A Love Letter to San Francisco: The Jay Hotel

Though not entirely evident to the casual observer, San Francisco’s newest luxury hotel is a decadent and inspired homage to some of the city’s most iconic yet under-the-radar creatives. Close inspection within The Jay reveals the influence of celebrated artist Ruth Asawa, respected architect John Portman, and counterculture fashion idol Peggy Caserta, each of whom forever left their mark on the City by the Bay. The Jay, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, celebrates the trio’s unrelated artistic contributions via design details that combine to produce a hospitality option that’s relaxed, sophisticated, and inviting.

The Embarcadero site was formerly a Park Hyatt, and most recently a Le Meridien. After a multi-million dollar makeover, The Jay seems to have captured a vibe and tenor that resonates with both locals and visitors. Adjacent to the financial district and Jackson Square, The Jay is within walking distance to San Francisco’s main leisure attractions such as Chinatown, the Ferry Building, the California Street cable cars, Oracle Park, Union Square, and Fisherman’s Wharf. But guests might find no need to venture forth, once they get a glimpse of The Jay’s expansive third floor terrace. Featuring private nooks surrounded by native plants, fire pits, windbreaks, a retractable pergola, and a full bar, this outdoor space is utterly unique.

The Jay Patio

Inside, the nods to Asawa, Portman, and Caserta reveal themselves within the furnishings, décor, and color palette. Design studio AvroKO replicated Portman’s signature “Brutalist” style (the most overt example of which is the hotel’s concrete and stone exterior itself and the adjacent Embarcadero towers) via the hotel’s shower tiles, relief-panel screens, and upholstery patterns. AvroKO softened the effect with the use of calming neutral shades and soft, bouclé upholstery fabrics. All furniture within The Jay is custom, and the rounded plushness of couches and chairs within the spacious 360 guest rooms and suites contrasts artfully with the building’s angular windows that afford almost every room a skyline view. For the most spectacular vistas, book The Nest, the hotel’s top-floor, 1,660 sq. ft. penthouse suite. All guest rooms feature plush, hooded robes, bespoke bath amenities, and Bay-made mini-bar items such as TCHO chocolate, Miette cookies, and St. George gin. (The Bay allegiance is further illustrated via the Equator coffee served at the lobby adjacent coffee bar.)

Studio suite at The Jay

Asawa was known for her ethereal wire weavings of repetitive design. Her influence is felt in the hotel’s earthy woods, varied textures, and sculptural shapes. A replica of one of her weavings hangs from the ceiling in a corner of The Nest, and her biography can be found on the coffee table in every room. Caserta, founder of the Haight-Ashbury boutique Mnasidika and confidante of rock icon Janis Joplin, is represented in the hotel’s conference rooms, the walls of which feature the bold colors and patterns for which she was known.

A central lounge area links The Jay’s function spaces
Lobby and arrival area at The Jay

In addition to the hotel’s welcoming terrace, The Jay’s interiors encourage guests to gather. The third floor lobby and check-in (accessed via elevator or striking circular staircase) opens to varied seating and a central, black granite bar. Seeking a bit more privacy? Look behind the bar for the small hidden lounge with tufted leather banquette. The Jay’s restaurant, The Third Floor, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is overseen by the acclaimed Omakase Restaurant Group and Executive Chef Michael Magallanes, whose menu blends California seasonal cuisine with Asian influences. Menu standouts include the little gems lettuce salad with its sesame goddess dressing, the lightly tempura battered and fried cauliflower, and the seared black cod. And of the list of creatively crafted signature cocktails, the Maison Jay, the restaurant’s take on a classic Old Fashioned, more than hit the spot with its blend of Suntory AO whiskey, Remy VSOP, shiso-demerara syrup, angostura and orange bitters.

The Jay Bar Lounge

For those seeking further entertainment and amusement, The Jay’s award-winning Les Clefs d’Or professionals are “friends-in-the-know,” and are able to advise on any and all interests, from boutique shopping secrets to best urban hikes to the flakiest croissant. Their love of San Francisco is contagious, as is The Jay’s warm hospitality.

The Jay, 433 Clay St., San Francisco

Photos courtesy of The Jay

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.