Travel has been stilted over the past year but a beautiful crop of new Parisian hotels is giving people a reason to visit and plenty to write home about.
In the former headquarters of entrepreneur Thierry Gillier’s fashion brand Zadig & Voltaire is his new venture, one of the French capital’s best new hotels. The 32-key building on Rue Saint-Roch is the work of French interior design company Festen and art director Franck Durand. And it’s a real treat. The mood of the restaurant Brasserie Emil feels like a lively scene from a Claude Sautet movie, complete with French fries served on monogrammed silver platters. Yum. Despite the classic feel, art deco lamps and dark marble finishes – touches of orange and the odd cork flourish – the hotel feels altogether new and exciting. “It is a contemporary place for the people of today,” says Gillier.
It’s this weaving together of past and present, the Paris of the silver screen and the city as it is now, that works so well here. “Château Voltaire expresses our idea of what luxury is today,” says Charlotte de Tonnac, who runs Festen with partner Hugo Sauzay and with whom she carefully considered the materials to use. Cocktail bar La Coquille d’Or has shades of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and the spa and small pool are great but the most desirable part of the hotel is on the top floor. There you’ll find a self-contained apartment, which unfolds around a dining room and terrace with a winter garden that’s been given form by landscape architect Louis Benech. This is one to reserve for parties and, looking around, there’s plenty to celebrate.
High up near Montmartre hill and 26 years after the opening of his first Soho House, Nick Jones has finally touched down in France. This 36-key hotel, restaurant and members’ club is in the former red-light district of Pigalle. It took Jones and his team five years of searching to find this spacious, 19th-century apartment building, which was once home to film-maker Jean Cocteau. The quiet Rue La Bruyère doesn’t offer many clues about what’s behind those heavy green doors, which guard a beautiful courtyard, a cabaret space, a gym and a pool.
“We always try to stick to the local spirit and the dna of a place, while bringing our own touch,” says Jones. “We wanted to respect the history of the building.” To do this, they tapped several French designers and upholsterers to create elements that were “glamorous without being too flashy”, says Jones. The site is spread across three buildings from different periods: the 19th-century hub, a 1940s annex and a contemporary extension. Materials include plenty of rattan, wrought-iron garden furniture and benches upholstered in Pierre Frey prints. The cabaret room (pictured) has velvet walls and a marble pool for when the weather turns warm.
Under the restaurant’s glass roof members can enjoy escargots de Bourgogne or a baba au rhum with a decent glass of wine. The first and second floors have something of Versailles about them: think four-poster beds, herringbone parquet floors and Louis XV furniture. On the third level are Provençal floor tiles and hanging lamps sourced from markets in France. It feels French but with a refined touch – even the staff are friendly (not an intrinsically Parisian quality).
Above lvmh’s recently revamped La Samaritaine department store is the Cheval Blanc, Bernard Arnault’s first hotel in the French capital. We visited on a recent Sunday and the mood was upbeat as crowds swarmed around the shop windows and filled the surrounding lanes. Arnault wanted the best for his palatial project and the location doesn’t fall short. “The real heart of Paris is neither east, nor west,” says Nastasia Morin, head of communication and marketing at Le Cheval Blanc. “We’re right in the middle of Saint-Germain on the Rive Gauche and the Louvre and the Marais on the Rive Droite – right in the Paris of the Parisians.”
Located in the heart of the vast art deco building, the hotel has 72 rooms and suites decorated by New York architect Peter Marino and mostly overlooking the Seine. While much has been restored, from the art nouveau façades to the iron signage and glass atrium, Marino hasn’t held back when it comes to updates, not least with the addition of museum-grade artwork. There’s a painting by James Siena, a William Byl sculpture, lithographs by Sonia Delaunay and an immense blue canvas by painter Georges Mathieu. Oh, and did we mention the bronze staircase handrail commissioned by sculptor Claude Lalanne? There’s also some laughable luxury in the form of a pillow menu (Buckwheat? Bamboo? Spelt? Virgin wool or millet and lavender?). Even the soaps are moulded to represent the façade of the hotel and the shower gel was made by François Demachy, the nose from Dior.
Beyond the plush rooms, there are four restaurants to choose from. The Limbar is on the ground floor; don’t miss Le Croissant du Pont-Neuf, made with jambon de Paris, comté and lettuce. Le Tout-Paris on the top floor is a buzzy brasserie, Langosteria does Italian seafood and Plénitude is fancier. The best place to soak up the mood? The 30-metre pool in the Dior spa illuminated by the Oyoram digital artwork depicting views across Paris. This is the way to see the city.