Normally I shun restaurants at hotels. They have a captive audience that's often oblivious to paying premium prices for boring, convenient food. A surprising exception is the Laurel Court at the SF Fairmont Hotel.
The Fairmont completed an $85 million renovation in April 2001 and its classical elegance is an oasis among the trendy, minimalist, and loud. Think of this as a quick excursion to nobility in 18th or 19th century England or France.
I savored a lobster and a cobb salad. The lobster was delicate and fresh. The greens included endive, frisee and a few others. There were probably some tomatoes in this careful composition as well. Bringing the vegetables and seafood (or blue cheese and bacon) together was a harmonious ivory salad dressing which was definitely freshly made. Accompanying the green fest was a hot, crusty loaf of sourdough whole wheat bread. How soulful and vibrant compared to the inert, cold, bland white breads that shamefully belie "bread as the staff of life". Bizarre that restaurants even bother to wrap cold breads in a cloth.
Dessert was an apple tart the size of a dinner plate. Could have served 4 basketball players. A scoop of vanilla cinnamon ice cream crowned carefully arrayed concentric circles of thin apple slices. For creme brulee fans, the waitress mentioned that their creme brulee was made with duck eggs for richness.
The service was attentive and efficient. Prices were more reasonable than at most landmark hotels. The salads ranged from $9-12 and desserts were $6.
The Laurel Court restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. For dinner, you would have to leave Europe and go to the Fairmont's Tonga room.