Hotels should always be fun, but then travel ought to be fun. Heathrow’s terminal Five is sensational – or at least it was sensational until British Airways, which designed it exclusively for its own passengers, brought Iberia in too, which means that some British Airways flights are now banished to the mayhem of other terminals. Anyway, terminal Five’s Kurt Geiger store is one of the gal’s favourites as there is always a metal-outline tree at its entrance. The tree, as every Geiger-counter will know, is decorated with shoes.
Well, back at that top luxury hotel, Royal Monceau Raffles in Paris, a hotel that never ceases to surprise, there is also now a tree, right in the centre of the lobby. It is decorated with apples and roses. Why, goodness only knows.
This entire 149-room hotel is one big decoration, thanks to someone who employed that crazy designer Philippe Starck, of whom more to follow. The rear of the hotel’s lobby leads to the opening of La Cuisine restaurant where diners, from breakfast through to late night, can look up at the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Along one side of the restaurant are three giant single ‘lampshades’, each six feet tall by nine feet across. And now add Nobu, the global culinary sensation whose permanent restaurants include London, at The Metropolitan Hotel, and, in Hong Kong, at the InterContinental – Nobu also has his own new hotel, in Las Vegas, but that is another story. Nobu also does pop-up restaurants, as at Claridge’s, London, last year, and, in Paris, his chefs are cooking here, at La Cuisine, through the end of March 2013.
This very week Royal Monceau Raffles was awarded TWO Michelin stars – one for La Cuisine, the other for Carpaccio, which, as its name implies, is Italian, with character. Where else do you find a central chandelier that is entirely covered in shells? Also, over the tables, there are 16 ceiling-hung lamps with shades that have bases that show scenes of Rome. Girlahead tip, when dining here. If you want a private restaurant, all to yourself, dine at, say, 1930. By 2100 hours the restaurant is packed solid, with Parisians who know a good tagliatelle when they taste one. The chef here is the charming Roberto Rispoli.
There is constant activity here, too, at Carpaccio. Right now Roberto Rispoli is cooking in tandem with Renato Piccolotto, the Treviso-born chef who is generally based at the Cipriani in Venice. They obviously love cooking together. The menu during this period of co-activity offers choices of both chefs’ specials. Funnily enough most of the diners the night I was there started with a Venetian specialty, beef carpaccio, set in flat flowers on the plate, with squiggles of Parisian sauce on top. Parisian sauce is oil, wine, garlic, onion and salt and somehow it emulsifies and it looks, and tastes, good with the beef.
There I am, dining Italian in France. What an international concept, but then I am with a Turk, Omer Acar, who actually is a true Man Of The World (he has just been to a week-long bootcamp in Malibu, getting to know the canyons there that are so steep that telephone connectivity can be a nightmare). Omer Acar has brought his wife, Katharina, who is German. Their kids will speak four languages, lucky things. This English girl thinks back to the Swissness that appeared in Girlahead only a few days ago. Here, this evening, it seems to be a melting pot of the discerning world. Many of the people staying in the hotel tonight are probably from Qatar. It is said a well-known American actor, family name of Willis, checked out only yesterday.
So we eat our dinner. After his bootcamp experience Omer Acar seems to have forgotten what a glass of wine does to enhance his meal, and he eats so little he will soon need not bootcamping but forcefeeding. Katharina and I finish with lemon sorbets, oh my goodness, the taste. If only there was a free day to head down to southeast France, to Menton, where the annual lemon festival is currently taking place. I think of the lemons I picked, and then enjoyed, from the gardens of Orient-Express’ lovely luxury hotel La Residencia, on Mallorca, and then I think of the spider-shaped lemon squeezer, ingenious but useless, that Philippe Starck designed…