On October 19th this year Hôtel Le Bristol Paris was deemed best hotel in the world by Prix Villegiature. As faithful followers know the gal has little time for nearly every award – HOTELS’ annual best independent and best corporate hotelier awards are one exception. But Prix Villegiature gives an indication of a French point of view, so let us have a look at the sumptuous luxury at this 188-room hotel. Take suite 630/632, gorgeously decorated by members of the Oetker family (yes, this is an Oetker Collection hotel). The walls are simply softest eau-de-nil and cream but the highlight is the fabric. Curtains are embroidered, all over, in an enormous scrolling-flower design, and matching fabric is used for the floor-length circular cloth that covers an occasional table: fortunately this has a glass top, and on this sits a bowl of whole fruit, including perfectly ripe pears.
Sumptuous luxury requires a bathroom that would do justice to the likes of Sophia Loren or Marilyn Monroe. Again, it is absolutely gorgeous. But before I get carried away let me comment on points of fun. Instead of the boring black or grey pens that are luxury hotels’ norm, here the pens are brightest apple green, picking out a colour in the embroidered fabric. There is a matching green line, too, on the card Do Not Disturb hanger, which shows a kitten asleep. Turn it over to a kitten awake, to say Please Come In. I love the fun too, of the hotel‘s 114 Faubourg restaurant, opening on to rue du Faubourg. 75% of customers here are from outside (this is another favourite of the Sarkozys and last time I was here Jacques Attali was at the next table – he is President of the annual Prix Bristol des Lumières, for authors). I am with Jean-Pierre Soutric and we sit in a nearly-full restaurant with outrageous tomato-coloured wallpaper and big internal columns, and it works – as does the hotel’s other restaurant, the Michelin three-star Epicure.
I have a mesclun salad with black truffle vinaigrette, and scallops and a little basket of superbly crisp fries. I am drinking Ch Clarisse, a St-Emilion owned by Olivia Le Calvez, wife of Didier Le Calvez, GM of this lovely hotel – right now he is travelling, wearing his other hat as COO of the Oetker Collection. I think back to the last time I drank Ch Clarisse, at a sibling Oetker beauty, Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc. Why are so many of the great hotels of the world in Europe, some ask. Interestingly, Oetker Collection is now crossing the Atlantic. It is working on developments in both New York and São Paulo. Jean-Pierre Soutric heads off for home and I head up royal blue carpeted stairs, to home. A few hours later my six o’clock breakfast arrives, meticulously, with Andrésy jams, Beurre Echiré, Haviland Limoges, Orfevrerie De France cutlery and a Schott glass. I write a sorry-to-miss-you note to Didier Le Calvez. The envelopes are tissue paper-lined, with self-stick tabs. Sumptuous luxury.
The words come up again and again as I think about this luxury hotel. Shown above is its sixth floor indoor swimming pool, with 1920s-style wood changing cabins, has a unique sense of fun – its trompe l’oeil walls were designed by Niarchos’ yacht designer, Caesar Pinnau. The windows of the Technogym fitness room open, wide (I always stay here as I hate air-conditioning, said the only other person working out last night). Down in the lobby, the meticulously-groomed women at front desk wear black skirt-suits with taupe revers and matching fabric corsages. A Christmas display evokes centuries past. This has been a insightful treat to look at luxury from a French, or at least a Parisian, point of view. It is still dark as I head for Eurostar.