There is a raven-haired girl lounging about at the lobby of the Four Seasons George V, Paris but she is not alone. She tilts her head to flash a megawatt smile at the camera held by her companion, clad head-to-toe in designer labels that call the couture-lined streets of Champs-Élysées home. She moves on to the lobby’s Christmas display highlight, an enormous holographic red Christmas tree structure, constructed just underneath the grand chandelier. More than a dozen twinkling light rays bounce off the holographic structure, like a disco ball lighting up the entire space.
But the enigmatic girl isn’t the only one waltzing past the revolving doors of the hotel into the lobby to take a plethora of photos. With Christmas around the corner, tourists strolling the streets of Champs-Élysées seem determined to make a stop at the lobby for endless photo ops. My first instinct is to gravitate towards the holographic structure to follow suit but my travel partner firmly puts me in place as we have a dinner reservation at the hotel’s very own three-Michelin-star pride – Le Cinq.
At Le Cinq, expect a night filled with theatrics and extravagance, teasing both your palate and senses at once. Discerning gourmets come in many forms, from families of four buoyed by the prospect of being on vacation to a party of one on a business trip with a laptop for company. But there should be no reason to expect anything less from the epicurean experience the French hold in such high regard, for the stage is set and the performance is about to begin.
The place is no less gilded, as sumptuous shades of grey and gold lashings echo the Neo Classical style throughout the establishment. Louis XIV wardrobes and Louis XVI gold gilt chairs give you the impression of going back in time and dining in a private château. Grand chandeliers, more gilt on the walls and ceiling and floor-to-ceiling panel windows where sunlight streams through in the morning during breakfast service completes the regal theme. Carefully ironed tablecloths are set in place alongside polished silverware and glasses, as no flaw escapes the trained eyes of the restaurant director.
As for the great maestro himself, Christian Le Squer puts his native Brittany on the gourmet map, creating dishes such as turbot with truffle fingerling potato emulsion, large crispy prawns from Bretagne and citrus emulsion or whipped oysters. Like an artisan dedicated to his craft, Christian who led the restaurant to receive three coveted stars from the Michelin Guide interprets his cooking with the analogy of a Chanel suit worn over a pair of jeans.
Outside the kitchen storm, the service crew take their places, each with a role to play in ensuring the night goes on smoothly. It will be remiss to assume this precision is executed without a chief on board, who in this case takes an unassuming place in the centre of the room, a timekeeper in his own right. Nothing escapes his trained eye, as glasses are filled and plates are cleared like clockwork. He whispers into an obscure microphone every few seconds, his gaze never leaving the room.
Come dessert, the waiter throws his hands up in aghast, as I had merely presented him with the suggestion of sharing a plate with my partner as the thought of consuming more food after our degustation meal is more than enough to stomach. “Non,” he replies in jest and returns with two plates of refreshing grapefruit-based dessert to awake the senses. But the meal isn’t quite over yet as our rather amused waiter rolls out a cheese trolley of France’s finest soft cheeses subsequently followed by a dessert trolley filled with sweet treats of every kind, including a jar of very intriguing absinthe marshmallows.
Retiring to the room may require more effort than usual but if a nightcap is on the cards, then take a seat at the La Galerie lounge and be serenaded by the live piano performance. Dubbed as the heart and soul of the hotel, La Galerie lounge is filled with exquisite 19th century objets d’art and is reportedly the best place in the hotel for people-watching.
But I choose to take refuge in one of the plush rooms decorated in true historic Louis XVI style which best exemplifies more is more. An inviting king-sized bed presides over the room which takes on a royal blue colour palette, bearing all the hallmarks of palatial comfort. Panelled walls, gold and marble accents inject a welcoming warmth to the cool hues. The spacious walk-in wardrobe is well designed to accommodate a major shopping haul at the heart of the city’s golden-triangle designer shopping district. You never know when a sale might just be around the corner. Though I find the initial sight of the portraits which hung over the bed a little unnerving, there’s nothing like a warm bath in the marbled bathroom to soothe those nerves over. When dawn breaks, the sumptuous curtains pull back to reveal a serene courtyard view as the day’s blue skies upend the impending winter gloom. Other rooms offer a typical Parisian private terrace with sweeping views of the city.
The building itself is an eight-storey landmark built back in 1928 and is home to classical French furnishings, 17th-century Flemish tapestries and 18th-century Florentine chandeliers. In 1997, the Art Deco landmark closed its doors for a massive overhaul and reopened two years later, this time bearing the prestigious Four Seasons stamp. Competing against Paris’ five other iconic palaces – the Ritz, Plaza Athénée, Hôtel de Crillon, Le Bristol Paris and Le Meurice, the Four Seasons George V has withstood the test of time, surpassing merits when it comes to quality and service.
Should you choose to further indulge in the hotel’s superior service, the pop-up spa by Jeff Leatham is a quiet getaway for a much-deserved self-care pampering. When it’s finally time to leave the palatial grounds, I head towards the hotel’s very own vintage elevator cab for one last ride, sequestered away from the main elevators and busy crowd. A hidden thrill I discovered during my first night, I’ve harboured an obsession over its old-fashioned charm. As the wrought iron doors open with a “ding”, I step into nostalgia one last time before returning to the real world.