Arriving at architect Jean Nouvel's Tours Duo, an audacious new landmark for the French capital, we're reminded of what they say about eyebrows: they should be sisters and not twins. Complementing, rather than mirroring, each other, the glossy skyscrapers are the third-tallest in Paris (after the Eiffel Tower and Tour Montparnasse) and at the top of Duo Two, taking up floors 17 to 24, is hotelier Laurent Taïeb's just-opened TOO Hôtel - a celestial urban eyrie putting the lesser-known 13th arrondissement in the spotlight.
This isn't a crash pad for those hoping to find mini, made-in-China Eiffel Towers and macaron shops on their doorstep - the beltway between inner Paris and the banlieues is a grittier proposition than that. But the neighbourhood is not without its own brand of buzzy beauty. Elegant old buildings rub shoulders with tower blocks, neon art-filled food courts, thrift stores and sleek startup compounds. Chinatown is here, with its open-all-hours Asian groceries and eateries, and so, too, is the Bibliothèque Nationale, France's main library, set within four gleaming towers designed to resemble open books. Should you wish to browse designer boutiques or take a selfie at the Trocadéro, however, you only have to grab a city bike and a 15-minute ride along the Seine's Left Bank will bring you to Paris' more typically postcard-worthy attractions (as will a short hop on the Métro).
Paris' new skyline addition, and views from a TOO Hôtel bedroom.
Hitting the kind of collaborative sweet spot not seen since Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot first locked eyes, the Tunisian-born, Paris-raised Taïeb and French interiors powerhouse Philippe Starck have together created a genuinely new proposition for guests - one that, with its its globally influenced, finger-on-the-pulse vibe and surprisingly accessible price point, disrupts the city's traditional hospitality offering. The antithesis of Taïeb's first hotel, the 2021-opened Madame Rêve - an ornate, loved-by-the-fashion-set, velvet-draped reimagining of the former Louvre Post Office - the decor here sees Starck riff on a dreamy interplay between earth and sky. Our key card might be made of bamboo, but the walls in the pavement-level lobby are raw concrete; the bank of elevators in which both hotel guests and desk-bound office workers ascend are space-age, but the ingredients forming the backbone of the menu at the breathtaking 27th-floor restaurant are largely organic (and give a new - quite literal - meaning to the expression "haute cuisine").
The hard part? Deciding what to do first: 10-seater outdoor Jacuzzi by night, the whole, glittering City of Lights at your (wet) feet, or dazzling sky-high bar - already a destination in its own right. Bonnie and Clyde energy? TOO Hôtel brings it.
This is not Philippe Starck's first rodeo. Across all 139 rooms, in what the designer has described as "a castle floating above Paris", an uplifting palette of cloud-like creams and sunset oranges reflects the pièce de résistance panoramic views afforded by the vast windows. Natural materials like wicker, wood and hessian provide a counterpoint to polished chrome accents. Beds are precisely angled to offer the best views on waking - coucou, Eiffel Tower - though touch-of-a-button black-out blinds will please light sleepers (and those who overdid it the night before). High-spec binoculars are provided for spying on the world below, alongside Starck-designed weights and an illustrated exercise card to assist in honing Bourne-like biceps. Lime-green, alien-like statement lights illuminate bathrooms generously stocked with Le Labo's addictively fragranced Santal 33 products.
We particularly love the little animals - a mountain goat, a fox - etched on clear acrylic panels and mounted in unexpected corners of our room, and the brilliant-white robes - themselves as soft and fluffy as a forest creature's pelt.
What's for breakfast?
Watching a pair of daredevil window cleaners in action 27 floors above Paris, platform swaying gently, as you bite into a second croissant spread liberally with Président butter and apricot jam? It adds a certain frisson to le petit dejeuner. A sumptuous buffet covers all bases, from nuts, raisins and goji berries to cheeses, cold cuts and smoked salmon and dill sauce, with hot options including scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon and tomato. Only have eyes for the carbs? Take your pick from artisan breads, traditional chocolate baguette, warm pastries and an array of cakes of the kind we're told French women don't eat (they do). Plus, coffee. Good coffee.
Lunch and dinner
TOO Restaurant - a sophisticated glass cube with an amber-hued, stickle-brick-esque ceiling, backlit, faux-ponyskin-upholstered chairs and outsized contemporary murals by Pierre Monestier gracing the interior wall - undoubtedly serves up a feast for the eyes, but this is no case of form over function; the belly is equally well-indulged. Executive chef Benjamin Six - also behind the acclaimed F&B at Madame Rêve - brings the spoils of his years working at the likes of Zuma, Bangkok, and Joel Robuchon, Monaco, to a crowd-pleasing east-meets-west menu. Standouts include scallops crudo with yuzu jelly, black pepper soy sauce and caviar, a note-perfect aubergine miso, and a darkly unctious wild mushroom hotpot crowned with a whole 3g of truffle.
Want to dine in bed? Thanks to the hotel's entente cordiale with Uber Eats, guests can order from four tried-and-tested local restaurants and have their meal delivered direct to their room. Just scan the QR code and voilà!
An east-meets-west menu is served in the opulent TOO Restaurant.
Is there a bar?
At 135m above street level, the buzzy TOO TacTac Skybar is one of the city's highest, and its 150sq m panoramic terrace, one of Paris' largest. Inside, a digital installation brings the walls to life with a fantastical, ever-evolving landscape - one minute a wet-nosed Alsatian, tongue lolling, the next, a kaleidoscopic light show - while the world-class bartenders are at your service till 2am daily. Table bookings are available exclusively for hotel guests.
In-room, there's everything the savvy traveller could hope for: fast WiFi, mini-fridge, pod coffee machine, huge TV, centrally controlled audio/lighting/air-con and luxurious bedding. There are also four modular meeting rooms, capable of hosting events for up to 75 people, and a chic, nature-inspired spa, TOO Chill, where the smart Ulé products do what they say on the tin via brilliant express massages and plumping facials. Med-evoking chartreuse-coloured floors meet powder-pink accents in the three treatment rooms and glass-walled gym, while a custom-made cedarwood sauna and outdoor Jacuzzi take R&R to new heights.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
The hotel was built to satisfy the most stringent environmental criteria - and has the certificates to prove it. On a day-to-day level, all the usual best practices are in place, from sustainable food sourcing to an only-on-demand laundry service.
What about accessibility?
All floors of the hotel and specific rooms are suitable for people with reduced mobility.
What's the crowd like?
In a word, gorgeous. Pack like you're a rising star of French arthouse cinema or a top international DJ.
Within a short walk I can find…
An ephemeral array of street art. To see the best of it, including work by mixed-media superstar Jo Di Bona and loads of tags by women artists, venture through moody underpasses and muddy car parks on a Fresh Street Art Paris tour.
Things I should know
Fallen for the hotel's edgy neighbourhood? Watch Paris, 13th District, a collection of vignettes featuring fleeting encounters and modern relationships shot in black and white, written and directed by French film veteran Jacques Audiard.
Ready to head to Paris? Jump on the Eurostar from London's St Pancras for city centre-to-city centre ease, a generous baggage allowance and a clean conscience - the carbon footprint from one flight is the same as making 13 Eurostar journeys. Upgrade to the Business Premier service and you'll have full use, pre-travel, of the swish lounge, with food, drink and magazines on tap, followed by champagne and a three-course, Raymond Blanc-designed meal en route. | From £276; eurostar.com