Airelles has this week opened its highly-anticipated seventh property, Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle. Tipped to be one of the most sought-after addresses in the world, Le Grand Contrôle is the first hotel to open within the grounds of France’s iconic Château de Versailles with views over the Orangerie, the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses and the Château.
Guests can take an exclusive peek into the enchanting world of Versailles, exploring the 800-hectare gardens and palace halls and apartments as walked by Europe’s elite over the centuries.
Le Grand Contrôle is housed within a stunning building constructed by Louis XIV’s favourite architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, in 1681. Now, two centuries on, the property has been meticulously restored by architect and interior designer, Christophe Tollemer, to reveal 14 regal rooms and suites including a 120-square-metre signature Suite, exceptional dining by Alain Ducasse, a restorative spa by Valmont with a 15-metre indoor swimming pool, and exclusive access to the Château.
Tollemer has drawn direct inspiration for the project from the neighbouring Petit Trianon Palace and Louis XVI’s personal style, focusing on 1788 as a benchmark, the year in which Marie Antoinette redecorated Petit Trianon as well as that of Le Grand Contrôle’s last inventory.
Each of the 14 rooms and suites are decorated individually in an elegant 18th-century style. The rooms feature authentic colours and fabrics, chandeliers, artwork and artefacts including a love letter from Madame De Staël to her lover Louis, Comte de Narbonne-Lara. The property is largely furnished with original period furniture, and Tollemer worked closely with Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau, a highly experienced specialist in French heritage and art in the selection of authentic art and objects from the 17th and 18th centuries.
As well as Vidal-Delagneau, a number of highly-respected French artisans and craftspeople were commissioned to restore and recreate the many historical features, including parquet flooring, fabrics, stonework and wood panelling. The prestigious Maison Pierre Frey has created period wall hangings for each room, displaying original designs taken from the Château archives. Themes include flowers and butterflies characteristic of the ‘return to nature’ advocated by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rosseau.
From the moment of arrival, guests enjoy a truly immersive stay and Airelles has curated a number of exclusive experiences, providing access to areas of the Château and grounds that are normally closed to visitors. There are also boats and golf carts on hand to explore the Grand Canal and gardens at leisure.
Each stay includes the following experiences:
- Private tour of The Trianon: Each morning, before the arrival of the general public, hotel guests are invited to join a tour of The Trianon and The Queen’s Hamlet (Le Hameau de la Reine). The tour differs each day with the guide showcasing different areas, including Marie Antoinette’s much-loved English Gardens and Louis XIV’s Grand Trianon.
- Private tour of the Château: Every evening once all visitors have departed, hotel guests can enjoy an intimate tour of the Palace itself, taking in the King and Queen’s State Apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, as well as previously unseen living areas of the sovereigns.
- Unlimited Access to the Orangery Gardens: Guests are invited to visit the magnificent gardens at any time of day.
There are also a selection of paid-for experiences available including after-hours access to the Hall of Mirrors, a Marie Antoinette-themed day including a costume fitting, a private performance at the Royal Opera, private dining with a string quartet in the former apartment of Louis XV’s daughters, and the chance to follow in the footsteps of former head gardener to the royals, André Le Nôtre.
At the heart of the guest experience is the aristocratic culinary offering provided by the internationally-acclaimed chef, Alain Ducasse. With 20 Michelin stars to his name, Ducasse takes guests on a journey through time, experiencing gastronomic delights from both past and present via a tantalising menu inspired by the flamboyant nature of Louis XIV’s meals. With uninterrupted views onto the Orangery parterre, Ducasse at Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle serves a selection of reimagined French classics during the day along with a dedicated Marie Antoinette afternoon tea.
Dinner is a more theatrical affair, reminiscent of the king’s royal banquets, with the restaurant team in period costume serving an array of gold, silver or vermeil dome-covered dishes. A bell rings at 8:30pm to signal the beginning of dinner, where guests experience a five-course gourmet feast commencing with a selection of soups and starters followed by roasts and salads, then dessert and, finally, fruit.
Each Sunday a royal brunch is served, directly inspired by ‘Le Grand Couvert’, an ancient French ritual where the king and queen would dine in front of the public. An impressive buffet takes centre stage resplendent with classic dishes and seasonal ingredients, as well as some dishes being served directly to the table. A highlight is the King’s Soup in a nod to the past.
The opening of Le Grand Contrôle marks the seventh property for the prestigious hotel collection. which also comprises Les Airelles in Courchevel, La Bastide in Gordes, Mademoiselle in Val d’Isère and Château de la Messardière, and Pan Deï Palais in Saint-Tropez.
Rates at Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle start from €1,700, including a dedicated butler, daily tours of Château de Versailles and the Trianon, access to the Palace grounds including use of boats and golf carts, as well as breakfast, afternoon tea and minibar snacks.