What’s the best thing about brunch? Mimosas. And the best thing about mimosas? Champagne. So thanks be to the brilliant minds at Silks, the stunning dining room inside the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, which has given the world the build-your-own Champagne cocktail bar. For $20, guests can enjoy endless Champagne cocktails they’ve designed themselves at the restaurant’s Sunday brunch. Guests can create their cocktails from a rather lengthy list of recommended recipes or go rogue and put together their own bubbly concoctions with an impressive spread of accoutrements.
We took the bar for a spin and started out with the more traditional: a sugar cube, a few dashes of bitters, and a lemon twist.
Before enjoying dessert, I was already fantasizing about visiting the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona on the Paseo de Gracia (the city’s most prestigious address), featuring interiors by renowned Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola; or the Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma in Marrakech, due to open at the end of this year. The 161 rooms all in riad-style are set in 53 acres, of which a whopping 38,000 square feet are devoted to the spa. Remember the “Abu Dhabi” hotel in Sex & the City 2? It was actually shot at the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech; a great starring role for a hotel not open yet.
The first time I met chef Pierre Gagnaire was on a cruise ship crossing from Dakar, Senegal to San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. A “Croisière Gourmande” had been organized with chefs including Jacques Chibois. Alain Dutournier, Michel Bras, and many more. It must have been some time ago, as I think I was still under the legal drinking age!
At the time, I gave Pierre Gagnaire the nickname “The Salvador Dali of Gastronomy,” and it still holds true today. His renderings are creative, dramatic, somewhat crazy, unexpected, phantasmagoric, with a genius touch. But the catch is you either love it or hate it; and always at a high price, just like Dali. A 2005 menu from his eponymous restaurant in Paris I keep in my office offers a perfect illustration: a casserole of chestnuts and topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke), with a crème chocolatée de panais (carrots’ cousin) served with a gâteau de foie blond and truffle, at a staggering € 143!
Since the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco is located in the third tallest commercial building in the City by the Bay, guests are sure to be getting a view—if the fog is gone. The day I went, the fog was obviously not there. And, I have to admit, I stayed in my room much longer to tour the city from my bed instead of from the streets.
At lunchtime, I arose to experience the cuisine of chef Rick Bartram at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Silks. There is no view from there, so diners can concentrate all of their attention on his cuisine: modern, light and elegantly spiced, blending local organic ingredients with flavors of the East where Bartram has worked in the past. Discover it below in pictures, before heading there yourselves.