What IS French style? In Paris, the palace that is Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, gives a clue. The recipe requires history, design, at least a pinch of fun and a boss who has above-par flair.
This is the historic hotel, at the north-west corner of Place de la Concorde, that is closest to the Presidential pad, the Elysée Palace (west-facing bedrooms are so close you feel you could reach out and shake Macron by a manicured hand). Although it had been built for Louis XV in 1758, de Crillon is actually named for the Count de Crillon, who bought the palace in 1788. For the record, the Count became a Duke in 1815, the palace passed on down his descendants until 1904, when a Duchess of Polignac, who had married a de Crillon, moved on to a palace in the sky.
Next, our French-style recipe requires design. Swim today in a basement pool that Lebanese-Armenian Chahan Minassian’s turned into a theatrical stage set, and the adjacent 24/7 gym is not bad either (whose lucky-13 outside members, all pillars of new-look Paris, hang-out for good equipment, including sports-pro Theraguns, and top-gear networking).
All 124 bedrooms have been designed by Stylagos’ Cyril Vergniol as comfort luxury, with large cashmere throws, Victorian-look Buly toiletries. Minibars, featuring Krug and already-mixed double-size cocktails complement curlicue-edged trolleys with full-size cutglass decanters. Butlers, possibly about to escort diners to Michelin-starred L’Ecrin restaurant, sport haute couture cravats that it is hard not to covet. Like all team members’ gear, it’s by Hugo Matha, 26-year old heir to a vineyard dynasty.
Home-churned vine-leaf butter is one of three flavours, with just-baked mini baquettes, that start any L’Ecrin meal: white Safran china is all unique – its clay incorporates some yeast so, when thrown, each plate bubbles up in its own one-off way. Continuing the association with viticulture, hollowed-out vine trunks bear tiny one-bite canapés. You choose how many courses you want, your sommelier suggests wines, and then, and only then, doth chef Boris Campanella design your food: in my case, Dme Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2014, from Corinne, Jean-Paul and Loic Jamet, was paired with a perfect whole veal sweetbread.
As the Millennial-Parisien hotel Managing Director Vincent Billiard says, French style requires lots of touch points – two weeks ago, when hosting 150 delegates to the first DUCO France to what was billed as an hour-long lunch, he surprised everyone by adding live jazz, and tricks that apparently were barely believable, by magician David Jarre, son of legendary power-couple Jean-Michel Jarre and Charlotte Rampling.
In my case, the unexpected final touch points was passing, on the way out of the restaurant, a pop-up display of signet and other 18-carat rings. Each piece, by Parisien goldsmith Christophe Grünthaler, was at least 30cm diameter. Again, the word covet surfaces, but what would I do with such a piece?