Even Brunch Suffers at Cavallo Point in Sausalito

 Fancy Sunday brunch in a historic fort beneath the Golden Gate Bridge? Count me in.

Brunch Adventure!
My fun, up-for-anything friend Jessica and I picked up our super-sweet pals Jeffrey and Ava, avid brunchers and promoters of the Blow Up dance party at Rickshaw Stop, and we headed out of town to the old military base.

Dressing up for brunch is Fun with a Capital F!

Especially when you're excited to check out THE most hotly anticipated resort property to open in Northern California in years.

Cavallo Point
I've been meaning to check out Cavallo Point, the new eco-resort opened mid-2008 on Fort Baker by Passport Resorts, the folks who run the super-tony, hippie-chic Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur.

(The Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact, in which Clint Eastwood says, "Go ahead--make my day," was filmed in part around Fort Baker, a little closer to the bridge.)

 I loved the Post Ranch Inn. That place sets the bar for pampering *pretty* high.

With such a pedigree, brunch on the view-soaked veranda (or even in the adjacent dining room) at Murray Circle--Cavallo Point's posh dining room--should be something else.

Meh. It was fine.

The Chronicle's Michael Bauer gave Murray Circle's chef Joseph Humphrey 3 stars in July 2008 despite spotty service, but reports from user review sites note that the prix fixe tasting menu at dinner might not necessarily be worth the investment, so brunch seemed the obvious choice, especially on a sunny day.

While the food was ok--not amazing (only a lovely poached cod with brussels sprouts and parsnip puree really shone)--I'm sorry to report that the service was so discombobulated, amateurish, and puzzling, frankly, that we didn't even feel comfortable having dessert there.

To the Spa!
So we took a stroll around the property, with eyes toward the day spa and its patio with a heated basking pool.

Leisure hounds should note that there's no cocktail service at the pool; it's a healing center. The upside? None of the potentially obnoxious distractions of a traditional hotel pool deck are present.

However, after 3pm, neither is the sun. Once the sun drops behind the steep hill into which the spa facility is tucked, it's curtains for sun worshipping.

However, the fire is a nice touch and the spa seems well-appointed. We'll come back for a $140/hr massage some other time when an indulgence is called for, and when we've had an earlier start to the day.

One More Try
We decided to give Cavallo Point one more shot and hit the comfy, Smith + Hawken-ish seating on the sundeck adjacent to the Murray Circle building for a bottle of something bubbly.

They don't offer service out there, so we sent an envoy inside to Farley Bar to bring back an Iron Horse sparkling wine.

Here's the Rub
After a long wait, the bottle was brought out with four large Burgundy glasses--you know, big old red wine glasses. "Oh," my friend said, "Actually, we'll need Champagne flutes."

At which point--I kid you not--the employee responded by holding the bottle out in front of her and pointing to the words "Sparkling Wine," noting that the bottle was not a Champagne. All my friend could stammer in reply before returning to the sundeck empty-handed was, "You're absolutely right."

Seriously? Really?

*This* is who you've got manning the ship at a restaurant and bar that has bottles on its list that are literally hundreds and even thousands of dollars in price?

Imagine if a high-roller with a temper had the same experience? I mean, we're just some globetrotting city kids up for the day to enjoy brunch and a round of local bubbly in the sunshine--no way are we going to be this resort's toughest customers.

Unfortunately, it's apparent that the service program at Murray Circle is desperately in need of retooling. I can't recommend dining there at this point; at high-end resort prices, you expect a certain level of service.

The Verdict
For my local fancy tourist dollar, I'll be escaping down to the Four Seasons in Silicon Valley, where there's a fab restaurant, a sweet outdoor pool deck (mit cocktails, dahling), and that consistently excellent--if a bit robotic--Four Seasons service that always significantly muffles the sound of vacation dollars flying out of one's pocketbook (or murse, for that matter).

There's no sweeping view of the bay down there, however. So if that's what you want...

...A round of cocktails on the deck at Sam's in Tiburon (where the service is salty, thorough, and quick!) can be a wonderfully corrective measure.

photos: TB


  1. Cheers and good day kind people!

    I am from Cavallo Point, and thought I would drop a line in regards to your trip over the bridge. There isn't really an excuse for much of your experience, but we do have news!

    We are improving all the time, but you obviously saw us at one of our down moments (to say the least). The buffet brunch had been one of the biggest issues for us, beyond the obvious need to gel our service levels. Now... our brunch is no more! We are changing over to a la carte and more traditional breakfast service, due in part to people with a voice like yourself. So thanks for helping us!


    With one of the best wine lists I have ever seen... accessible, challenging, incredible (our sommelier is 28), your stemware debacle sounded surreal.

    Actually, that was *OUR* stemware debacle, that you were intruded on with. Oh my.

    I have no words for that other than this:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH. We really appreciate the relation of the experience, and this is the only way we will get through our typical growing pains to become part of the community, and aware of our challenges. It is obvious I will be taking this back to the staff.

    What's more is that your blog is wry, witty, and fun. Your experience, as challenging as it was, became an enjoyable read. I appreciate the honesty coming from a talented writer.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together... we learn a lot from it.

    Trust me that you will be pleased next time you come back. Please contact me at your leisure in regards to that! If not to help with spa bookings, possibly just general questions or banter!

    Be well, and we hope to see you back soon.


    Michael H.

  2. Thanks, Michael, for your thoughtful response! So rad!

  3. Yikes. Glad I haven't bothered to make the trek out there yet. Sounds like they are not worth the drive (and need a reminder that they are in the customer service industry as well -- burgundy gasses for your sparkling wine? please.)

  4. Two comments:

    1: Great, well-balanced, thoughtful and informative post. Thanks for sharing this with us, and for the quality writing throughout your site.

    2: I also want to add compliments to Michael for the way that Cavallo Point responds to online (and offline) feedback.

    Hearing criticism always hurts, especially when you've pouring your heart and soul into something. Hearing thoughtful and eloquent criticism is even worse, because you know you're dealing with a sincere customer and not an online "troll."

    Responding opemly to criticism and learning from it is how good places get great, and how new places find their creative and commercial roots.

    So bravo for both the post and the comment!

  5. Thanks, ED -- I deeply appreciate your comment!


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