San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake Gets a Facelift - and Scala’s Restaurant Soars

by Jim Halterman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Dec 19, 2011

While San Francisco in itself is a glorious place to visit whether you're new to the area or have been there any number of times, I recently found an oasis in the midst of the bustling city that quickly became one of my favorite hotels in the Bay Area - the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

And while this is the time of year where you may be worried about buying gifts for others, why not treat yourself to a little escape at the Drake?

Located just steps from Union Square, the Drake, which is a part of the prestigious Kimpton family of hotels, received a beautiful renovation earlier this year that shows in every nook and cranny. In fact, the classic attitude and elegance are still very much intact but has been given a contemporary design that works on every level.

The overall impression whether you're in the lobby, the legendary Harry Denton's Starlight Room or one of its 416 guestrooms, thankfully, is still comfort and that at-home feeling.

Sir Francis Drake Gets a Major Facelift...With Great Results!

Let’s talk about the lobby, which you walk up from the busy streets outside the hotel. The grand staircase alone should tell you you’re in for a posh stay and the first thing you’ll see is a statue of Sir Francis himself where he looks down on patrons enjoying a cocktail at the Bar Drake.

Immediately inviting in spite of the chic décor and vibrant colors that pop with liveliness, the lobby is the perfect place for a before or after dinner drink or to just warm up from the cool San Francisco streets. (If you’ve never been to San Francisco, you’ll quickly find that it can be as cool in December as it is in the middle of July!)

But what about the rooms themselves? Being a boutique hotel, you’ll expect the rooms to not be quite as sprawling as some hotels but the Drake makes the most of every inch of the space and, like the lobby, brings a splash of great color and elegance to every room.

Another perk to the Drake which goes to show the little things go a long way? Take a few seconds (that’s truly all it takes) and join the Kimpton Rewards program and you immediately have free wireless Internet access in your room for your entire stay.

I don’t know about you but as much as I travel, whether it’s an airline, hotel or coffee shop, I always feel cheated when I have to pay extra for access to the web. Thankfully, companies like Kimpton realize that and offer this in every one of their hotels.

Great Deals For The Holiday Season

If you’re venturing to the City by the Bay over the holidays, you’ll find some great deals at the Sir Francis Drake. Now that their year-long renovation is over, the popular "Tea Under The Tree" service is back!

Offered weekends and selected days over the holiday season, you can stop in for a selection of pastries, tea sandwiches and traditional accompaniments. Again, another example of how the Drake blends the past and present with this traditional offering that is perfect for the holidays.

The Winter Escapes are perfect for those of you who want a break from the winter weather in which you may be living. Rates start at a reasonable $149 and with that you’ll receive Deluxe Accommodations where you can take a load off after a day of shopping the Union Square shops.

The Special Holiday package, which costs just $1 more than the best available room rate, includes deluxe room accommodations and two complimentary cocktails of your choice per night of your stay. So, after hosting friends and family at your own holiday party or dinner, this is the perfect excuse to spoil yourself and recover in comfort at the Drake.

Along with its brand new guestrooms and newly redesigned lobby don’t forget to stop at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, San Francisco’s renowned nightclub and lounge Located on the 21st floor, the Starlight room has also reopened its doors to unveil its much-anticipated new look.

Pastry Chef Tim Nugents Talks Dessert At Scala’s Italian Bistro!

While you’ll surely enjoy your stay at the Sir Francis Drake, one other plus is Scala’s Italian Eatery, which is located on the ground level of the hotel and is a must for one of your San Francisco dining experiences. Executive Chef Jen Biesty has an array of delicious meals that are best complimented by Pastry Chef Ted Nugent’s fabulous desserts.

EDGE grabbed a few minutes with Nugent to talk about working with Chef Biesty on the menu as well as the experience of being known as alums of Bravo’s "Top Chef" competition series. (Biesty competed in Season 4 while Nugent was in Season 1 of "Top Chef: Just Desserts")

EDGE: Even though Scala’s is an Italian eatery the desserts aren’t purely Italian. What are the parameters for desserts in an Italian restaurant? Or are there not any?

Tim Nugent: I stick to French and Italian, and above all seasonal and local. You won’t see anything tropical on the menu.

EDGE: How much (or little) do you pay attention to the trends out there in desserts? Or do you try to stay ahead of the curve?

TN: I follow trends but really keep in mind our clientele and also what sells. I try to find a happy medium.

EDGE: I read on the Scala’s website that you like to use locally grown ingredients. Was that something you learned yourself or did you have a mentor that taught you to respect the local growers?

TN: I had a chef mentor who got me to use seasonal and local farmers, and I’ve stuck with it since. It tastes better and I can feel good about supporting small business.

EDGE: How much do you and Jennifer Biesty work together so the meals and the desserts have a sense of harmony?

TN: Jen and I do most all the menus together. Two brains are better than one and we work really well together.

EDGE: You’re very present in LGBT causes and events in San Francisco. Is being out an easy thing to be in the restaurant business overall or does it help that you’re in San Francisco?

TN: Oh hell, I’ve been out for years. Career-wise in or out has nothing to do with it. Maybe that has to do with being in San Francisco, but I don’t think so.

EDGE: In the pastry/restaurant community, how is being an alumnus of "Top Chef" perceived? Do pastry chefs in the business respect the show?

TN: I think a lot of people actually do watch and respect the show.

For more on Scala Bistro, visit

To make your reservation for a stay at the Sir Francis Drake in San Francisco, visit

For holiday specials at the Drake, visit

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.


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