The gal has always loved The Negresco, Nice, because it is a one-off. It breaks every rule of the big brands and it works. Brands would not put bellmen into long white socks (show the dirt) and coats with shoulder capes (get in the way). They would NOT have incredibly valuable art work everywhere (invitation to naughty people), or gold-encrusted bathroom furniture, or bedroom walls that are so rough they feel like coarse emery boards and scratch your back when you lean against them. But this luxury hotel does not need ‘other brands’, it is a brand all by itself. Just like the forthcoming Fauchon hotel in Paris, says the gal, The Negresco is bigger than any brand, or consortium, it might sign up with.
The Negresco is pure whimsy. There are cherubs here and there – see the ones above, on one wall of suite 516, below the hotel’s signature roof cupola and looking south, and east, over Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean. Suite 516 is up 132 carpeted steps from the lobby and the way up, and down, becomes an art walk, past paintings, and love-seats, and even a historic copper hip-bath (this, only two years ago, was shabby and unappealing; now, thanks to passionate hotel GM Pierre Bord, it is regularly polished and it holds not bath-water but gorgeous white orchids). There are numerous early paintings of Mme Jeanne Augier, widow of the hotel’s long-tenure owner: she still lives at the top of the six floor hotel.
There are stylish names everywhere here. I had a choice of Fragonard and Lalique toiletries, and welcome Alain Milliat pressed juices as part of my welcome. At breakfast, in the unique Rotonde restaurant, Curtelin provides the jams, Isigny the butter and Savoie the yoghurt. The Negresco is getting better with every visit – years ago, Rotonde servers were females dressed in silly circus gear, and the Rotonde’s funfair horses went up and down (next visit, the whole Rotonde theme should have disappeared – and by next visit, too, the hotel will see Nice’s forthcoming tram line, a block away, offering service direct to the airport). Pierre Bord has done a great job, IS doing a great job, in giving customers what they really want, with a French touch, which has helped raise his overall 2017 occupancy to 80%.
I realise, staying here, that perhaps only the French can make boring-old turkey sound appealing. This particular luxury hotel’s Christmas lunch, at €65, is a five-course affair centred around roast turkey with Jerusalem artichoke pudding, iced sweet chestnuts and Perigord sauce (similarly, the €95 New Year’s Eve dinner, which already has 105 reservations, has beef fillet with foie gras, with truffle-flavoured potato gratin and glazed carrots, and five other courses, finishing with a black creamy chocolate parfait with crunchy biscuit and candied Mandarin sorbet). For those who like such rich foods, this is a great menu, and I admire the fact that simplicity is also catered for. The hotel’s bar, which is now full many evenings, especially at weekends when there is live music, offers a Sunday brunch on a tray. Clever. NOW SEE MY SUITE, BELOW