François Delahaye, MD of Hôtel Plaza-Athenée Paris – and COO of The Dorchester Collection – describes each of his hotels as unique, with a once-off sense of place. You know you are in Paris’ fashion district, here at this particular luxury hotel, when you look through into the beautiful Dior spa, above, and during fashion weeks themselves every beautiful person is here, dressed in Chanel for that presentation, and for Dior for that show. Yes, the fashion crowd arrives with a lot of baggage. Year-round, however, in the lobby, where giant high-up flower displays adorn all four ceiling-high columns, anyone, size-zero or not, might be greeted by two oh-so-chic French hoteliers, M. Delahaye and his right-hand, Laurence Bloch, a Parisienne who runs the hotel when her long-time business colleague is away (which is much of the time since, says the gal, he has to visit other Dorchester Collection hotels, from California east to Geneva).
There are local views out of bedroom windows here that can only be Paris. Some rooms look out across avenue Montaigne at the couture boutiques for which this area is justly famous. I could have taken elevators but loved climbing the 160-step oval staircase to the seventh floor (there was one more floor, above). End suite 744, a haven of pale champagne with the signature blood red and black, had an intimate balcony looking over rooftops and south to the Eiffel Tower – see the video below. I had Beltrami linens, Bang & Olufsen, and big-size Guerlain toiletries, and minibar drawers offering both Moët & Krug. As well as a very welcome silver charger holding perfect whole fruits, there was a bottle of Alain Ducasse Champagne, by Lanson. This is indeed a hotel group that likes to partner with many top brands in the luxury lifestyle sector.
On the food side it works with Wolfgang Puck in London and Los Angeles, and Sir David Tang in London, but its main culinary association is with Alain Ducasse, brought into the company by François Delahaye in 2000. I had never dined here in the main restaurant of Hôtel Plaza-Athenée Paris, and oh what an experience it was to be. First, I was taken down into the wine cellars, hewn out in 1913, plundered during WWII but now holding 45,000 bottles, dating back to much much earlier (there are also a surprising number of half-bottles, apparently popular in room service). In one of the cellar rooms, a three-foot-wide silver table top can come down from the ceiling to sit atop a tower of hotel-branded wine boxes to form a tasting venue, for up to 20. Then it was time for the meal to begin. Patrick Jouin’s dining room design stresses space, palest champagne-grey colours, three massive multi-crystal chandeliers overhead. At dinner heavy wood tables are unadorned: they are set with crystal sculptures that are lights, and twisted china ribbons in lieu of chargers.
Our meal, cooked by Alain Ducasse’s Romain Meder and his team (in such pristine whites one’s eyes dazzled), started with ice-filled tumblers topped up with ginger-flavoured turnip juice, the vegetables from Alain Baraton’s produce garden in Versailles. To snack, we had a box holding church-size multi-cereal wafers. One amuse particularly stood out – a signature mound of langoustine topped by caviar, with fish stock to pour over. I ate San Remo langoustine with sea urchin, and salad with coffee-grilled avocado; I proceeded to Gulf of Gascony turbot, its usually-discarded peripheral bits presented with green vegetables. A chosen dessert, Nice lemons as a sorbet with estragon-flavoured seaweed, was followed by the Ducasse signature, rum baba carved at table (what did we drink? Ch Léoville Poyferré 2007 St-Julien). After that it was back up this luxury hotel’s 160 stairs, to bed. NOW SEE THE VIDEO OF SUITE 744, BELOW