We do our fair share of travel over here, and in this TSA world, it’s pretty exhausting, stressful and ridden with bad food. Having access to a quiet space to recharge and breathe before or in-between flights, makes a huge difference to the travel experience. Try taking a shower on a layover between two 10-hour flights and notice how it counters the discombobulating nature of plane travel. As an American Express card member, I was pretty excited to take a sneak peak at their newest Centurion Lounge at SFO, opening November 6. It’s the first time I’m hearing of a card company having its own lounge at an airport, and in typical Amex fashion, they know a thing or two about service. I don’t usually augment Instagram snaps from a media event with a blog post, but last night’s experience was so darn fine I really had to tell you about it.
Consistent with the other Lounges in their network – currently at Las Vegas, La Guardia and Dallas airports, with Miami on its way in 2015 – the Lounge at SFO maintains the same layout, offering a sound-proof family room, private and communal work stations, tons of power outlets, high-speed Wi-Fi, chaise lounges to nap in, luxury shower suites and a dining area. In a nod to SFO’s proximity to wine country, there’s a ‘wine wall’ at the entrance featuring the best of Napa Valley’s wines, as well as an 18-bottle Wine Emotion ‘tasting bar‘ in the dining room, with selections curated by wine director Anthony Giglio. If wine’s not your thing, perhaps a drink from the cocktail menu developed by renowned mixologist Jim Meehan may satisfy.
Good drinks are just one part of a successful food and beverage program, so American Express partners with renowned chefs in each market to develop the food menus for their Centurion Lounges. There’s Cedric Vongerichten in New York and Scott Conant in Las Vegas. For San Francisco, we’ve got Christopher Kostow - chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood and author of A New Napa Cuisine. Yup, this is an airport lounge menu developed by a Michelin three-star chef – a rather exciting proposition, no?
After sampling the fascinating small bites at cocktail hour: a reimagined kale chip with hints of cumin, coriander and espelette pepper, black olive meringues topped with an olive oil emulsion, matsutake mushroom tempura, shrimp toast with mustard seeds and aioli, dinner was a simpler affair but no less intriguing. We dined on familiar ingredients treated in new ways, such as a salad of mushrooms fermented in kasu, tossed in a charred leek vinaigrette, and pumpkin cooked in goat’s milk butter served up alongside a classic slow-roasted pork shoulder cooked in apple lees vinegar. We finished with a modest bowl of chestnut pudding topped with crumbs of roast chocolate, paired with a glass of Mumm demi-sec. This is the sort of menu I wouldn’t mind missing my flight for.
Happily fed, we were sent home with a host of souvenirs from the evening: a copy of Kostow’s latest book, ultra-cushy eye pillows, a customized passport wallet (illustrated by Annica Lydenberg of The Dirty Bandits), portable charger, earplugs and a leather ‘cord taco’ to help keep those pesky headphone and charging cables in one safe, untangled place. Thanks for a wonderful evening American Express, I can’t wait for my next trip out of Terminal 3!
- SFO’s Centurion Lounge is located at Terminal 3 (by Gate 74) and is open from 5am to 11pm daily.
- Access is complimentary for American Express Centurion and Platinum members and two immediate family members or guests. All other American Express card members are eligible to purchase a one-day pass for $50.
- Preview the lounge menu here.