Actor Stephen Tompkinson has a soft spot for San Francisco

Actor Stephen Tompkinson, star of gritty crime film Harrigan, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at his favourite city San Francisco and reveals where to find the best views and the best oysters in the city.

Start at the ocean and you’ve got the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 49, all the touristy bits there. Within two blocks, if you walk into the city, you arrive in Little Italy where there’s a beautiful square and the white church where Marilyn Monroe and Joe di Maggio got married. There’s a café there called Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store and there’s a jukebox but it only plays Italian opera. So if you fancy a quick aria by Puccini, that’s the place to go. Another two blocks further up from that and you’re in the biggest Chinatown outside Asia, with all the hustle and bustle and sights and smells and various markets as well. It has to be seen to be believed. And the Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute iconic landmark; it’s beautiful, it really is.

Keep walking again away from the ocean and you hit the financial district, and there’s the beautiful Westin St Francis hotel where I’ve stayed. It’s worth going in for a drink in the bar downstairs. There’s a machine that permanently polishes and washes your change so whenever you get change they’re the shiniest coins you’ve ever seen, which I always thought was a very nice touch.
335 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 (tel: (415) 397 7000;

Go anywhere that offers you the panoramic views. Some of the big hotels have restaurants at the top, and the food’s always good. But it’s worth combining it with the view. There’s a bar right at the top [of Nob Hill] called the Top of the Mark. It’s worth going for a cocktail there and getting views all over the city and the bay. On the waterfront, there’s one of those amazing old diners that’s completely chrome encrusted called the Fog City Diner. It features on the cover of an album by Sad Café, (a bit of an 80s throw back there) and when I walked in there for lunch Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News was in there with his dad. Which I thought was very touching. We smiled but I didn’t go over and say hello.
1 Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA 94108 (tel: (415) 616 6916;

There’s a great hustle and bustle of Chinatown but you can sit back and relax in Little Italy. There’s a wonderful seafood place that’s only open at lunchtime called Swan Oyster Depot. There’s always a queue outside the door because it’s where all the locals go for their seafood. It’s just a long bar, you wait for a space at the bar and get in there. It’s run by the Sancimino brothers. Their father started the business when he first came over from Italy and they’re out every morning catching the stuff and obviously as the name suggests, they specialise in oysters from all over the place. They have just a purely oyster menu but they do all sorts of other seafood that they caught that morning. So you can either put yourself in their very experienced hands or try various oysters. They do very small ones called Olympia oysters which are the nicest I’ve ever tasted.

An absolute must is to do Alcatraz. They have one of the best audio tours that I’ve ever heard. As you’re walking by each cell it’ll give you the history of what inmates were in there and for what, and it changes as you move; you just put these headphones on and where you walk dictates what you hear. You can do it on your own pace or go back on something. It’s not overcrowded but is incredibly atmospheric and you get to go in the courtyard where they all hung out. It’s got a fascinating history.
Alcatraz Island, Fort Mason, B201, San Francisco, CA 94123 (tel: (415) 981 7625;

Harrigan comes out on 20th September, in cinemas nationwide. Find out more at

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