Camelia at The Mandarin Oriental Paris

The main artery of the Parisian haute couture district is the rue St. Honore. This is not a grand boulevard of Haussman’s Paris, but what it lacks in grandiose proportions it makes up for in the quality of its shops, hotels and restaurants.

This is where fashionistas fly in to do a hit and run on Hermes without glancing at price tags and where models sip drinks at cool bars. In this high intensity district, I found a corner of peace and quiet in the garden of the Mandarin Oriental Paris.

The Mandarin Oriental is positioned front row centre on the rue St. Honore, but of all the luxury hotels in the area, the Mandarin Oriental is the most unobtrusive.

The hotel’s structure has a clean art deco sandstone façade which does not scream for attention among the flashiness of rue St. Honore. Blink and you might just miss it.

Through the doors and down a hallway past several welcoming but stern guardians lies the lobby which combines elements of eastern zen and early 20th century art deco with a very contemporary take on what is now in vogue in interior design with a focus on organic curves that draw you in.

Upon arrival, I had a quick pre-lunch drink at the bar, named Bar 8. The interior of the bar is dark and sexy – a perfect place for a night time liaison, but perhaps not ideally suited for a Sunday afternoon bellini, therefore  I opted to take my drink in the inviting courtyard garden.

Camelia at The Mandarin Oriental Paris

Unlike most Parisian hotels which have more formal courtyards, the Mandarin Oriental’s courtyard is incredibly cosy. It is lush from top to bottom, starting with the ferns and moss on the ground reaching to the sky with the mature trees which must have been airlifted into the courtyard during construction.

There are no straight lines here and plenty of wooden nooks and crannies to hide out in.  In a city based on café culture where everyone stares at each other, a bit of greenery and privacy is very welcome.

Camelia at The Mandarin Oriental Paris

Lunch on Sundays is served at Camelia, the more casual of the two restaurants in the Mandarin Oriental which are overseen by Thierry Marx. Camelia has taken a different approach to Sundays in Paris by offering  a set menu that begins with a selection of self service items from the counter followed by individually prepared mains cooked to order.

I am never a big fan of the all-you-can-eat self-service brunch which always runs the risk of exuding the vibe of an aspirational country club, but Camelia’s take on the classic manages to steer clear of any such stereotype.

The appetizer selection is diverse and consistent in its high quality ingredients and execution across the board: delicate sushi, hearty terrines, fresh salads and smoked fish fill a table where there is something for everyone.

For my main course, I opted for a traditional Beef Wellington: the pastry crust flaked, there was a delicious layer of finely chopped mushrooms separating the steak and the crust and the beef was a delicate melt-in-your-mouth cut.  The vegetables and potato strayed from traditional elements and added a much appreciated zing to the dish.

Camelia at The Mandarin Oriental Paris

The front of the restaurant contains a large pastry case which showcases the desserts of the day.  The chef clearly wants you to keep dessert in mind from the moment you step into the space, and for good reason.

I chose the fig cheesecake which came with a crumbly cracker base and was coddled in finely chopped nuts to add some delicate texture to the creamy sugary body.  A perfectly satisfying ending to a Sunday lunch.

Prices certainly aren’t cheap at Camelia – which isn’t surprising given the Mandarin Oriental is clearly competing with Paris’s grandes dames like the Plaza Athenee, Le Meurice and Le Bristol - but lingering in this beautiful corner of Paris surrounded by gorgeous foliage in such a serene setting certainly makes up for it.

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Le Bristol Paris – Hotel Review

Emyr Thomas visits Le Bristol Paris, a beautiful hotel that exudes old world charm: White marble floors glisten throughout the lobby and every Louis XIV style incidental table is adorned with a unique arrangement of freshly cut flowers.

Le Bristol Lobby

There is a garden at the back of the hotel that is large enough to be considered a park by most urban standards. There is a feeling of space and serenity and there is no chance that any of the other guests could overhear your clandestine conversations over a glass of wine in the sunshine.

The hotel opened in 1925 and was recently classed as a ‘Palace’ by the French Ministry of Tourism’s rating system for exceptional luxury hotels.

The staff are impeccably professional and take immense pride in the hotel, from guest relations who greet guests as they arrive to uniformed maids who plump the cushions of the sofas as soon as you leave your seat to hit the shops and museums which lie just outside the front doors of the hotel.

The rooms are decorated in a traditional style with chintz and silk curtains to match the chairs, crystal chandeliers and Persian carpets. Bathrooms are spacious with Hermes and Anne Semonin products and each room has a distinct entrance area, separate from the main room, which is a great benefit for those with exploding suitcases.

While the rooms have satellite flat screen TVs, we would have appreciated a separate music player or iPod dock, and the daily charge for internet access is something I hope all hotels will soon abolish.

The hotel has a resident white cat that roams the hallways and keeps a watchful eye over the staff and the guests, although he wasn’t to be seen on our visit.

Le Bristol Paris is a self-contained wonderland in which you can spend days without ever getting bored.  There is an opulent La Prairie spa where the treatment rooms look out into the peaceful garden, and a rooftop pool designed in the style of boat with views of the Paris rooftops, which also includes a rooftop sundeck and a hammam.

Le Bristol Paris

There is a bar serving cocktails, light meals and afternoon tea to a backdrop of a live harpist and if that isn’t enough amusement, the hotel is located on Paris’s finest shopping street – rue Faubourg Saint-Honore – and a stone’s throw from the Louvre and the Champs Elysee for those inclined to engage in some old fashioned tourism.

Le Bristol Paris’s crowning jewel is its culinary offerings:  Those with time and calories to spare are invited for a gastronomic feast at ‘Epicure’ from chef Eric Frechon, where the dining room is formal but inviting with views of the inner courtyard, with a 19th century marble fireplace and large French doors leading out into the trellised garden.

Restaurant_114_Faubourg

We opted for dinner at the less formal ‘114 Faubourg’, which opened in 2009, where the surroundings of the restaurant were playful and there was a buzz of an upscale brasserie in the air.  Somewhat unexpectedly for the hotel’s second restaurant, plates of exquisitely prepared food kept appearing, with all the tastes one would expect in a Michelin-starred restaurant but served with none of the fuss or pretence.

Of particular note was a cote de boeuf Normande for two, which was served on a bed of smouldering herbs alongside the creamiest mashed potatoes. The wine list is heavily French but covers a wide variety of regions and price points.  Breakfast is served in the dining room, in the garden (weather permitting), and most decadently, in bed.

I opted for the third option and had the basket of delicacies crafted by the in-house pastry chef delivered to my room in the morning.  Just when you thought life couldn’t get any better, it did.

Would you like your own expert travel concierge to arrange every aspect of your next holiday to Le Bristol Paris or any other deatination with access to exclusive rates and privileges? Email us to find out more.

For further inspiration, read our guide to the best luxury hotels in Paris featuring Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris and Le Meurice Hotel.

Le Meurice Paris – Hotel Review

Emyr Thomas visits Le Meurice Paris.

Steeped in history since it first opened its doors in 1835, Le Meurice Paris majestically holds court on the Rue de Rivoli with the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries, one of Paris’s most striking parks, directly opposite. With Place Vendôme and Rue Sainte-Honoré also mere minutes away, Le Meurice must surely be one of the most desired addresses in Paris and certainly one of the best luxury hotels in Paris.

The 18th-century architecture, modern design touches and the latest in contemporary comfort and elegance create a truly resplendent modern palace hotel. At each moment spent in the confines of the hotel, there is someone one step ahead and one step behind, making sure that every whim and desire is taken care of. Doors open, chocolate arrives in your room and drinks appear at the bar even before you realise that you want them. But then, of course, you realise you do.

But it is not the service alone that makes Le Meurice special. The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Tour d’Eiffel – all Paris’s great monuments, revered throughout the world – are visible from some of the rooms, allowing guests to be a tourist merely by glancing out the window. However, some of Paris’s most interesting history has occurred within the hotel itself. A guest book including princes, statesmen, artists and even a celebrity dog make you feel like the world comes to you at Le Meurice and that you will not miss a beat if you never set foot outside.

The 160 rooms and suites are elegant, classic and luxurious in the style of Louis XVI, while the suites feature huge walk-in wardrobes and exquisite marble bathrooms, complete with Penhaligon’s products, and the Belle Etoile penthouse has its own private lift, butler’s pantry and 360° views from its rooftop terrace.

Le Meurice Room

The hotel excels with its restaurant offerings – three Michelin stars are found on the plates of the main dining room, which is decorated with ancient mirrors, chandeliers and frescoed ceilings, with perfectly placed tables and views over the Tuilerieis Gardens.

For those looking for something more relaxed but still opulent and just as glamorous, there is Restaurant Le Dali, named after Salvador Dali who spent at least one month every year at the hotel, along with many other famous artists, and whose influence is clearly felt throughout the hotel.

My lunch consisted of a peppery gazpacho amuse bouche followed by a milky, creamy burrata with salad, pine nuts and tomato shavings, with a main course of lobster with fine elbow pasta, Parmesan, asparagus and edible gold, all of which was expertly executed with impeccable service.

The main dining room had clearly dropped a few Michelin tips along the way and Le Dali would stand up to the competition of Paris’s other top tables on its own accolades.

Bar 228 with its live jazz and dark wood design brings out your inner Jay Gatsby, with decadent cocktails served in big crystal tumblers. For those in need of pampering, there is also a spa with expert therapists to help you look younger, more relaxed and glowing.

Breakfast in bed at Le Meurice is the ultimate Parisian indulgence – a trolley with crisp white linens arrives with a perfectly positioned rose on the tray, stunning silverware and truly exquisite croissants, while the daylight streams gently through the windows.

Le Meurice Paris is regal, glamorous and charming, expertly showing how a grand hotel can be anything but stuffy.

For further information or to make a booking at Le Meurice, please contact your concierge or check our guide to the best luxury hotels in Paris.

Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris

Emyr Thomas visits the Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris, one of the finest luxury hotels in Paris.

With its red geraniums and signature red awnings, the Plaza Athenee Paris blooms with elegance and glamour on the beautiful avenue Montaigne. On entering the lobby, you are immediately aware of a discrete, stylish operation, oozing with charm from every corner with a team of friendly, dedicated and highly professional staff, pre-empting your every whim.

The luxury hotel’s 146 rooms and 45 suites are sumptuously decorated in either Art Deco, Regency or Louis XVI style, expertly combining traditional opulence with up to the minute modern touches, including a television that operates from inside the mirror in our suite.

For the delicate sleepers, the Plaza Athenee Paris offers a special pillow menu with a choice of wheat, de-stressing, beautifying, horsehair, osteopathic or synthetic pillows.

The rooms have views of either the avenue Montaigne or the tranquil interior courtyard, which is turned into an ice-skating rink in the winter.

The piece de résistance, however, stands with splendour 81 storeys in the air, a mere kilometre away, perfectly on view from the terraces of the hotel’s suites. Sitting on the terrace, bathed in red geraniums, with a glass of champagne in hand looking directly at the Eiffel Tour is a gentle reminder of Paris’s status as one of the most romantic destinations in the world.

Paris also has a reputation for its shops, and if that’s the reason for your visit, then the Plaza Athenee Paris is ideally situated – you are surrounded by some of the city’s best boutiques, with Dior just across the street, and Prada and Balenciaga a short walk away.

If you need to stop for respite, look no further than La Terrasse Montaigne, discretely hidden in foliage aligning the front of the hotel, which is perfect for a light lunch or a lingering afternoon of people watching.

Legendary French chef, the multi Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse, oversees every aspect of the hotel’s dining options, from his eponymous three-star restaurant, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, to the quality of the pastries in the breakfast basket.

We dined at Le Relais Plaza restaurant in the hotel, a true Parisian institution since the 1930s, loved by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sophia Lauren and Marlene Dietrich.

Entering the restaurant is like stepping back in time – the décor is perfectly preserved 1930s’ decadence, the service formal, the food classic and made from high quality ingredients and the live piano music a wonderful reminder of an almost forgotten era.

Le Bar du Plaza Athénée remains one of the most chic and hip bars in Paris, a haven for celebrities and fashionistas, whether sipping cocktails on the illuminated bar sculpted out of glass, or lounging on the leather chairs in front of the fireplace towards the end of the bar.

If in need of relaxation or pampering, visit the luxurious Dior Spa at the hotel, which has 5 treatment rooms, including a VIP double treatment room, and a relaxation lounge.

Paris is glorious in the spring and what better way of seeing its delights than from your private Plaza Athénée boat, which takes you along the length of the Seine in the comfort of the exclusive mahogany and chrome boat with champagne and cake at hand.

Earlier this month, the Plaza Athénée became one of only 8 hotels in the whole of France to be awarded the exclusive ‘Palace’ distinction by the ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry. For a hotel where the words ‘once upon a time, the Palace of tomorrow’ resonate throughout, this was, surely, always inevitable.

While many grand dames cling on to a former glory, the Plaza Athénée perfectly illustrates how history, tradition and modernity can thrive under the same majestic red awning.

Would you like your own expert travel concierge to arrange every aspect of your next holiday with access to exclusive rates and privileges? Email us to find out more.

For further inspiration, read our guide to the best luxury hotels in Paris featuring Le Bristol Hotel and Le Meurice Hotel.

Travel Guide: New Hotel Openings

This year is set to be a bumper year for the London hotel scene with a plethora of luxury and boutique hotels due to open, which should also mean new, high quality restaurants. London’s hotel bar scene is already thriving, but with high expectations for the new arrivals, we could be in for a year of very stiff martinis.

Towards the end of last year, The Savoy hotel reopened after a long and expensive renovation, bringing with it Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill, which is already receiving stellar reviews, and the beautiful Beaufort Bar.

Another refurbished hotel will shortly follow suit with the reopening of the Four Seasons London scheduled for 31 January, along with Amaranto, its modern Italian restaurant from Executive Chef Adriano Cavagnini (previously at Hotel Eden, Rome), which will also have a lounge, a bar and a garden terrace. The rooftop spa has glorious views of London, including from the sauna.

Photo: The Four Seasons London

A short distance away, the Dorchester Collection’s 45 Park Lane will open in the summer where Wolfgang Puck will launch ‘Cut’, a restaurant he opened at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills in 2006. I visited the original restaurant shortly after it opened and can highly rate the steaks and the tuna tartare starter.

Leicester Square will shortly be home to two new properties with the St John Hotel due to open in January, to be followed by the W Hotel, the first W Hotel in the UK, which should be open in time for Valentine’s Day.

The St Pancras Renaissance is finally scheduled to open in February, which will be ideal for Eurostar travellers, where Marcus Wareing will open The Gilbert Scott, a British brasserie.

In Clerkenwell, The Zetter is due to open a sister property in May 2011 across the road from the original boutique hotel in a Georgian townhouse which will have the feel of a private residence with just 11 rooms, two suites and a lounge and cocktail bar, all designed by interior designer Russell Sage. Further East in Dalston, the Avo Hotel will open with only 6 rooms and a penthouse.

The Eccleston Square Hotel is also scheduled to open in May 2011 in Pimlico with 40 bedrooms all with £12,000 Hasten beds from Sweden and a large focus on the in-room technology.

The Corinthia near Whitehall will have a bar designed by David Collins when it opens in April and Thompson Hotels will open Belgraves in Belgravia later in the year.

On the fringes of London, London Syon Park, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, is set to open in early 2011, in the grounds of a 200-acre English country estate, Syon Park, home of the Duke of Northumberland. The hotel will look out across the Thames to Kew Gardens, and it is ideally situated between London and Heathrow.

Further properties are planned for 2012, including the ME hotel group’s first foray into the UK hotel market, and there are also plans to open London’s first 6 star hotel. Located just off Hyde Park in Knightsbridge the 36-bedroom townhouse hotel, The Wellesley, is currently undergoing a £36 million pound renovation, with plans to open in 2012. There are also rumours that Andre Balazs will open a hotel in a converted fire station in Marylebone.

Whilst not as active as London, Paris has also experienced notable additions, including the Shangri-La, which opened in December last year. With rooms around the EUR 800 mark, they’ll be directly competing with grande dames such as The Crillon and Plaza Athenee.

Other hotel groups will also be moving in to Paris, including the W Paris-Opera on Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, near the Garnier Opera House, towards the end of the year and the Mandarin Oriental Paris will be located on rue Saint Honoré with a restaurant from Michelin starred chef, Thierry Marx.

Hotel O is due to open in the summer in the Les Halles district, near the Louvre, along with its sister hotel, Hotel Le Crayon, which describes itself as ‘a poetic, bucolic and artistic hotel that dares to play a game of audacious combinations’.

It has been rumoured that Paris will also be the destination for the next Armani Hotel, along with the current properties in Dubai and Milan.

In New York, 2010 saw the opening of the James Hotel in Soho, The Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side, with its excellent Jean-Georges restaurant, and The Chatwal in Midtown, with the trend set to continue during 2011, with openings including the Setai Fifth Avenue and the Morgans Hotel Group’s Mondrian Soho.

For further information on these hotels or to make a booking, please contact us.

The Best Private Dining Rooms in Europe

We highlight the best private dining rooms in Europe, outside of the UK. You can also read our guide to the best private dining rooms in London.

Taillevent, Paris

Taillevent is small, intimate and elegant and widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Paris, with an extensive, award-winning wine list. The Guimet room can accommodate up to 10 guests and the larger Saturne room can accommodate up to 32 guests.

Conveniently located off the Champs-Elysées, Taillevent is a great place to celebrate an important business deal with one of the best private dining rooms in Europe. Menus from €120.

Vivaldi at The Schlosshotel, outside Berlin

For something a little different, the Vivaldi restaurant offers refined dining in the palatial and glamorous setting of the Schlosshotel just outside Berlin, which is surrounded by small lakes and wooded trails, which all adds to the enchanting atmosphere.

The Oval room can accommodate up to 10 people, with menus from €55 per person, making this one of the best private dining rooms in Europe.

La Tour d’Argent, Paris

Located on the fifth floor, the private rooms at La Tour d’Argent are luxuriously elegant and offer a unique view of Paris, Notre-Dame and the Seine, with one of the best private dining rooms in Europe.

Accommodating between 15 and 50 guests, with menus starting at €135, La Tour d’Argent is the ideal location for private events, business lunches and dinners.

Senderens, Paris

Alain Senderens famously relinquished his 3 Michelin stars before closing his restaurant, Lucas Carton, to open Senderens in its place, with the aim of offering a more relaxed and informal restaurant, which was later awarded 2 Michelin stars itself.

La Salon La Madeleine is a beautiful and stylish private room from which to experience the finest French cuisine in a refined yet unstuffy atmosphere at one of the best private dining rooms in Europe.

Laperouse, Paris

Set is a 17th century townhouse on the bank of the river Seine, Laperouse is famed for its rather debauched past catering to politicians and their mistresses. Today it offers refined French cuisine and is famed for its cosy and intimate private dining rooms, the largest of which can accommodate up to 55 with great views of the Seine.

Cracco, Milan

Cracco, which holds 2 Michelin stars, is undoubtedly one of Milan’s best restaurants, featuring classic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist.

In a contemporary dining room of cherry wood walls and cool earth tones on Milan’s central square, Cracco boasts an extensive wine list of nearly 1,800 labels and is ideal for a celebratory lunch or dinner. The private room can accommodate up to 10.

Tantris, Munich

Tantris is widely considered to be the best restaurant in Munich, if not Germany in its entirety, due to its subtle, uncomplicated and original food. With its striking 1970s design with Oriental influences, the restaurant is refreshingly relaxed and unstuffy with seamless service. Tantris also has one of the best private dining rooms in Europe.

ABaC, Barcelona

ABaC is a chic and intimate hotel on the outskirts of Barcelona, which has been developed around its restaurant, offering an avante garde culinary experience. Private rooms can accommodate up to 20 guests with menus from €125, offering one of the best orivate dining rooms in Europe.

Sea Grill, Brussels

The Sea Grill is a spacious and elegant restaurant with an Art Deco design in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Brussels, which is considered by many to be the best seafood restaurant in Belgium, if not Europe.

The Sea Grill has two intimate private rooms, one can accommodate 8 people, while the other can accommodate up to 16.

If you liked this feature on the best private dining rooms in Europe, read our guide to private dining in London.

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