Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Taj Campton Place


A luxurious boutique hotel on the edge of Union Square

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Taj Campton Place


Union Square, Golden Gate Park, North Beach

Travel Information

San Francisco International Airport - 35 mins
Oakland International Airport - 40 mins

Top Tips

Pick up a unique gift at the elegant Gump's, San Francisco's first department store

5-Star X-Factors

The Michelin-starred Campton Place Restaurant showcases some of the best Californian cuisine

Weekend in San Fran

Talk about last minute. I had just two days before departure to use or lose my BA/American Express companion voucher. But, with another 100,000 air miles, I was able to book two flatbeds heading west so Cate and I set off for a weekend in San Francisco. The omens were good. Online check-in guaranteed our favourite seats and the weather during the preceding week had been exceptional, with the five-day forecast predicted continuing pleasant conditions.

Luxury Explorer's concierge team pre-arranged a limo transfer and we checked into the Taj Campton Place at 7pm local time, with the intention of freshening up and going walkabout around Union Square, which our corner room overlooked.

Room 1101, a "Deluxe with king size bed and a spacious homelike atmosphere", offered all the luxe-trotting touches you'd hope for, including 42" LCD TV, Nespresso coffee maker and an extremely comfortable bed. Taj's legendary service includes turndown and chocolates and twice daily towel changes.

Rise and shine

The restaurant at Taj Campton Place offers an ambience of efficiency and extremely polite service and it was a pleasant surprise to be served, rather than the ubiquitous help yourself breakfast buffet. The comprehensive menu offers a healthy fresh fruit, yogurt and granola option, one portion of which would easily have satisfied us both.

Taj 'woo' their English guests with a Full English breakfast menu and choice of fine blended fresh loose tea. This was in vain for this Englishman, as I had brought supplies of Taylor's Yorkshire teabags, smuggled all the way from Harrogate.

After a day of sightseeing we were looking forward to dinner, however. By the evening our appetites were jetlag-jaded. With the usual hungry-edge eroded by 'time desync' and, let's be honest, sharing a memorable late afternoon lunch of Chicken Club Sandwich and Anchor Steam Beer at Macy's open air rooftop restaurant; a treat not to be missed in the late afternoon San Franciscan sun.

However, as we were not up for a late night we decided to dine at the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant. We were shown to a corner table for two and ordered Rudolf Muller's Eiswein Pink Champagne, an exquisite aperitif perfectly chilled; just the lift we needed!

Cate ordered just a main course, branzino with aromatic rice, citrus, and rice vinegar essence. I settled for barely-seared scallops with almond soup, fig compote and prosciutto crisps, followed by slow cooked lamb leg, rack of Colorado lamb, lentil gateau and eggplant puree. Maybe I was hungry after all...

Soon, tiny appetiser dishes 'compliments of the chef' arrived: warm beignet of salt cod and shaved macadamia with wild arugula served with a small glass of green apple and avocado cappuccino foam. Fabulous! Next came pine sorbet with pine nuts and white truffle powder. Amazing! My starter and both our main courses were cooked to perfection; the scallops truly melted in the mouth with the almond soup and fig compote blending in perfect harmony.

Head Chef, Srijith Gopinathan, is revered by Campton Place regulars and I can understand why. His experience includes stints at, amongst other establishments of note, Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons.

Sights galore

Luckily the next day was sunny and warm again, so we boarded a cable car in Union Square, just outside the hotel. The Powell Mason Line stops at Fisherman's Wharf, where we pick up our mountain bikes from Blazing Saddles. We need the exercise desperately, and what better way to take in the sights.

Equipped with water and guide maps we head towards the Golden Gate Bridge, which we cross after an hour and a half. The view from the bridge is simply magnificent and watching the swirling eddy of the pale blue tide passing below is mesmerising, despite six lanes of traffic thundering behind. We head for Sausalito, mostly downhill now, and arrive an hour later to find a picture postcard array of pastel-shaded clapboard houses and boutiques bordering a small fishing harbour. After securing our bikes with the locks provided, we explore.

The usual arts and crafts shops abound but on Princess Street we stumble across the Mark Reuben Gallery where we browse through a fascinating sports and history gallery of signed celebrity black and white photographic memorabilia. We resist the temptation to 'flash plastic', noting they have an online store.

We decide to take the ferry back to San Francisco but first, we sample some grilled local king prawns on an outdoor restaurant table. The ferry back took 30 minutes and affords spectacular views of Golden Gate Bridge and the famous city skyline from a San Francisco Bay perspective.

Arriving back at Pier 39, we decide to walk to the hotel through the Italian and Chinese quarters. There is much to take in. It's a bit run down, but there's an honest and industrious spirit to these communities. The shops' colourful wares spill onto the pavements and families cluster outside in what appears to be an early Saturday evening ritual.

A casual and simple dinner at the 'Stinking Rose' was on the agenda...garlic with everything. We settled for bagna calda (slow roasted cloves of garlic, served in a skillet of sizzling olive oil) with focaccia as a starter. Our Italian friend, Sergio, has copied this signature dish in his restaurant in Yorkshire his most popular starter.

The rock

The next day, we took the ferry to Alcatraz highly commercialised but, nevertheless, a must on any visitor's itinerary. The iconic water tower, rust-stained but still intact, now stands sentinel over disgorged ranks of tourists surveying the 140ft ramped ascent to the prison block. We chose the day tour, which allows access to areas of the prison denied to night visitors, but the night skyline-view of the city is apparently worth the trip alone.

In hindsight, we were a tad ambitious to plan a 12,000 mile return trip with an eight-hour time difference for a long weekend, but the experience was well worth it and San Francisco will remain high on our list of favourite destinations, for a long time to come.

Andrew Kenny

Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer