‘lovers’ kit’ of lube and vibrator and something called sex dust. We follow the instructions, dissolve the powder in water and end up with aphrodisiac hot chocolate. At Hotel Zetta, the games go on beyond the playroom…