There are those who believe a gentleman should never breakfast, lunch and dine in the same room – but at Epicure, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at one of Europe’s finest luxury hotels, Hotel Le Bristol, Paris, the ambience feels completely different. At dinner last night, the elaborate offering of dishes was served on plain white porcelain. Now, at breakfast, the china is totally delightful, a floral landscape with whimsical birds and butterflies. The playfulness extends to the kitchen. The gal asks for an omelette, and look how it comes set as if a little blue painted butterfly is just about to take a bite.
All the china is like that. Sit there reading your Figaro, if you are French, or Financial Times, or International Herald Tribune, and you can nibble a croissant or Danish while you gloss over yet more horror stories of today’s economic and political worlds. After Istanbul and its sense of optimism, here in Paris it is doom and gloom. My friends bemoan what President Hollande is doing to middle class life (straining budgets when it comes to dining out in a brasserie) and to general city life (dirtier streets and more dog mess, they say, but I never saw either, when running pre-dawn).
The perfect way to enjoy this part of Paris is to base yourself here, at the 188-room hotel that is within three minutes’ walk of all the big-name art galleries along avenue Matignon.
I found room 760, a mansard shape with walls covered with open-tulip patterned fabric, an eyrie that could only be here in Paris, especially since I look straight out, across the Seine about ten blocks away, at the Eiffel Tower.
Come out of 760’s door and you are at the top of the original staircase, 158 stone steps, in square formation, back down to ground level.
From the top, seventh floor, right to the ground level there hangs a light installation which could, at a stretch, be called a modern chandelier.
All the decorations at Oetker Collection hotels are supervised, or entirely created, by ladies of the Oetker family. They have an exquisite sense of colour and they know when to blend a traditional classic sculpture with something oh-so-modern.
The hotel’s second restaurant, called 114 Faubourg after its address, has orange walls with three-foot high dahlia designs on them. This one was designed by both Maja Oetker and her daughter Elvira Oetker, and they talked, apparently, to top party planner Guendalina Litta Modignani to make sure that the space would adapt when it is used for special events.
Last year the Oetkers turned a ground floor meeting room into a stunning modern take on a ‘classic’ hotel bar. The room has wood floors, original century-old pine wall panelling from England and a blazing fire. The all-wall mirror behind the bar counter erupts, at times, to views of Paris (there are television screens built into the mirror). One TripAdvisor fan says this is ‘edgy’. It certainly attracts the younger set. This number may well now include H&M underwear king, the one and only David Beckham, now signed to Qatar-owned Paris St-Germain PSG team. He will live here at the hotel during the football season – and I can reveal that there is no point hanging around the front door as he will come in and out via the carpark. In fact the entire Beckham family arrived, by Eurostar, Tuesday February 19th, 2012.
But this luxury hotel is more than used to big names. During Paris’ twice-yearly fashion weeks, Victoria Beckham’s friend Stella McCartney, daughter of the eternal Paul McCartney, uses this as her base. The mother-of-hospitality who welcomes everyone, and makes them, like me, feel she is their new best friend, is the amazing Leah Marshall. A determined young lady from the northern part of Vancouver Island, she headed at 18 to Europe to learn French and Italian. After a meteoric rise that saw her setting up the entire entertainment and restaurant side of Euro Disney, she is now based here. Unless she happens to be doing a spell in one of the Oetker Collection’s newest hotels, say in Marrakech or on St-Barth’s, she will be here, to look after you.