BERKELEY’s BEST ●Hotels
image courtesy of venue
Claremont Club & Spa, a Fairmont Hotel 41 Tunnel Rd., at Ashby Ave./Domingo Ave. 9 stories; 276 rooms. 3 heated pools; hot tub; 4 saunas; 2 steam rooms; full-service spa; fitness room; ?10 tennis courts (fee; 6 with night lights). 4 restaurants; room service. Resort fee $28/night. Pets ok. 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 was rebranded to Fairmont in 2015 and has been redecorated in a tasteful contemporary style accented with contemporary art.
The lobby has an assortment of conversation areas, and a sabre bottle opening of Champagne is held there every afternoon. Just off the lobby, the Lobby Lounge and Bar offers the hotel’s famous views along with live music, while the colorful adjacent Hillary Tenzing Room celebrates the first climbers to summit Mt. Everest--Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay--and serves afternoon tea on weekends.
A brand new amenity is Edie, the Canine Ambassador. She hangs out in the lobby by the check-in desk, welcoming people as only a sweet dog can (she’s a Boxer mix and was formerly at the Fairmont Pittsburgh). A free 30-minuted Art and History Tour is available by appointment.
The hotel now provides all the amenities of a resort, but in an urban setting. Some guest rooms boast a Jacuzzi tub for two and views of San Francisco, others have charm from the past—a deep closet here, a vintage tub there. Some rooms have soaking tubs, and the go-for-broke Tower Suite includes a private roof deck with stunning views.
The hotel’s 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 basement spa features a whirlpool with a view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, a therapeutic “deluge” shower, 32 treatment rooms, and a hair and nail salon. The resort fee covers guest use of the wet facilities (saline whirlpools, saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms). The Club offers a fitness center with classes, tennis courts, swimming pools, and the casual Bayview Cafe (B-L daily). Additionally, the Kids’ Club provides childcare and holiday camps.
The romantic, upscale Meritage restaurant is currently CLOSED.
The more casual, bistro-style Limewood Bar & Restaurant (L-D daily) also offers a great bay view plus seating in the entry bar, outside on an expansive terrace, and inside in booths and at an assortment of tables--including one long communal table with a view of the open kitchen. The menu is short and changes regularly. Dinner begins with superb chewy-crusted sourdough bread from the local Acme bakery, It is possible to make a light dinner of just the canapes, think Devils on horseback (Medjool dates, blue cheese, pancetta), scallion-cheddar hushpuppies with honey butter, fried eggplant rounds with green goddess dressing. Cocktails include a colorful and thirst-quenching Tequila-based Kumquat Smash, and a classic Southern rye-absinthe Sazerac. Appetizers include a very green, dill-dominated chilled cucumber gazpacho, and a fresh and light sprouting broccoli salad with burrata and delicious, crispy toasted shallots. Among the choices for mains are a tasty roasted wild ling cod with asparagus and caramelized onions, and a chicken with seaweed butter and baby turnips. Sandwiches and a burger are available at lunch (the house Grass-fed Beef Burger is also available from the bar menu and by request during dinner service.. A colorful strawberry shortcake with Bourbon-soaked berries makes a choice ending. More images.