Want stunning classical music and sincere luxury? Now is exactly the right time to head to that unique luxury hotel, Hotel Le Negresco Nice, ‘Made in French Riviera’. Precisely six months after this beautiful Côte d’Azur city was unwittingly projected on to the front pages of the world’s media; the city is not only running as well as ever, but better than ever. And its iconic hotel is even more polished and loved than before, and that says a lot.
It has one-offs. La Rotonde, a circus-like room, is right on Promenade des Anglais (the background music at breakfast here is pure symphony). The restaurant was installed in 1968 by Jeanne Augier, also known as Madame, who 11 years before had bought Le Negresco for her mother because it had an elevator wide enough for mama’s wheelchair.
Today it is Madame, who still lives up on the top, sixth, floor of the hotel, who is wheelchair-bound. Her beloved hotel is named for a Romanian entrepreneur Alexandru Negrescu, who asked the Café Society’s darling architect, Edouard-Jean Niermans, to design him a little something. This, with its original pink dome, is now in the more-than-capable hands of ultra-passionate hotelier Pierre Bord (he is the one, incidentally, who is always recognisable at ILTMs and such other events, even Virtuoso in the heat of Las Vegas in August, by his yellow or orange neck scarf – every top travel adviser loves this man of the world).
Pierre Bord was there, outside his hotel when the attacks happened on 14 July, and for agonising hours the police would not let him, or anyone, in: his staff, inside, coped with a full house, all of whom opted to stay put in the days following. Today, Pierre Bord is still running at amazing occupancy, with walk-ins often taking it up to 100 per cent. One reason, simply, is that the boss is so versatile. Since my last visit he has redone several rooms, including lovely 305, overlooking both the neighbouring Musée Masséna gardens as well as the Mediterranean. He has made the bar, with its stately-home gallery, into a real happening place, with live music, and hundreds of original art works and sculptures, with such names as César, Dali, de Saint-Phalle and Vasarely alongside 18th century tapestries and ancient copper bathing tubs. You see first-timers at the 120-room hotel with mouths open. Is this really a hotel, or is it a museum? It is both of those and more, including a gathering place for local Niçoises.
People come for meetings, and for special dinners at the Michelin two-star Chantecler, where Jean-Denis Rieubland MOF, one of the most humble of chefs, does marvels with local products, say browned scallops with different colours of beetroot or, as shown, steamed turbot with Bordier seaweed butter, artichokes and baby vegetables (his special menus on 24 and 25 December this year are heavy on truffles, with foie gras and then with Bresse capon, and you continue to a finale of 13 Christmas desserts). It was Madame who chose Chantecler’s gorgeous Limoges porcelain, and the pink linens, and, perhaps, the turquoise or Menton yellow Peugeot salts and peppers in Rotonde. But it is Le Directeur, as the French call him, who oversees bringing this luxury hotel right up to 2017. Rooms are still over-the-top when it comes to colour and some fabrics are idiosyncratically ‘Negresco’ but it is all a far cry from the fake fur coverlets and plastic lampshades of a decade ago.
I get into the Mercedes on departure, listen to soothing Mozart, and smile.
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