Great Night Out In San Francisco
God I love San Francisco. The first time I came was in 1984, and I’ve been every year since and always have a good time. Kicking off at the House of Prime Rib on Van Ness and Washington, a tawny, panelled place like Simpson’s or Rules in London, things started well.
The place is packed, the buzz of conversation is exhilarating, the charming young waitress seems to understand the needs of middle-aged gentlemen on a spree, and the Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon is first class. Close your eyes and you’d think it’s a decent Bordeaux. Someone who knows tells me the Napa Valley producers price their wines high because the US consumer believes quality equates with price. Not Benziger. At $39 in a restaurant it’s a bargain. The Henry VIII cut of prime rib is just magnificent and the creamed spinach which goes with it is delicious. Well-fuelled, we decide we need some beer to wash it all down and the charming young waitress goes off and comes back with the name of a brewery. So that’s how we come to be at the San Francisco Brewing Company on Columbus and Pacific. Walking in, your heart lifts with a wonderful sense of freedom. There’s no pissy podium with some oily creature asking to ‘seat’ you. You walk in past battered chairs and tables on a floor wet with unidentifiable liquids and up to a magnificent wooden bar. Behind the bar, the wall is covered by a massive, ornate, superbly fashioned piece of wooden furniture, and this is matched by a similar piece on the opposite wall. Above is a weirdly wonderful and totally useless air-conditioning system turned by a chain drive. The magnificent Irish barman tells us that the whole shooting match was destined for Singapore early last century, but a cock-up at the UK Foreign Office got it shipped to San Francisco instead, and it ended up in this wonderful brewery. We sit outside on the pavement, sip a hoppy little IPA, and watch the world go by. All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, but there’s more to come. Music is the next item on the agenda, and we light out for the Gold Dust Saloon just off Union Square. A genial three piece combo bashes out the old favourites, and we sing along. What a nice night. Thank you San Francisco.