Paris is the city of love. The city of light.
But it is also the city of grand dame hotels. Only the crème de la crème of properties earn this distinction through unique merits of French excellence. These include rich historical significance, elegance and pure lavishness.
Le Bristol Paris was the first hotel in the country to be awarded this coveted status. Early on, it had established itself as a bastion of old-school opulence and it consistently retains this reputation through rigorous standards and constant refurbishments.
We’re immediately introduced to its legendary hospitality upon arrival. Our car pulls up to the shiny gold and brass entrance, where smartly dressed bellboys swiftly identify us and address us by name. Our luggage is promptly taken, and we’re beckoned into the warm fold of luxury that is the lobby.
Inside, it’s a stylish blend of period furnishings with polished marble, stately columns and classic boiserie walls framed with gilded mirrors. Enormous floral arrangements sit next to chintzy Louis XV and XIV sofas framed by Abusson tapestries. This is unmistakably a palace. A distinction deserving for the pearl of the Oetker Collection.
Le Bristol’s history began in 1715, when Louis XIV’s court left Versailles and returned to Paris where they established mansions. With the conception of the Elysée Palace nearby, its address of Faubourg Saint-Honoré attracted luxury stores such as Hermès and Lanvin.
In 1925, the mansion was turned into a hotel by Hyppolyte Jammet. Launched in the Roaring Twenties, it quickly drew emerging luminaries such as Cristobal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel and A-list entertainers like Josephine Baker. In 1978, German businessman and hotelier Rudolf A. Oetker acquired the hotel from the family business and turned it into a palace. Today, Le Bristol continues to be the favoured property for global elites, the fashion set and celebrities.
Devotion to Detail
Over the years, the hotel has seen multiple refreshes, with its most recent refurbishment by architectural firm MM Design taking place just last year. Following the renovation of its restaurants, courtyard garden, spa and bar, its rooms have followed suit.
Due to Le Bristol’s history as a private mansion, its layout is not consistent, so each suite is unique to the other in layout and decor. Prior to the recent refurbishment, the rooms featured matching tapestries, curtains and bedspreads. Now, they are a study in restrained elegance – swathed in a soft harmony of fabrics and colour, with complementary shades and bespoke bed linens by famed Italian brand Quagliotti.
The room we’re appointed is a junior suite on the fifth floor. It’s decorated in lighter fabrics and pastel touches, with classically French artwork and furniture used as accents. It also has every comfort imaginable: from a large sofa and desk to a sumptuous all-marble bathroom. A stay in Paris is incomplete without a terrace and ours lets us gaze upon the clamour of Rue Saint Fauborg and the Eiffel Tower – a cliched yet special sight when it sparkles every hour past sundown.
Le Bristol has a staggering number of suites, and it has recently added three more to its Signature Suites line-up. These are the hotel’s most legendary hideaways. Luxurious fabrics decorate these stylish sanctuaries and are derived from legendary labels such as Loro Piana and Pierre Frey. Pastels of green, blue and light grey are also used in place of dark wood panelling.
Beyond pulling in VIPs and celebrity fans, Le Bristol also sees a steady crowd of gourmands and foodies descending upon its culinary temples. And for good reason. The hotel has four Michelin stars shared between the three-starred Epicure and 114 Fauborg.
Breakfasts take place at the former so don’t stroll down in your pyjamas and bedroom slippers – suit jackets for men are mandatory. The atmosphere is hushed; the service is discreet and attentive. Grab a seat by the window for a lovely view of Le Jardin, the hotel’s magnificent garden and courtyard, which was recently renewed by famed landscape designer Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
If you want a memorable morning meal, make Epicure your destination. We have the American breakfast, which may sound devastatingly average, but is deliciously and unmistakably French.
Scrambled eggs, cooked in generous spoonfuls of butter, arrive as a bowl of custard. These are not eggs to be wolfed down with greasy bacon, but delicately spooned onto toasts. Porridge oats are served with a variety of toppings, including cinnamon and brown sugar in precious ceramic jars.
What is truly spectacular is the basket of pastries that, depending on the morning, can include croissants, danishes and baguettes, served with gourmet artisanal butters and jams.
This culinary excellence begins in the basement, where ancient-style wheat is ground in its very own flour mill. Le Bristol Paris is the only hotel in Paris to have this.
Further exciting the fooderati, Le Bristol also owns its own chocolatier – responsible for making the in-room chocolates – and an impressive wine cellar. Its most recent addition is a cheese room for the finest French variety to ripen and mature.
An all-in-one address
Ticking even more boxes, Le Bristol also has other great facilities such as the swimming pool that resembles a boat’s prow. It’s situated on a wooden deck surrounded by angled windows and features a mural that depicts a 19th-century sailboat in the Mediterranean, with Oetker property Hotel du Cap-Eden- Roc looming in the distance.
Le Bristol also offers wellness options through its Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie. In April this year, it announced a partnership with natural skincare brand Tata Harper, debuting a menu of restorative treatments called Sensorial Resets.
Jet-lagged and tired from constantly being on the move, we are diagnosed the Illuminate and Energise Facial. Fatigue-relieving massages and manual extractions are paired with the Dermal Reset, a new technology that thoroughly exfoliates through vibrations.
Despite its period-style furnishings and Old World glamour, Le Bristol Paris never borders on stuffy. The surest proof of this, besides its warm and friendly atmosphere, is its cat. The greatest grand dame hotels have the best animal mascots and Socrate certainly nails the brief. The fluffy cat is the heir of the hotel’s previous resident feline and is treated like a king.
Socrate can often be found draped over the concierge’s seat or by the staircase. He makes a consistent appearance on the hotel’s Instagram page, earning the devotion and admiration of his ardent fans.
While the Paris hotel scene may be turning more boutique, this palace, with all its warm and humour, reminds us that grand dame hotels remain at the city’s very core. It’s comforting to know that no matter how the city changes, we’ll always have (Le Bristol) Paris.
This story first appeared in the October 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore