24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Palomar, San Francisco

In comparison with some other grand San Francisco hotels, the Palomar might seem a little disappointing at first sight: no plush lounges, no swanky bar, no glamorous people. But appearances can be deceptive. At ground-floor level there is nothing more than a discreet reception desk; the glamour doesn't start until you get five floors up. Step out of the lift and you're in a different world: all understated elegance and geometric lines. Carpets and furnishing have all been tastefully designed, and the bar is as stylish as any in the city; it's just that it's more difficult for the common tourist to wander in. But the restaurant is the real treat: you will need a reservation to get a table for dinner, though if you don't book ahead your room key is enough to get you to the top of the waiting list.

In comparison with some other grand San Francisco hotels, the Palomar might seem a little disappointing at first sight: no plush lounges, no swanky bar, no glamorous people. But appearances can be deceptive. At ground-floor level there is nothing more than a discreet reception desk; the glamour doesn't start until you get five floors up. Step out of the lift and you're in a different world: all understated elegance and geometric lines. Carpets and furnishing have all been tastefully designed, and the bar is as stylish as any in the city; it's just that it's more difficult for the common tourist to wander in. But the restaurant is the real treat: you will need a reservation to get a table for dinner, though if you don't book ahead your room key is enough to get you to the top of the waiting list.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Hotel Palomar, 12 Fourth Street, San Francisco, California (001 415 348 1111; www.hotelpalomar.com) - right in the heart of the downtown district, just off Market Street and handy for the fancy shops in Union Square. The cable-car terminus is just up the road on the corner of Powell Street, and streetcars pass the door.

Time to international airport: the 18-mile journey to SFO takes about 25 minutes by taxi ($35/£23) and the same by BART train ($4.70/£3.15).

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

The minimalist approach is taken to extremes; even the television and CD player are hidden away in cupboards, placed on pull-out shelves so that they are easy to operate. There is a choice of street view or a room overlooking the interior Zen garden; either is fine, and as all the windows are sealed it's beautifully quiet wherever you are.

The best rooms are the suites, each with a vast Jacuzzi tub that takes up most of the bathroom. But the basic rooms - known at the Palomar as "king deluxe" - are lovely too, and you can always book yourself an in-room massage as a special treat.

Freebies: Aveda bath products, and there is a free newspaper every morning. Rooms are also equipped with a hairdryer, iron and board and a bathrobe.

Keeping in touch: every room has TV, radio, a cordless phone, internet socket, and a combined fax, copier and printer.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles start at $219 (£145), although the rates change from day to day.

I'm not paying that: there are plenty of other hotels nearby, although many are expensive: it's that kind of district. Best value is the Hotel Bijou, a couple of blocks away at 111 Mason Street (001 415 771 1200), where double rooms start at $95 (£65), which includes continental breakfast.

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