3 new ways to seduce someone in Paris

Paris is really on top of its game right now and so makes the perfect autumn getaway. Iconic hotels such as the Bristol, George V, Plaza Athenée and Le Meurice have been spending millions to keep themselves preened to perfection and, consequently, are looking better than ever. They need to be as they face some seriously tough new competition. An Asian invason is under way, a trio of the Far East’s most luxurious hotel chains (Shangri-La, Raffles and Mandarin Oriental) have recently opened properties in the French capital, providing three new ways to seduce someone in Paris. Because although those grande dames have had facelifts worthy of Hollywood’s finest, the new pretenders have hit the the ground not so much running as gracefully gliding across the scene like the hospitality industry’s answer to Torvill and Dean.

Mandarin Oriental Paris

The baby of the three, it only opened in June but already it’s making waves. Usually, luxury tour operators wouldn’t touch such a new property for fear of teething problems but they’re making an exception for this one. It ticks the big box in that it has a truly great location: it’s on fashionable rue Saint-Honore, within easy reach of the Garnier Opera, the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens. The exterior may be a delicately restored Art Deco facade but, inside, it has a cool, contemporary oriental vibe. It feels very light and spacious, and opens almost immediately on to a stunning zen garden, scented with camelias, dotted with discreet seating and an open invitation for assignations. There is a live Asian cooking counter at the all-day restaurant that provides food that doubles as a floorshow and a takeaway cake shop (Parisians are finally losing their grip on those long lunches, quel dommage). The trendier locals can console themselves with post-work drinks at the bar, with has a dramatic marble counter and Lalique crystals inlaid in the curving wooden walls. Dinner is by Gallic gastronomy’s answer to Heston Blumenthal, Thierry Marx. The dining room has the most amazing suspended installation as its centrepiece. You’re here for the food, though, and it’s pretty theatrical too. Marx promises “food and emotions” (mmm, well I do sometimes get weepy when I see the final bill). The bedrooms are a low-key luxe mix of Art Deco and oriental inspirations, with cool little touches such as TVs embedded in the bathroom mirrors. My favourite bit was the spa. It is truly sumptuous, extraordinarily calming and has highly skilled therapists.

Shangri-La

This property provides that hospitality holy grail: a cozy welcome. It was built in1896 by Napoleon’s grand-nephew Prince Roland as a private residence and, of all Paris’s great hotels, this one comes the closest to providing that appealing home-from-home ambience. Of course when I say home, Jim, that’s not how you – or at least most certainly not as I know it. There is a flamboyant sweeping staircase, stunning ceiling frescoes and intricate chandeliers that must regularly reduce the head of housekeeping to a gibbering wreck. However, despite being so lavish, the atmosphere somehow feels more like a house than a hotel. The downside to this homeliness is that the bar is far too small and you’ll be lucky to find a seat by 7pm. We had to perch in one of the sitting rooms, still absolutely beautiful but not quite what we wanted. Another disappointment was the all-day dining venue La Bauhinia, where dishes were underwhelming and over-priced and the service was far too fussy for the informal option. The Asian-French fusion bedrooms lived up to expectations, however. Their USP is that around 50% offer an unobstructed eyeful of the Eiffel – some have terraces overlooking the tower too. Of course, you’ve seen it before, got the postcard etc but the view genuinely took my breath away. Service generally is almost scarily attentive. Our smiling receptionist didn’t just say goodbye at check out, she escorted us so far on our way, we started to worry she was coming home with us. Overall, with those views it has to be perfect for a romantic weekend away.

Royal Monceau Raffles

This is the Marmite option, I loved it. It’s Philippe Starck on steroids. The Grand Salon has already been commandeered by the very chicest Parisians and buzzes all day long, providing top-notch people watching. As the lounge merges into the gorgeous bar, a twinkling interpretation of 1930s nightlife, the action doesn’t stop at dusk either. There are Starck’s trademark oversized Alice in Wonderland furnishings in the restaurants (the Italian is particularly good) and audacious statement pieces such as herd of wooden reindeer on one of the landings. And, as ever, he hasn’t let practicality win out over panache in the bedrooms either. They are dazzling jewellery boxes but the mirrored bathroom walls are a tad disorientating, even stone cold sober, and negotiating the dressing area to hang clothes requires contortions that a yoga instructor could probably put a name to. The toilets are by Toto and offer functions practising Catholics might need to mention in confession. Cool-dude details include a guitar in every room for those rock-star moments. I must admit to being disappointed that the spa uses Clarins, not the world’s most pioneering brand, but it has the city’s longest pool (28 metres) and the personal trainer, Anna, is fantastic. It’s also the only hotel with an art concierge and a fabulously browsable contemporary art bookstore.

Susan d’Arcy is Editor of Spa Confidential.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Love the Mandarin Oriental in NYC, London, and HK, can’t wait to try the one in Paris…

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