How many palaces can the gal take? It was time for a break, and to look at a very different Paris hotel, the only Buddha-Bar hotel that is owned rather than franchised. When it opened in 2013, Buddha-Bar Hotel Paris almost required dark glasses. François Wapler’s designs used the brightest colours imaginable, and though Caroline Tissier muted some of the intensity in 2017 this is a luxury hotel that still makes some think of technicolour dream coats and kaleidoscopes. See the view, above, looking along Le Vraymonde Restaurant, cleverly fashioned out of what had been five side-by-side horses’ stalls when the building was put up, in the 18th century, by Augustin Blondel de Gagny.
As luck would have it I coincided with Tarja Visan, who with her late husband Raymond had started Buddha-Bars, which led to this, their first hotel – next time I see her I must ask her when she is going to do a Buddha-Bar in her home town, Helsinki. Tonight I was dining with Gérald Van Reck, the Belgian GM here who gave me a verbal lesson in why no-one but his compatriots can cook proper fries. These must be hand cut, cooked first at 145°C in beef fat, allowed to rest for two hours and then crisped at 185°. And no, he will not have them on the menu when he turns his bar into a sports bar for the World Cup, which starts June 14th, 2018, – he will, however, have Belgian beer from the cask.
The Vraymonde menu is pan-Asian, devised and cooked with great aplomb by a young man just arrived from Martinique, Déjy Damamme. His dishes are things like tuna sashimi with spicy avocado, and grapefruit nage infused with hibiscus, and cod gravadlax style, with broccoli mousseline, baby artichoke and yuzu emulsion. We talked food, and wine – we were drinking the Le Calvez family’s Ch Clarisse Puisseguin-St-Emilion 2015, and I heard about the hotel’s courtyard, a feature of many classic Paris buildings. Cobbles are being replaced by flat stones, to attract those who still totter round on Blahniks or Viviers, and, once local authorities sign the final permit, a year-round awning terrace will provide an everyday central hub-of-the-house.
This will make this unique, if perhaps a little idiosyncratic, luxury hotel an ideal place for smaller weddings and, indeed, they have one soon. I hope the happy couple will, like me, subsequently enjoy the Presidential Suite. Take an elevator, or up 37 stone steps and along a still-bright carpeted corridor, to suite 202, as tall as it is long or wide. You look out over rue d’Anjou, just along from the Elysée Palace, and you look in, to your palatial bed, a whole wall of Chinese red cabinets and bathroom that has a gold dragon on the black glass wall above the white bathtub: there are also black bathrobes and black slippers, two black floor-standing basin holders (with white basins) and, in both washroom stalls, Totos. NOW SEE SUITE 202