image courtesy of venue
Claremont Resort & Spa 41 Tunnel Rd., at Ashby Ave./Domingo Ave. 6 stories; 279 room. 2 heated pools; hot tub; 4 saunas; 2 steam rooms; full-service spa; fitness room; 10 tennis courts (fee; 6 with night lights). 2 restaurants; room service. Resort fee. Parking fee. Built originally by a Kansas farmer who struck it rich and wanted to fulfill his wife’s dream of living in a home resembling an English castle, the first incarnation of this hotel burned to the ground in 1901. The current Victorian hotel, built in 1915, once charmed architect Frank Lloyd Wright into describing it as “. . . one of the few hotels in the world with warmth, character and charm.” The hotel now provides all the amenities of a resort, but in an urban setting. Some rooms boast Jacuzzi tubs for two and views of San Francisco, others have charm from the past—a deep closet here, a vintage tub there. The hotel’s two pools and hot tub are surrounded by several long rows of chaise lounges--looking like something out of sunny Southern California or Hawaii, but certainly not Berkeley. The spa features a hot tub with a view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, 2 silent flotation tanks, a therapeutic “deluge” shower, and 32 treatment rooms. Additionally, a kids’ activity center permits dropping them off for a few hours of fun and games.
Romantic Meritage at the Claremont provides a menu of contemporary California cuisine that includes a fixed-price four-course tasting menu—think Champagne-poached pear salad, yellow-fin tuna tartare, oxtail rillette with persimmon gelee, and Elvis bread pudding with peanut butter ice cream and maple bacon. The food is enhanced with an extensive selection of wines. Comfortable chairs invite sitting back and enjoying the spectacular bay view as well as the dramatic high-ceilinged interior dining room. Sunday brunch is an extravagant buffet of salads, fresh fruit, seafood, and meats. It includes a design-your-own-omelette station and a dessert table laden with fine cakes, chocolate éclairs, chocolate fondue, and several flavors of mousse. Live music is scheduled on Sunday evenings.
Paragon Bar & Café is more casual, with a comfortable bar area providing live entertainment Thursday through Sunday evenings. The bar makes specialty cocktails and pours more than 75 vodkas. The dining room has a transitional area of communal tables, with traditional unshared tables in the back—all with impressive bay views. The American brasserie menu has included a flavorful roasted beet salad and a tasty, satisfying orecchiette consisting of housemade fennel sausage, cauliflower, and cute little cap-shaped pasta. A burger is always on the menu and a reliably good choice, and butter-pecan bread pudding is a favorite dessert.