When in Paris, I love nothing more than spending my days immersed in the avant garde art scene or rifling through the rails of offbeat French boutiques.
Come evening though, you’ll almost always find me resting on my laurels in one or the other of the city’s grandiose hotels. As enchanting as they are dramatically-opulent, there’s nothing lovelier than an immaculate cocktail (or a few) or a bout of gluttony in these bastions of old-world charm…
If I were forced into playing favourites, then like many before me (Coco Chanel, Rudolph Valentino, Churchill, Chopin, Proust, F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to name a few), I’d always lay my hat at the Ritz.
The dazzling cornerstone of Place Vendôme was recently rejuvenated by a major refurbishment, embracing the nostalgia of its gloried past. Most of the original period artworks and Empire furniture still maintain pride of place, right down to the regal armchairs and the gilded side tables lining the long hall…
… But there’s a strikingly new degree of freshness emanating from the buffed brocades and voluptuous velvets. Or perhaps, it’s just the spotlight shining through the gleaming glass windows, now that those heavy curtains have been finally pulled back!
The hotel’s Hemingway Bar remains an ode to the vaunted novelist who famously set out to liberate the original bar from the Nazis back in 1944 (allegedly running up a tab for 51 dry Martinis right after).
And across the hall, you’ll find the new Ritz Bar. It’s an all-day affair involving a bistro-style menu and an experimental take on cocktails by Aurelie Pezet. The 26-year old is the hotel’s first female chief bartender!
Although the lair-like setting has all the trappings of a cosy ensconcement, where you really want to be during the summer months is basking in Grand Jardin, a hidden garden recreating a bit Versailles in the heart of Paris.
It’s a dream destination for an idyl evening, complete with an ice cream cart, mood-elevating cocktails and generous supplies of nuts, crisps and olives. Service is simply stellar too – winningly-friendly but never obtrusive. Don’t forget to ask for Samy at the bar, or Didem, the bar’s impressionably-charming waitress. If our recent experience was anything to go by, they’ll make sure your evening is nothing short of perfect.
The Ritz, 5 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris, France
Unsurprisingly, it’s not the service which will draw you back to this seductively-hedonistic hotel a few streets away.
The size zero models gliding about are really doing guests a favour when they pause to take orders or unceremoniously prop your drinks down. Speaking of which. The cocktails here are good – but at €25 a pop, definitely not memorable enough to merit a revisit.
So why are you back for the nth time then mon cherie? To run with the cool kids bien sûr.
Both the bar and courtyard cafe are a mecca for people-watching and let’s state the obvious, this activity is definitely a high-level attraction in Paris.
The wildly extravagant surrounds more than make up for what the cocktails lack too, providing plenty of outrageously OTT (over the top) details to drink in – from the ornate chandeliers to the raspberry-red fringes. The hint is in the mandate given to the hotel’s designer Jacques Garcia… All things in excess.
Hôtel Costes, 239-241 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
And then of course, there’s Le Meurice – a Parisian jewel in the Dorchester Collection, standing majestically opposite the famous Tuileries Garden.
The hotel boasts a two-Michelin restaurant by Alain Ducasse, and another inspired by the iconic artist Salvador Dalí who faithfully spent around a month each year – for over thirty years – in the old Royal Suite.
Leading right off from the main entrance, Le Dali is where afternoon tea is served every day. Of course having come in from London, I’m almost always here for the à la carte pastries, which are the creation of the much lauded Cédric Grolet – the remarkably young head pâtissier at the hotel who was recently awarded Best Pastry Chef 2016 by Relais Desserts.
His retelling of traditional French pastries is simply exquisite in its complex artistry. Take the silver lemon for instance, a delicate take on a classic lemon meringue in which you can detect just the faintest hint of tequila! If you can’t decide on what to choose from the inviting selection, do as we did – opting for a mini trio of Chef Cédric’s signature creations.
228 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris,
Heeding the advice of a local Parisian friend in-the-know, my travel buddy, AB and I stayed in the terrifically-trendy 2nd Arrondissement on this most recent visit.
Our address: Hôtel Bachaumont.
It’s situated on the leafy Rue de Bachaumont, an area which was outed by New York Times as the latest open secret of the smart set who flock here for artisanal perfumery, made-to-measure glasses, fashionable éclairs and the shiniest locks in town (courtesy celebrated colourist, Christophe Robin).
They also come for the Pisco Sours at Night Flight, a buzzworthy bar in Hôtel Bachaumont run by The Experimental Group, who essentially created a cocktail culture in a city which had traditionally thrived on wine bistros (these are also the same kind folks behind the Experimental Cocktail Club, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Henrietta Hotel and the Chess Club, on our side of the Channel).
I don’t think I ever walked by this drinking den post-noon to find it empty! If I were to ever live in Paris, I’m certain that this is the sort of place I’d regularly wash up at too.
Night Flight, 18 Rue Bachaumont, 75002 Paris, France
Do you have a favourite hotel hangout in Paris?
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