San Francisco has a dearth of hotel options. Initially, I had almost ended up staying in the Tenderloin district but soon changed after an SF local warned us not to. After much searching, we settled on Kimpton The Alton Hotel which is part of IHG’s Kimpton collection of hotels.
This is the second Kimpton property I’ve stayed in, the other being Kimpton Vividora in Barcelona, and I’ve been impressed by them. Kimpton is a loosely affiliated chain of boutique hotels across the globe which depart from the cookie-cutter style of other IHG brands. When you stay at a Kimpton, the look and feel at every property varies with them often introducing a local style to their design – often with a price premium to match.
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After a late arrival into San Francisco, we headed straight across to Kimpton The Alton’s home in Fisherman’s Wharf on the north tip of the peninsula. Set back two streets from the Wharf’s admittedly Disney-like promenade, Kimpton The Alton is situated within a renovated building. I can imagine that this was either an office block or motel-type hotel prior to opening in Spring 2021.
The entrance is situated in an extension that links the two primary wings of the hotel. When we arrived, the front door was locked, and we waited around five minutes for a member of staff to let us in which was not ideal considering a storm had just arrived in the city (the photo below was taken the following day). To the right of the entrance is a ‘fusion’ Filipino-Californian restaurant called Abacá where breakfast, which was not included the room rate on our visit.
The lobby area is spread out across the ground floor with a modern design alongside plentiful greenery that creates a welcoming space. The ceilings are quite low which does make the space less open, but the hotel has done a decent job with their lighting to ensure the space doesn’t feel cramped.
Check in was dealt with swiftly once we had been able to get into the hotel. The member of staff advised us that we had a room credit of around USD 15 per night, thanks to booking through AmEx Travel, which could be put towards purchases from the small and overpriced hotel shop but not the Abacá restaurant.
After heading up in a rickety lift to the third floor, we arrived at our room. We had booked a King Essential room and received an upgrade to a King Premium at check-in, due to the AmEx Travel benefits. The actual difference is quite small besides an additional ~30 sqft of space and amenities mostly being the same. The room itself was quite large and big enough for two people with three suitcases.
As this was our first time in San Francisco, we looked to make the most of the city and needed to get a good sleep before adventuring around the following day. The bed is more than suitable with a comfortable mattress featuring a suitable amount of firmness and enough pillows (take note hotels that only provide two pillows).
Sufficient lighting is found around the bed including lamps above the side tables and in the corners of the room. Despite a continuation of the low ceilings from the lobby alongside a lack of ceiling lights, the room never felt particularly dark as you might expect it to. The side tables feature integrated sockets and USB charging on both sides.
Towards the window, a large desk features alongside a feature chair that certainly stands out amongst the white colours of the room and bed. I didn’t need to use the desk while here but I can imagine this being an effective place to get work done considering the speedy internet speeds available over WiFi. A mini fridge sits to the left of the chair and doesn’t feature any hotel-provided refreshments meaning you bring you own drinks and not be penalised for doing so.
Alongs from this is the novel record player which is designed to make people think how quirky the Kimpton brand is. A bit of an odd addition but they did at least provide some records you could play!
My main gripe with this room was the poor choice of fabric for the curtain. The hotel opted for a thin white fabric to provide cover for the windows. While this obscures guests when getting changed, it is quite different from black out blinds and one can visibly see how poor it is at blocking light out. If there is one thing this hotel should do immediately, it is to replace these curtains or provide at least secondary curtain that better blocks out light.
A lonely armchair and stool complete this corner of the room alongside a triangular table that I hit my shins on several times. It wasn’t that comfortable, but it did provide somewhere other than the bed for somebody to sit on when watching a bit of American television. The television worked and was on par with any other recently refurbished property. Storage drawers can be found underneath the television with room to fit clothes for a lengthy stay.
An open clothes rack can be found near to the entrance of the room and next to the bathroom door. I prefer wardrobe areas that can be closed but it’s clearly not going to impact my hotel experience that drastically if a property doesn’t feature my preference.
And finally, the bathroom feels as though it has been designed to attract the Instagram generation with its bright mirror lights, pastel colours, metallic accents, and marble-effect sink. The bathroom was perfectly clean on our arrival while the water supply to the room had sufficient pressure and temperature. The latter was sorely needed following long days out as I had underestimated the weather in San Francisco in late-April – a rookie mistake.
The property uses Atelier Bloem supplies in the bathroom which were created for the Kimpton chain by Malin and Goetz. They are said to be ‘inspired’ by a ‘bike ride through a Dutch flower market’ for this ‘incredible line of revitalizing shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion’. While I can’t quite produce the hyperbole to describe them in that way, they certainly feel premium and lacked the itchiness that some in-hotel supplies provide.
Food, drinks, and amenities
As noted previously, the in-house restaurant Abacá provides the culinary entertainment for the property. Breakfast was not included in our rate at the hotel, but we did opt to try out some of the fresh bakery items, particularly the Filipino items as I was travelling with my Filipino partner. The menu consisted of both Filipino and Euro-American breakfast staples with both likely to satisfy almost any traveller visiting.
Over the two days, we opted to try the Ensaymada brioche with Ube Macapuno (purple yam and coconut), Bibingka and a plain Ensaymada. While the flavours were adequate, I wouldn’t say the quality was the best and felt like they were lacking something. I would personally save your money and eat at one of the many options available in the city.
Compared to the rest of the ground floor, the restaurant achieves a much more open setting that feels more welcoming thanks to the skylight – which was particularly helped by the beautiful weather.
It is worth noting that Kimpton the Alton offers free filter coffee at this property, and some others, during breakfast hours. It was empty most of the time by domestic visitors who drank it by the gallon, but it is a nice extra to have when you want to start the day with a little caffeine.
Elsewhere on the ground floor, and preferably not straight after breakfast, there is a small but perfectly capable fitness suite. Featuring three Peloton bikes, a rowing machine, treadmills and free weights, this space is a suitable place to get a workout in while travelling. It won’t win any awards but any hotel which features a space to maintain a semblance of healthy living should be commended.
Kimpton The Alton is a modern property in a touristic part of San Francisco which, compared to some of the ageing but comparatively priced competition, provides value for money. While there are certain design aspects of the hotel which should be improved, such as the curtains, the overall offering is good.
It doesn’t make you go ‘wow’ in the way that other properties Kimpton offer do. However, it provides a well-rounded experience for guests to get a good rest in comfort and extra amenities that are appreciated. If you choose to visit San Francisco, have IHG status and are looking for a property in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, you won’t go wrong to stay here.
Of course, while staying at Kimpton The Alton we paid a visit to the wonderful sea lions, the star attraction of the Fisherman’s Wharf!
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