Sac Historic House Profile: The Huntington Hotel

When was the last time a hotel made you feel like putting on a vintage Givenchy gown and ordering an Old Fashioned at the bar? Never? Well…

Welcome to the Huntington.

Located in the rarefied air of Nob Hill in San Francisco, the Huntington Hotel has been charming guests since its first incarnation as luxury apartments in the 1920s. Owned by the Cope family, the hotel uses quiet sophistication and impeccable service to stand out from the other big name hotels on the block.

As we walked through the old-world inspired lobby, I could hear the doorman advising departing guests to be sure to take their coats as it was looking fairly chilly outside. At reception, we were greeted and given scented hand towels to refresh after our long car journey. The hotel staff are professional but not stuffy, discreet but not absent. I took a quick side-trip downstairs to see the famous Nob Hill spa and spotted a Sienna Miller look-a-like in a black bikini lounging by an infinity pool overlooking the city. This was another side of San Francisco… one that I don’t get the chance to see very often (if at all, let’s face it).

Our luxurious room (number 610) was too big for the furniture in it and we had ample room to do a cartwheel if overcome by the sudden urge. The mirrored wet bar, lounge area, desk, and king sized bed were impressive but it was the double sink vanity and sunny separate tub area that caught my eye. Little did I know that it had caught my husband’s eye as well and he promptly put the tub to good use. He emerged later with sighs of praise and remarked, “Such a nice bath – I’m sorry to go on about it… but I do like a good soak.”

Downstairs in the Big Four Bar, we settled into green leather chairs under the watchful eye of a portrait of actor Walter Pidgeon smoking a cigar. The bar is named after the “big four” Central Pacific railroad tycoons – Stanford, Crocker, Hopkins and Huntington who built their mansions on Nob Hill in the 19th-century. The dark polished wood, glass tables, cozy fireplace, piano and dimly lit oil lamps created the perfect atmosphere for a romantic date. Voices were kept to a low murmur as glasses clinked and wine bottles were uncorked in the background. One clue into the welcome silence was the handful of plaques around the bar/restaurant that read “No Cell Phones”. Quite right too.

The bar motif continued into the restaurant dining room, an ideal spot for proposing marriage, wooing a client, or suggesting an illicit affair. For adventurous eaters, the restaurant offers a yearly Wild Game Week – five nights of deliciously different cuisine featuring wild game such as rabbit, caribou, ostrich and quail. This year’s dates are November 4-8. For reservations, call 415.771.1140.

Though we chose to have dinner down the hill in North Beach, we did return to sample the hotel’s warm Valrhona chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry coulis ($10). I think I’ve mentioned that this is my favorite type of dessert and now I think I may have a competitor for my favorite place to get this dessert!

The Huntington Hotel has welcomed a number of famous guests over the years including Princess Grace, Claudette Colbert, the Rothschilds and the Vanderbilts.

Now it’s your turn.

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