Ben Ainslie’s foodie ports of call in San Francisco

The sailing champion reveals his favourite gourmet hangouts

Ben Ainslie out on San Francisco Bay
Ben Ainslie out on San Francisco Bay | Image: David Ash

I’ve always loved this city: the harbour and surrounding landscape are beautiful. The Embarcadero district, which is near to the ferry piers and encompasses the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, is a favourite spot to hang out and eat, and the St Francis Yacht Club, which is a real sailors’ club, has lots of boating activities and racing on the water. 1 Ferry Building, CA 94111 (+1415-983 8030; ferrybuildingmarketplace.com).

Sam’s Anchor Café on the waterfront offers excellent American seafood
Sam’s Anchor Café on the waterfront offers excellent American seafood | Image: Alamy
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Another regular haunt of America’s Cup sailors is a pub called The Tipsy Pig in the Marina district. It’s a classic gastrotavern serving fantastic food, but is very casual. 2231 Chestnut Street, CA 94213 (+1415-292 2300; thetipsypigsf.com).

The Sand Dollar Restaurant plays live bluegrass and jazz at lunchtime and in the early evening
The Sand Dollar Restaurant plays live bluegrass and jazz at lunchtime and in the early evening | Image: Getty
Dungeness crab and avocado toast is one of the delicious dishes on the Parkside Café menu
Dungeness crab and avocado toast is one of the delicious dishes on the Parkside Café menu

As well as restaurants and bars, the Marina has lots of delicatessens and shops around Chestnut Street. The California Wine Merchant, which both serves and sells, is worth a stop. It is, of course, very knowledgeable about Californian wines and its Merlots are particularly drinkable. 2113 Chestnut Street, CA 94123 (+1415-567 0646; californiawinemerchant.com).

Ozumo offers modern Japanese cuisine and enjoys breathtaking bay views
Ozumo offers modern Japanese cuisine and enjoys breathtaking bay views
Dohyo – a spicy tuna tartare with avocado, cucumber and wasabi oil – is one of the dishes served at Ozumo
Dohyo – a spicy tuna tartare with avocado, cucumber and wasabi oil – is one of the dishes served at Ozumo

Another favourite haunt is Sam’s Anchor Café on the waterfront in Tiburon, which you can access by car or boat – ferries leave from the Ferry Building. You can sit on the outside decking and enjoy the views of the marina, Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline. It is a very family-oriented place and a great spot to visit at the weekend to enjoy first-class American seafood and a bottle of local Sonoma wine – the most perfect way to spend a relaxed weekend afternoon with friends. 27 Main Street, Tiburon, CA 94920 (+1415-435 4527; samscafe.com).

The Tonga Room restaurant, in the Fairmont hotel, serves Asian Pacific Rim cuisine within its exotic surrounds
The Tonga Room restaurant, in the Fairmont hotel, serves Asian Pacific Rim cuisine within its exotic surrounds
The Tonga Room also offers great cocktails, including this Rainmaker
The Tonga Room also offers great cocktails, including this Rainmaker

It’s amazing to get up early at the weekend and ride across the Golden Gate, over Mount Tamalpais – which is more than 780m above sea level – to Stinson Beach for breakfast or brunch. It is a big ride but equally accessible, and beautiful, by car, and the reward is a really long, gorgeous beach. Stinson has a few great cafés, such as the Sand Dollar Restaurant, where they play live bluegrass and jazz at lunchtime and in the early evening, or the more low-key Parkside Café. Parkside Café, 43 Arenal Avenue, Stinson Beach, CA 94970 (+1415-868 1272; parksidecafe.com). Sand Dollar Restaurant, 3458 Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach, CA 94970 (+1415-868 0434). 

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One of my top recommendations for dinner is Ozumo – a serene, understated restaurant in the Embarcadero district with breathtaking bay views. It’s very friendly and serves mostly modern Japanese cuisine. It’s worth trying the Dohyo – a spicy tuna tartare with avocado, cucumber and wasabi oil – and one of its premium sakes, for which it’s famous. It’s very popular and almost always busy, but you can also sit in the more capacious sushi bar. 161 Steuart Street, CA 94105 (+1415-882 1333; ozumo.com).

The city has several lovely hotels, such as the majestic Fairmont on top of Nob Hill, which is very luxurious. It has the Tonga Room, which, with its exotic tropical decor and pool, seems out of place in such a grand old hotel. It is one of the city’s most popular hotspots, offering Asian Pacific Rim cuisine, and its bar is great for cocktails or a nightcap: it has really good DJs and live entertainment. Fairmont, 950 Mason Street, CA 94108 (+1844-307 2951; fairmont.com). Tonga Room, +1415-772 5278; tongaroom.com.

Then there is the Taj Campton Place, a boutique hotel in Stockton Street that has been around for just about forever. For years its bar-bistro has been a local watering hole, and it’s still excellent. 340 Stockton Street, CA 94108 (+1415-781 5555; tajhotels.com).

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