Among the steel skyscrapers, austere public art, and chiming cable cars of downtown San Francisco is a sliver of the Orient: The Mandarin Oriental. The hotel group’s internationally recognized and regarded symbol, a subtle golden fan, is nearly the only exterior sign of this grand property. And that's all that's needed.
The Mandarin Oriental group has amassed quite the fan base since the opening of its Hong Kong location in 1963, and now counts 45 properties and 17 under development across the world in its impressive collection. Celebrity fans include American sweethearts Harry Connick Jr. and Sigourney Weaver, as well as Asian vixens Lin Chiling and Vanessa Mae.
"Be the Best" is one of the Mandarin Oriental's core values. Fittingly, the group's San Francisco spa is lauded year after year as one of city's finest, which is increasingly notable in a city marked with consistent growth in the hotel and hospitality market.
Though other Mandarin Oriental properties have larger spas, this spa embodies the essence of the Mandarin Oriental's distinct approach to mind and body wellness, and has three lavish treatment rooms. Dark with paneled wood and rich golden hues, this facility is utterly serene and silent, much appreciated given the bustle of the urban streets below. Therapists always greet guests with herbal tea and an exchange of shoes for plush slippers. I waited in the relaxation tea lounge before enjoying my manicure, perhaps the most lavish manicure my hands have ever received.
New at the spa this year is the Calm the Mind massage treatment, a 45-minute session meant to be an efficient option for executives or guests on-the-go. The massage focuses on alleviating tension in the back, neck and shoulder regions, while utilizing a few drops of custom essential oil. For guests with more time, the three-hour Time Ritual is a blocked period of time where therapists help to discover the ideal treatments of the guest after a traditional foot bath.
Forbes awarded the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco with double five-star awards at the start of the year, an honor uniquely held in all of San Francisco. To celebrate the achievement, the hotel group announced two five-star packages, both available until the end of April 2014. The most indulgent offering, simply named the Double Five-Star Package is an opulent one-night stay in the Presidential Oriental or Taipan suites. A pair of custom monogrammed bath robes, cable car passes, house-crafted five-star gin and tonics at Brasserie S&P (the hotel's newly renovated restaurant) a couples spa treatment, a private car transfer, and a keepsake bottle of the hotel's own Pinot Noir are all provided in this lavish package. In addition, guests are treated with the brand’s level of signature service that is consistently warm and polite.
Another great aspect of the hotel is its initiatives to contribute locally to its city via creative projects. At the end of this month, The Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco will finish a two-month long campaign—Hotels with Heart—with the American Heart Association. Donald Bowman, the hotel's General Manager, and the Hotel Council of San Francisco, are aiming to raise $250,000 for the national non-profit with hotel packages, cooking classes, and weekly evening runs led by marathon devotee Bowman himself. Later in February, a "Climb the Stars" event will urge supporters to climb the 48-story building that houses the hotel and happens to be the third tallest building in the city.
Because I'd visited the brand’s Hong Kong and Las Vegas spas before, I had exceptionally high expectations for this urban version. And following this experience, I can now happily add myself to its growing fan base because my expectations were both met, and exceeded.