About Cliff HouseFor nearly a century and a half, the Cliff House has been one of The City’s most familiar and beloved landmarks. Generations of San Franciscans have brought visiting friends and relatives to this spot to show off the glorious westernmost part of the city. Drawn here by the spectacular ocean views and the waves crashing along the rocky shore, they often stopped in at the restaurant for a hot meal after a blustery walk on Ocean Beach, or to watch a particularly lovely sunset over a glass of wine.
What most people don’t realize is that the Cliff House has just begun its fourth incarnation. The plain first structure, built in 1863, was succeeded by an improbably large, turreted Victorian building perched wildly far out on the Point Lobos cliff. Though it survived the 1906 earthquake, the all-wood structure burned down the following year. (Luckily, almost no one was there because it was closed for renovations!) In 1909, a simple neoclassical cement version was constructed, but over the years that building was obscured by numerous renovations and accretions. Well, that Cliff House—which is the one most of us remember—has undergone a complete restoration, and it’s now more captivating than ever for a wedding or special event.
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The 1909 building at the core has been uncovered and restored, and the new Sutro Wing on the north side (named for the famous public bathhouse that flourished on this site in the early 1900s) has been designed as an upscale restaurant. This clever addition’s two-story windows frame the truly breathtaking views, while an opalescent floor-to-ceiling sea-glass mosaic reflects the shimmery light of the ocean and evokes the pearly inside of an abalone shell. An exhibition kitchen, which expands the open feeling, is visible from nearly everywhere in the room. Two large Italian ceramic panels, which depict ladies bathing and once hung in the Sutro Baths, have been restored and now grace the restaurant.
The completely separate Terrace Room in the 1909 section, however, is the place for weddings. All of the glories of a Pacific sunset to the west and misty Ocean Beach stretching southward can be viewed through floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. If you hold your ceremony on the private Terrace, you’ll have the beach and the Pacific as your backdrop while you face Seal Rock. Afterwards, invite your guests inside the Terrace Room for cocktails followed by dinner and dancing. A palette of muted sand dune tones is carried through the chairs, carpet and window treatments; seven large framed mirrors run along the wall opposite the windows, brightening the room and reflecting the view. (Consider having your cake table in front of one of the mirrors.) There’s often an extended dusk here—the kind you get when you’re out at sea. With any luck, that lingering glow will illuminate the room all during your reception. An adjacent dedicated kitchen turns out updated classic cuisine for your private party, so there’s no conflict with restaurant dining.
Come rediscover this uniquely San Franciscan treasure. Its mesmerizing clifftop location and exceptional sea (and seal!) views make it well worth the trip.
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