Hotel Lutetia, Paris
12 March, 2019
Since opening in 1910 for Le Bon Marché's most-prized clients, Hotel Lutetia has been making both the anonymous and the famous feel très important. Bygone years saw notorious members of the arts, sciences and political spheres mingle freely in this ostentatious Left Bank hotel - and today the crowd is just as appealing.
Entering by way of tulip-head rotunda, inside, beguiling surrounds fuse art deco and art nouveau architectural elements with contemporary design - think high-varnish woods, neutral tones and Parisian metro tiles. A lesson in how to do gender-neutral design right, there is an equilibrium throughout Hotel Lutetia that is unparalleled elsewhere in Paris. Natural light pours in from all directions with the assistance of porthole windows and floor-to-ceiling openings, while Hotel Lutetia is also the heaviest hotel in Paris - apparently something to do with those Statuario-marble bathtubs...
Pierre Bergé (the co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent couture house) was a resident here for five months and director David Lynch was another notable Lutetia habitué - his suite on the first floor is a lot brighter and lighter than you'd expect. Still, if such esteemed guests aren't recommendation enough, Lutetia's generously sized rooms are sure to solidify your choice. Soft, contemporary and elegant in atmosphere, rooms liken a slick Parisian apartment. Brushed-oak flooring, touch-screen room controls, sliding doors (which create a sense of segregated space) and Murano-glass wall lights elevate already suave surrounds. It's the Statuario-marble bathroom that is the real quencher, though: heated floors, Hermès amenities and a Dyson hair dryer on standby.
What's for breakfast?
Take breakfast "à la Française" in the Orangerie from 7am. Choose from a range of a la carte standards or prey on the impressive buffet options - Le Lutetia is the simplest and includes fresh fruit juices, breakfast pastries and seasonal fruit tartlets, as well as a choice of cereals and artisanal yoghurts and cheeses. Alternatively, opt for L'Américain, which builds on the above by adding eggs your way (soft boiled, scrambled, poached, sunny-side up or omelette) accompanied by two side dishes - we recommend the veal sausages and sauteed mushrooms.
How about lunch and dinner?
At the brasserie, chef Gérald Passedat's famous seafood recipes take centre stage. Working his Michelin magic on Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Mediterranean dishes are presented on eucalyptus-wood plates and complemented by a dining space bedecked with Jean le Gac's graphic portrayals of notable diners. A popular spot on the Rive Gauche, the brasserie extends to mezzanine level (so no need to worry about nabbing a table). Modelled on The Sea Bar at Grand Central Station in New York, this one seats 10 and offers a tasting menu at €85 per head. Sitting within the Brasserie Lutetia, feast on dishes such as oysters with aloe vera, cucumber and horseradish condiment or zucchini tortellini. Avocado and mango cake is among the riskier desserts on offer.
The Saint Germain, headed by Chef Benjamin Brial, is open from breakfast to dinner, but regardless of mealtime, the ceiling is a major talking point. The dining room's historic glass roof has been enhanced by the contemporary work of artist Fabrice Hyber, who emblazoned his childhood heroes - including Santa and Michelin Man - across an otherwise subdued but stylish space. Wrap-around seating and lipped headrests create a sense of seclusion for guests looking for a private but relaxed dining option. With a focus on sharing and contemporary French cuisine, highlights include the sea bream with Jerusalem artichoke mash, nashi pear, hazelnuts and lovage and the squash risotto with pickled girolles, tandoori and ma khaen berries yoghurt. Scrimp on starters but splurge on dessert, opting for the hibiscus-poached pear with herbal foam and/or the crispy meringue topped with kalamansi cream and mikan yuzu sorbet.
Is there a bar?
Yes, there are two. Joséphine's boasts floor-to-ceiling art-nouveau frescoes and a heart-stopping white negroni (vermouth blanc, dry vermouth and Italicus). Sink onto a leather couch at the former for an intimate tête-à-tête. However, solo drinking seems a perfected art form here, with street views of city strollers and Le Bon Marché shoppers to lap up. After dark, this Jazz Age legend really takes hold with bespoke cocktails and a glitzy clientele.
The Bar Aristide is more discreet in its pursuits. Hold court with friends in the library-style setting, a fine spirit and cigar in hand, courtesy of the intuitive smoke sommelier. Operating on a first-come, first-serve basis, this is more of a place for a rendezvous. Ring the bell and pray there is a table.
Spa AKASHA takes a holistic approach to wellness. Luxuriate in the 17m pool, sweat it out in the red-lacquered gym or sip on a detox beverage before your meditation session.
Each of its six treatment rooms come well stocked with Carita, Cellcosmet & Cellmen and Aromatherapy Associates. Down the hall, coveted hairstylist Christophe Nicolas Biot's salon specialises in plant-based hair colouring and barber services.
Things you should know
Set up your laptop in the library, positioning yourself near the call bell for round-the-clock attendance - and chocolat chaud on tap. Gym buffs can choose from four complementary daily classes - abs class starts at 7.15am. For non-hotel guests, gym membership is available at an annual rate of €7,000.
Within a short walk you'll find…
Should the mood strike shoppers, Le Bon Marché is just across the street. A leisurely stroll is rewarded in the wonderful wares at Astier de Villatte on Rue de Tournon - a 13-minute walk from Lutetia. Be sure to grab a snack or lunch box from Cojean for the Eurostar - it'll ease the bitter taste brought on by leaving Paris.