Loyalty comes when every time you connect with something it performs even better than last time. Anna Zhukov, who lives in Dubai, is a Chanel nut: her geography of major world cities seems to revolve around where some attraction is in relation to the Chanel store. The gal is a luxury hotel nut, and those that she returns to again and again get better with every visit. Take Le Royal Monceau Raffles, Paris. GM Omer Acar has a surprise, every time. This visit, he produced another great hotelier, Radha Arora, big-boss of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, who gave a big kiss and instantly flew away, literally to fly back to Dallas.
But it was surprises the whole way, some thanks to Omer Acar and some thanks to the hotel’s crazy designer Philippe Starck, though I must admit that Starck is growing up a bit (see what he will be doing at The South Beach in Singapore but that is another story – we need to wait a couple of years for details).
Anyway here in Paris, while waiting a single minute for the elevator up to the fifth floor Katara Suite, I looked around at a couple of art works on the wall behind the elevator door. One shows a man sitting on a bench surrounded by clocks, another is a girl surrounded by macaroons.
Well, this hotel has the most famous macaroons in the world, by Pierre Hermès, who I see has just opened his latest patisserie, in London.
Perhaps it was intentional – yes it was – but the hotel wanted to show off. It partners with Bonpoint when it comes to babies, and they have set up one of the Katara Suite’s bedrooms as if ready for le bébé. There are silvery balloons floating above the white cot, and white fluffy animals and miniature robes and toiletries for the finest of skins, and books for toddlers and so much more. Even Prince George of Cambridge, infant son of William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, could not ask for more. He, George Alexander Louis (GAL, note), would – will – just love this hotel. When he grows up he might even savour an Armagnac dating from 1934, and perhaps the red glass doored-cigar lounge, and of course the Clarins MyBlend spa.
On this quick visit I savoured yet more of Laurent André’s cooking in La Cuisine, which has (like Il Carpaccio) gained a Michelin star since my last visit – and, what is more, see a close-up of the restaurant on the front cover of the Michelin 2013 Paris guide. Oh the small things, here. Butters are my favourite, from Jean-Yves Bordier, this time seaweed, and red chilli, and salted. This time, there are Laguiole knives specially made for the hotel, with handles of cedar wood that will give off their divine aroma for decades. I recall the cedars of Lebanon, but think back quickly to Paris as Beirut a sadder place right now. Paris, by contrast, is booming, despite France’s current President.
Le Royal Monceau Raffles, Paris, is full, and its lobby lounge is full day- and evening-long with locals, who hold little meetings here, come to network over an espresso and perhaps a Pierre Hermès croissant. This is the kind of impromptu meeting place that, for instance, InterContinental Manila used to offer in years past. You feel everyone here is a mover and shaker, a politician or a journalist. At dinner in La Cuisine it is the same. Who ARE all these people at other tables? We continue our tapas dinner, French style, with seasonal tomatoes in salt, and mushroom salad with capers and parsley and truffle oil, and young spinach with miso flake. We go on to share plates of mixed seafood, and wagyu grilled with vegetables, and finish with lemon sorbet with fresh mint.
The surprises continue. I am told about helicopter trips to the countryside, to truffle fairs, to play golf, to study wine (the landing spot is ten minutes from the hotel). Guests here can join DJ classes, right here at the hotel, or join in scavenger hunts in the Egyptian wing of the Louvre. Early September, the hotel partners with Paris Design Week, when the screening room cinema honours design and Philippe Starck presents a rose tree (eh? tell me more). This luxury hotel is perfect for families, for teenagers and for babies, and for car nuts. I am seen off in a Jaguar F5, with onboard WiFi. Luxury, indeed.