Now’s the time to head to Paris!
There is a sudden profusion of pop-up eating places in the courtyards that are so traditional in Paris hotels. The courtyard at InterContinental Le Grand has been covered over, but those of Le Bristol, Buddha-Bar, Park Hyatt, The Ritz Paris and Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris are open to the elements. Buddha-Bar’s courtyard is currently a Japanese garden, with shabu-shabu pop-up. Park Hyatt has an alpine chalet for raclette and gluhwein, and Royal Monceau Raffles Paris has the divine grotto (pictured below). Sponsored by Belvedere Vodka, its rear wall is a holograph image of a wintry wood and, as you sit having a chilled Belvedere and Fever-Tree, you look down through a window into the swimming pool below – the pool in which top French politicians often do their laps. Oh, there is so much fun in this 140-room hotel!
Down by the pool on the lowest level, 25 stairs down from the lobby, is the calm and stress-free health and wellness zone, which also has a Technogym with Citterio equipment, and a MyBlend by Clarins spa. I had a totally soothing facial by Elodie, who confirmed my theory that Parisiennes do know their faces – she certainly knows her Clarins products and how to massage. The room changes colour, from purples through greens, but I suspect the colours stop when she is actually at work.
It is typical Philippe Starck to line the spa corridors in white (he did the same thing for the spa at Viceroy on Brickell in Miami but there the spa reception, where most of the floor area is taken up by a shallow decorative pool, is dominated by a yellow chandelier hanging overhead). There is certainly colour here at Royal Monceau Raffles: I love the cabins of the three main lifts, which are stainless steel, mirror and then a brightly coloured, deliberately skew whiff carpet in, say, bright green or purple. Pale pink is the house colour of the hotel, starting from the tissue paper elegantly lining envelopes. Grey appears as piping for white towel robes, on the bags for hairdryers and, in another stylish touch, linen bags for newspapers. However, white is definitely the dominant colour of this lovely luxury hotel.
I always know I am going to be in for a great eating experience here. It helps, of course, when the owner – or in this case the head of Katara Hospitality Europe, Omer Acar – is an acknowledged foodie. Acar ran Harrods Food Hall back in his distant past. And the hotel’s equally passionate GM, Aaron Kaupp, is another who knows his snap from his sugar peas. In fact, our dinner started at Matsuhisa Paris with warm edamame and went on to a variety of sashimi and sushi.
Ah, Nobu Matsuhisa, how we all love you. But this was my first experience of dining at a Matsuhisa, which is a slightly upmarket Nobu and is owned directly and 100 per cent by Nobu-san. Nobu restaurants are owned and managed by a business-oriented consortium that I suspect gives the big name little say when it comes to expansion, including into hotels. Matsuhisa Paris replaced this Royal Monceau Raffles’ French restaurant and, when it opened April 2016, instantly became a big hit. It is full at lunchtime, with local business people and ladies lunching, and at dinner it is full every night by nine (Parisians, says Omar Acar, are dining later and later).
Our meal culminated in fish and chips. Yes, that English comfort food also claimed by the Scots, Australians and New Zealanders, and in Paris designed with Japanese and Peruvian influences. The tempura seabass was so good I had a second order – I managed to leave the purple and white potato chips. This dish was cooked by the highly theatrical Hideki Endo, from Hokkaido, who controls the open kitchen here as if conducting an orchestra. It is also fascinating to see how that kitchen evolves into the buffet serving area at breakfast.
And breakfast here is honestly one of the best in the world. The buffet has so many well-labelled Pierre Hermé delicacies, including marron croissants, it is difficult to know where to start – and certainly when to stop. There are Bordier yoghurts, Beillevaire butters and halves of avocados (I had a green detox drink and two cups of sensational French press coffee in Haviland porcelain cups, made specially for the hotel). They bring eggs to order and a Japanese lady near me was brought two eggs Benedict standing high. I realise I have not done justice, this visit, to the hotel’s Italian restaurant or the art concierge who suggests a different cultural experience every day. I will just have to come back.
Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com