Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New and Good: Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - The world can always use a good new hotel, especially in Silicon Valley, a subset of the San Francisco Bay Area known for leading-edge high technology if not for great hotels. Oh, there are a few fine ones around, among them the Four Seasons Hotel, on Interstate 101 in East Palo Alto, and the Fairmont Hotel, in downtown San Jose. But cool hotels are not so thick on the ground as microchips.

The Rosewood Sand Hill, which opened in April 2009, aims to change that, and the property is doing its part. My wife and I spent a night there recently, and came away impressed. Guest rooms in the 123-room property are spacious and inviting, the newly planted grounds are graced by attractive olive trees planted underneath with fragrant lavender, the place has a cool bar, an exquisite spa called Sense, and a fine-dining restaurant, Madera, that is first-rate, with an innovative menu and extensive, high-end wine list.

The Rosewood is run by the Dallas luxury operator Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, which also operates New York's Carlyle, the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Jumby Bay resort on Antiqua, among others. The Rosewood Sand Hill is located very close to Interstate 280, the highway that winds along the ridgetops south of San Francisco and north of San Jose. Unlike a number of lesser hotels, the Rosewood Sand Hill thought to sound-proof the windows; you have to press an ear to the pane to hear the freeway's hum. Befitting its name, the Rosewood Sand Hill is located on Sand Hill Road, the near-legendary preferred address of Silicon Valley venture capital firms. The hotel is a mile west of brainiac-rich Stanford University, which owns the hotel. Even closer is the Stanford Shopping Center, fit for all your retail-therapy needs.

We stayed on the second, top floor of a detached townhouse not far from the drive-up main entrance to the hotel, which presides over 16 acres of prime property. Our Rosewood Suite had views of the interstate, which is, of course, prosaic to look at, and woodsy foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which are anything but. The bathroom was big enough to get lost in. We did a bit of walking around the hotel grounds, but our stroll was curtailed by rainy, blustery winter weather. Nevermind, we get the idea; the place is lovely.

As you might expect for a hotel in the heartland of high-tech, guest-room technology is state-of-the-art. I didn't use half of it, my Permian Age tech needs being easily met, but for those who need the latest, the Rosewood Sand Hill is a good choice. I'll let the hotel fact sheet sum it up:

"Technology features include Control14 automation, which uses a single remote to control lighting, room temperature, television, music and video systems. Guests can also use the remote to make service requests such as valet, housekeeping, room service, spa appointments and more. Other in-room technological amenities include the Philips SoundBar, a one-piece integrated audio and video system that delivers full multi-channel surround sound, providing a full home theater experience with excellent sound and picture quality.''

Georgina loved Sense, the Rosewood Spa, where she got a 90-minute Swedish massage. "It was great,'' she said afterward. "They really have their systems down. The spa is beautifully appointed. I loved the massage. The overall spa experience was very sensual. They never dropped the ball, like a lot of spas do.''

Breakfast in the signature restaurant, Madera - bathed in natural light in the morning - is nicely done. Dinner is even better. We supped in Madera after sipping cocktails in the bar just off the restaurant, which was really hopping the Saturday night we stayed. We were expertly guided in choices of wines by Madera's wine director, Paul Mekis. Madera's executive chef, Peter Rudolph, came by to say hello. Rudolph creates lovely food. Emphasizing seasonal, local ingredients, it could be described elegant comfort food. Our dinner, in keeping with the wintery weather outside, was hearty fare. (In summer, guests can nosh out by the pool, too.)

We started off with roasted chestnut soup, pickled quince and candied walnuts. This incredibly tasty appetizer was accompanied by glasses of Cirrus Syrah 2005, from Stellienbosch, South Africa. The nicely fruit-forward wine, produced by a partnership of golfer Ernie Els and Silveroak Winery, was a neat fit. A warm wild mushroom bread salad, baby carrots, deeply savory poached duck egg, chicory, and sherry shallot thyme vingaigrette was smartly paired with a 2003 Domaine Heresztyn Burgundy.

The mains were robust and flavorful. I had seared day boat scallops, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, rapini shoots, apple, turnip and puree huckleberry jus and sipped a glass of 2007 Regis Bouvier "Close du Roy,'' Marsannay blanc, from Burgundy. My wife feasted on Duroc porchetta, roasted autumn root vegtetables, polenta and spigarello and sampled a glass of 2005 Chateau de Fonsalette Reserve Cotes du Rhone. She loved the crackling from Duroc, a heritage pig originally bred in Yorkshire. Suffice it to say, the meal was sublime.

We were too stuffed for sticky, gooey desserts, however appealing they sounded in theory. We shared a selection of California artisan cheeses accompanied by small glasses of 1985 Graham's port. It was the perfect way to finish at this special-occasion restaurant. Time was - not so long ago, maybe 15 years - when hotel food seemed an oxymoron. No more. Now, a fine hotel like the Rosewood Sand Hill can have a fine restaurant, like Madera. It's a welcome evolution.

Opening in the midst of a deep recession is not good timing for a hotel (of course, projects of this nature are in the pipeline for years before they actually open). Already, the Rosewood Sand Hill has joined the small circle of elite hotels in Silicon Valley. Now, if the multimillionaire techies and road warriors will look up from their mobile devices...

The Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel is located at 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 USA, tel. 650.561.1500, e-mail: Web:

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