It’s a handsome mix of modern and vintage design, inside and out. The exterior is built to look like several old and new buildings joined together, so it fits seamlessly into the old neighborhood. What strikes me first when I arrive is the complete absence of a lobby. Given that the hotel has 300-plus rooms, I expected to find a grand gathering space at the entrance. Instead I discover but a small foyer with two leather sofas in front of a fireplace, more like a residence than a hotel. The front desk (in an adjacent vestibule) takes up more square footage than the actual lobby. It’s a very intimate first impression.
The key reason for this might be because the hotel operates several restaurants and bars, all on ground level with street access as well as internal hotel entrances. Despite the virtually nonexistent lobby, Pendry does not lack places to meet or gather. The most popular is Provisional, a contemporary belle époque bistro with high ceilings and lots of interesting dining vignettes, including plush sofas, communal tables and even a dedicated coffee nook.
My time at the hotel was extremely brief, just one night and less than 24 hours, so Provisional was the only one of the hotel’s various restaurants that I got to visit. Dinner here was good. Breakfast was better. But neither was particularly outstanding.
We checked into a city-view deluxe king. It’s a small but comfortable room with a pretty aesthetic whose colors and patterns remind me of Ralph Lauren. The bed, the linens, the pillows, the plaid settee are all perfectly luxurious. I sleep very well in rooms like this. And the amenities — from toiletries to bottled cocktails — are all first-rate. Unfortunately the bathrooms are way too small. For a modern hotel recently built from the ground up, I’m baffled by how cramped the the bathrooms are. The vanities are meant strictly for one person at a time. This would make sense in a vintage redux. But for new construction, I’m left scratching my head.
Service throughout is warm and thoughtful, although you have to seek it out if you want any service at all. Pendry forgoes the bells and whistles of Montage. Regrettably, my time here was too short. I would have loved to linger by the pool, sipping cocktails, gazing out at the Gaslamp Quarter from the terrace atop Fifth Avenue.
Bottom line: Pendry is a comfortable hotel with a friendly vibe. Given the price, I wish the basic rooms were bigger, especially the bathrooms. But it’s a cool property, and it’s probably the best place to stay in San Diego if you have business downtown.
Rates from about $400; 550 J Street, San Diego, 619-738-7000, pendry.com/san-diego