Cornell Hotel de France 715 Bush St./Mason St., 2 blks. from Union Square, (800) 232-9698, (415) 421-3154. 6 floors; 58 rooms. Full breakfast; restaurant. Self- parking $28 (across street). This 1910 building has been restyled into a French country-style hotel, with each room individually decorated.
The owner has been employing an artist three days a week for 15 years to decorate the interior with original art. So doors, walls, and more throughout sport delightful artistic details.
Each guest floor is dedicated to one artist and features reproductions of their works. My floor, the 6th, featured Gaugin, while another floor spotlighted Matisse.
The fresh yet vintage room decor was a sweet mix of pastel paint, wallpaper, and famous art prints by other artists. There is no air conditioning, but in San Francisco that isn’t usually a problem and, joy of joys, the windows open and let in a lovely breeze. And, since my room faced east and the cable cars were less than a block away, I could hear the iconic sounds of clanging bells and even buzzing cables. The sounds stopped at some point in the night, and I knew it was morning when they began again. A complimentary bacon-and-eggs American breakfast is served in the restaurant in the morning, but French toast is also an option. The hotel’s original, elegant, and automated four-person Otis elevator—the owner thinks it might date to 1850 and that it possibly hails from NYC--continues to deliver guests where they want to go.
Allow time to explore. You are just a few blocks from Union Square and from the gates of Chinatown. And, should you be wanting to take a walk on the wild side, a male strip club is just next door.
Restaurant Jeanne d’Arc D Tu-Sat. This low-profile subterranean French restaurant is popular with aficionados of authentic French cuisine as well as with those who appreciate a bargain.
The only menu option is a four-course, prix-fixe dinner ($48) that includes soup, salad, entrée, and dessert. The approximately ten entrée choices change daily, depending on current fresh and seasonal ingredients, and include fish, rabbit, and lamb. More than 75 well-priced French and Californian selections are on the wine list. Most guests enter the dining room after exiting that turn-of-the-century Otis elevator, which sets the mood for an unusual dining experience. The atmospheric restaurant space reminded me of a castle dungeon I once dined in. Meant to evoke medieval times, this inner sanctum features arched doorways and several cozy dining nooks, and the decor consists of tapestries, stained glass windows made in Chartres,
assorted artifacts, paintings, hand-painted wall murals and frescos, vintage posters and statues, and numerous tributes to Joan of Arc.
The fact that the owner hails from Orleans in France--the town of Joan of Arc—explains the theme. This feast for the eyes complements the cuisine, making for a satisfying evening. My “salade des iles du sud” was a simple but delicious composed circle layered with shredded mango, shrimp, and avocado made tangy with a balsamic dressing.
My dining partner selected a colorful “salade de molinon” featuring spinach with goat cheese, fresh berries, and glazed walnuts.
For entrees it was “bouillabaisse” for him
and “saumon nouvelle Orleans” for me. Though my dish was described as blackened, it was more topped with a tasty peppery sauce.
You don't see a souffle on a menu every day, so even though I’d been advised that the “fraisier” French strawberry cream cake was a winner, we both opted for the “souffle au grand marnier” and were not disappointed.
On Saturday nights, this hopelessly romantic experience is enhanced further with live violin music.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers