Hotel Review: The Virgin Hotels San Francisco
Starting at $195
Richard Branson likes to party, and so do you! Opened in February, this is the second property in the Virgin Hotels portfolio — the first opened in Chicago in 2015, with Mr. Branson twisting and shouting on a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”-inspired float to celebrate. Both are paving the way for the hotel group’s further expansion to Nashville, New York, Dallas, Palm Springs, and more in the coming years. The Virgin Hotels San Francisco is already a favorite with locals for its expansive rooftop bar, Everdene, which opened for business in April; from this 12th-floor perch, there are glorious views of SoMa, skyscrapers and San Francisco Bay. On a recent Tuesday evening, a line of impatient customers waiting for the elevator snaked out the front door and onto Fourth Street. Kinks are still being worked out — in a full elevator of hotel guests, numerous key cards failed to access the proper floors — but for the most part service is very good.
The hotel is in SoMa, across the street from the Moscone Center and the public gardens of the Yerba Buena arts complex, and immediately adjacent to what is now a construction site. The Powell Street BART station is within easy walking distance, as are big draws like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Union Square.
Check-in and check-out times are flexible (amazing!). Just call the front desk to let them know when you plan to arrive and depart; I checked in around 1 p.m. Each of the hotel’s 192 “chambers” features a two-room layout: the entry hallway, closets and bathroom are grouped into a dressing room area, while the bedroom and sitting area are grouped into a sleeping and hangout lounge. The two are separated by a sliding door. Though my room wasn’t huge, it was thoughtfully laid out, and I loved the bright red SMEG refrigerator and minibar stocked with cocktail fixings, coffee and tea, and street-priced snacks and drinks. The multipurpose work space, tucked into a nook on one side of the bed and featuring a pillow-strewn bench and a round wood table, was an efficient and stylish use of space. (Note: In this night-life-friendly hotel, you’ll hear both babies and exuberant partyers. Earplugs are your friend.)
Lining one wall of the dressing room are two closets and a mirrored dressing table in between; on the opposite wall, you’ll find the bathroom and the shower behind their own doors, and a sink in between. The result of this compact, surprisingly intuitive design is that everything is there where and when you need it. Toiletries are by Red Flower.
The lobby-level Commons Club has a beautiful dining room and bar, where the chef Adrian Garcia, formerly of Quince, makes gorgeous, whimsical food, including a spin on “fish and chips” that involves hamachi crudo and crispy fish skin ($20). There’s another bar on the mezzanine level; next door, the Funny Library coffee shop serves pastries from two excellent local bakeries (Craftsman and Wolves, and Firebrand). But the main attraction is the 4,000-square-foot rooftop, where, on a warm spring evening, the crowd at the 25-foot wraparound bar was three deep and all the patio tables were snapped up by 5:15 p.m. (did I mention that the bar opens at 5 p.m.?). Patrons can be aggressive; I’d barely sat down when two young women approached. “Are you going to be four?” one demanded. “Yes,” I replied, a bit taken aback. A pleasant, tattooed server came by. “First come first served,” she said, not unkindly. I immediately ordered “Her Majesty’s Pleasure,” a refreshing tequila-based cocktail made with cucumber, mint and snap peas ($14). Over the course of the night, a steady flow of customers made their way up from nearby offices and from conferences across the street.
Free Wi-Fi, a 24-hour fitness center, in-room yoga mats. Members of the hotel’s free loyalty program are treated to a happy hour in the Commons Club. Pets are welcome, and pet-specific rooms are available at no additional charge.
The Bottom Line
Design-conscious digs with a lively bar and restaurant scene. As one hotel employee told me in the elevator on the way down from the roof, “It ain’t quiet here, that’s for sure.”
Virgin Hotels San Francisco, 250 Fourth Street; 415-534-6500; www.virginhotels.com/sanfrancisco