L’Hotel in the Rue des Beaux Arts on the left bank in Paris is utterly exceptional, the perfect bijou, boutique hotel. We pulled up in the opaque white Ferrari 488 convertible right outside the door, popped the front trunk and handed our bags over to the concierge. The entrance is discreet and easily missed, but once inside there is an impressive hall that extends past the front desk, though the bar, into the restaurant and ends in the exterior garden with its wonderful scalloped fountain.
The decor is flawless, a mixture of plush upholstered green velvet, rushed purple silk on the walls, burnished red marble pillars with gold candelabras and faux leopard rugs. A modern distillation of luxury Parisan style crafted with impeccable taste, that whilst lavish, immediately comforts and pampers you. To reach the lift up to the rooms you pass through the enormous light well that towers up through the middle of the building to the roof, think of the tower of Pisa from the inside, with all the suites radiating from the centre. They have 20 rooms in six styles (it is the smallest 5-star hotel in Paris), Mignon, Bijoux, Grand, Chic, the Oscar Wilde Suite and the Apartment. We were staying in the Apartment, which is the penthouse suite, so the lift dropped us at the pinnacle of the light well, with an inspiring view of the arches spiralling down to the ground floor.
The Apartment suite is sublime, a consummate Parisian flat. You enter into a spacious living room with a deep comfortable sofa, polished mahogany antique drawers and writing desks, two armchairs, marble columns with plush red curtains and a balcony overlooking the courtyard and rooftops of St Germain Des Pres. The large double bedroom is immediately to the right, think boudoir meets sybaritic luxury, with a gold-framed oil painting above the bed, chandelier and red silk fabric with flower patterns lining the walls. The bathroom is on the left, complete with marble basins, bath and shower. The balcony has two chairs and a round cafe table on it with monochromatic striped cushions, and a view to die for. Named after Louis-Antoine, Cardinal of Noailles, the décor is inspired by the Cardinal’s robes and makes rich use of red velvet drapes to immerse you in the period.
We immediately ordered some champagne and marvelled at the never-ending blue sky streaked with fluffy white clouds broken by the chimneys and spires of the Église de Saint Germain des Prés. Then we called the concierge to book the Hammam pool in the basement. You take the lift down, then descend the ancient stone steps to the atmospheric cave with a lovely medieval writing room hidden in the central stone column. Two little changing rooms lead you to the shimmering pool that kaleidoscopes slowly through the colours of the rainbow. You can swap between the cool pool and the adjoining blistering steam room for maximum refreshment, all in this little underground medieval cellar. As you have the place to yourself you can even eschew the usual bathing gear and go “au natural,” an invigorating way to liven up for the ensuing evening.
After dressing in our best Parisian outfits we took a bottle of champagne in “Le Bar” and then made our way to the Michelin starred Le Restaurant (they keep the names simple here!) to a lovely table out on the terrace by the fountain. They have a tasting menu paired with wines, which was sublime and well balanced so that even after nine courses we were not full, just pleasantly replete. It was a memorable banquet complete with wines from every region of Europe that varied from sweet to deep and rich, perfectly complementing the different savours of each unique course.
We started with a Tourteau de Loctudy or crab with yuzu mousse, sweet mustard and avocado. Then the Bar de Ligne or sea bass with mint oil, rare with crisp skin, elderberries and Daurenki Imperial Caviar. Followed by a superb Homard Bleu or blue lobster in a coraline and curry sauce with carrots and dates. The sommelier was pushing the cork out with some incredible wines and after a small breather we pushed on with the Cabri or lightly smoked goat with different varieties of courgette in a lemon confit. My particular favourite was the lobster, but it was not easy to pick one out they were all so delicious.
As we finished the main course we discovered that the dessert tasting menu was, in fact, four courses in itself. If I’d known that I would have gone for the full ten-course menu anyway, in for a pound as they say. An array of assorted sweets arrived with panache: Rhubarb and Bora Bora vanilla craquante with confit and sorbet, raspberry tulameen with Phoenician pistachio creamy mousse and muesli biscuit, peach and vervain Oolong tea infusion jam with a light mousse and Dent de Loup cake, finishing with Streusel biscuits and grand cru chocolates (grand cru indicates a higher quality of chocolate) that played on different textures. Each course built on the next, playing one flavour off another, presenting a fine fusion of tastes that played on the palate. It was an exquisite menu from a master chef who favoured some of the finest and eclectic ingredients to please and surprise.
The service was impeccable and warm and after this grand tour de force we repaired to Le Bar for a digestif and soon became embroiled with the barman on the subject of great whiskies. The French tend to like their whiskies quite peaty, to differentiate from their love of brandy, so we discussed the relative merits of each for a while, with a little tasting from their wide and authoritative selection.
In the morning we took our breakfast in the room, sitting on the stupendous balcony overlooking Paris as the sun rose over the church bell tower, watching Parisians wake up in the surrounding apartments. Our only mission for the day was to visit the local patisseries and raid them for all the eclairs and fine chocolates they possessed, and catch up on the latest works of the local fashion houses. We took lunch at La Palette just around the corner from the L’Hotel, famous for its Euro-trash clientele, and admired the prestigious local shops, selling everything from avant-garde art and jewellery to classic and rare books.
L’Hotel is your own luxury apartment in St Germain-des-Prés, the most sought after area in Paris. It conveys the true luxury experience of living in this city of culture and art, and everything that entails. Life at L’Hotel is that of a wealthy Parisian, with sumptuous decor, Michelin starred restaurant and opulent bar. There are many excellent hotels all over the world but L’Hotel is truly unique. It achieves a pinnacle of quality and experience that is difficult to match and is genuinely representative of luxury living in Paris, quintessential, authentic and emotional. You are not a tourist but a Parisian enjoying a hedonistic existence in the most beautiful and sophisticated city in the world.
L’Hotel was built in 1828 by Célestin-Joseph Happe in the exact location occupied by La Reine Margot’s Pavillon d’Amour in the 17th century. After King Henry IV cast her aside apparently due to her many affairs, she set up here where she had even more lovers, one even killing another, as documented by her own scandalous memoir and Alexander Dumas. I used to live very near this hotel for almost a decade, without knowing it was there, it is so discreet and exclusive. The clientele is often wealthy Parisians who now live abroad or in the South of France and want a secret luxury hideaway from which to enjoy all that Paris has to offer. It was frequented by celebrities such as Salvador Dali, Princess Grace, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Jim Morrison and Serge Gainsbourg. Johnny Depp used to live just around the corner with Vanessa Paradis and now stays at L’Hotel when he is in town. Oscar Wilde lived out his last years and eventually popped his clogs there leaving his last bill unpaid, this bill now adorns the wall in the lobby. He quipped at the time “I am dying above my means.” which showed he still had a way with one-liners. Above all Oscar Wilde knew how to live well, so his recommendation is unrivalled.
Like the Ferrari 488 convertible L’Hotel is more about the whole experience and luxury lifestyle that comes with a stay in this home from home in Paris. For the discerning traveller who wants to get the most unique, personal and immersive taste of luxury pleasure in St Germain, we cannot recommend this more highly. L’Hotel receives our Luxury Excellence Boutique Hotel Award for 2018 and should be top of your list of places to experience. They also have a loyalty membership scheme that offers 15% off and room upgrades.
Reserve the Apartment before Johnny.