The hotel has a low-key entrance on Sansome Street and our taxi is swiftly approached by an urbane, mature doorman wearing white gloves, who loads all of our luggage onto a trolley. The hotel is 25 years old but has just undergone a complete refurbishment, so it feels new. A businesslike check-in desk sits at the back of a fairly small lobby with an Italian travertine floor and elegant floral displays.
The hotel is located in the financial district in a twin-tower building called the 345 California Center, a 48-storey office block that is the third-largest building in San Francisco. The hotel occupies the ground floor, the third floor and the top 11 floors of the building. The area is clean, uncrowded, pleasant and safe to walk around and the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero is less than 10 minutes away on foot. Chinatown is just across the road and the Montgomery Street metro station is only three minutes away. The shopping and theatre districts are a five-minute walk away.
Our bay-view room has sensational views across the city to the Golden Gate Bridge. From the glass-sided bridge connecting to the building next door, you can see in the other direction towards the Bay Bridge and beyond. It's one of the very best views from a hotel you'll ever have in your life, so pack your camera. Our room had a large marble bathroom, luxurious bathrobes and a sublime bed with a choice of pillows. There were only two rooms in our part of the building, so it was quiet and felt private. The only thing that was missing were slippers.
The woman who cleans our room is delightful but I find the reception, spa and restaurant staff a little over-the-top and saccharine-sweet in that American sort of way.
The refitting of the hotel, its location in the financial district and the fact that there is only one restaurant and bar has the potential to make the atmosphere sterile, but other guests, who when we stay are mainly there on holiday, are clearly enjoying themselves, so the atmosphere is good without being edgy.
The hotel's signature restaurant is Brasserie S&P, and our meal is surprisingly good (this is San Franciso, after all, with more than 5,000 restaurants). Much of the produce is local: our Sonoma-baked fresh bread is served with 15-year aged olive oil from Healdsburg. The steamed Manila clams with chilli and garlic ($13; Dh47), the charred Monterey calamari with squash in a dashi broth ($14; Dh51) and the roasted celery soup ($9; Dh33) were all delicious. Breakfast is less impressive and most of the hot options are rather boringly egg-based. Staff offer me a grilled cheese sandwich which is lovely but rather expensive at $14 (Dh51).
My 80-minute Time to Reflect spa treatment ($250 ; Dh183) is fabulously gentle and soothing. This, combined with the view from the room, made for a great stay.
There is no swimming pool, which feels like an omission in such a prestigious property.
The perfect hotel in a great city; I'd go back.
The bottom line
Double rooms at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, 222 Sansome Street (www.mandarinoriental.com; 001 415 276 9888) cost from US$456 (Dh1,675) per night, including taxes, but excluding breakfast.
* Rosemary Behan