BACKGROUND Open since 1925 and having just completed an extensive €100 million renovation and expansion, the Hôtel Le Bristol was the first French property to be officially designated a “Palace” hotel, a five star-plus status that had previously been used unofficially to mean any grand five-star hotel in France. It was most recently the setting for much of Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, which, if you missed it, is played on a constant loop on one of the hotel’s TV channels. It is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and, along with the Plaza Athénée and the Four Seasons George V, is one of the top properties in the city – and one of the most expensive. It also caters for a lot of leisure guests and families, with business travellers comprising about 30 per cent of customers throughout the year.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Reception is on the right as you enter, the concierges on your left. You then descend some steps into the lobby with its marble columns, chandeliers, oil paintings and antique, but very polished, furniture, as well as some comfortable sofas. The Le Bristol may be termed a palace, but it’s not a daunting space and strikes the right mood for the hotel with its low key but extremely assured service. The property is made up of at least three buildings – the main one (eight floors), the residence towards the rear (six floors of hotel rooms rather than apartments), and the new wing, open since 2009 over seven floors. Lifts serve each section of the hotel, with the one in the main building being an open, attractive oval shape.
The Le Bristol has the largest central garden of any of Paris’s five-star properties, a serene space with doors and windows opening on to it. I arrived at about 2pm and my room was not quite ready so I had lunch in the bar. I was then taken up to the new wing and a room overlooking the side street of Avenue Matignon. After going for a walk later that afternoon, I was impressed to be greeted by name by the concierge as he handed back my large metal key.
WHERE IS IT? On the fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, home to luxury brands from Prada to Brioni, and also close to the back entrance of the Elysée Palace, where TV cameras wait for footage of President Sarkozy arriving or leaving between crisis meetings.
ROOM FACILITIES There are several categories, starting with the entry-level Superior room, which is 40 sqm. All are decorated in a traditional style but seem modern and light. They have wired and wireless internet access (€21 for 24 hours), though to plug in a laptop you have to duck under the desk to find a socket. Rooms also have flatscreen TVs, Anne Semonin toiletries and very large, comfortable beds. The lighting system allows you to turn off all the lights via the bedside master switch. There are smoking rooms – the hotel declines to reveal how many but says it will cater to guests’ wishes.
The Le Bristol has some outstanding suites if you are celebrating a special occasion, including one with a terrace overlooking the central garden. Service was excellent – a newspaper I’d asked for was hanging on the door before breakfast, as were my shoes after a free polishing service (and I’d only hung them there at midnight). The soundproofing in my room was very good, though the roads around the hotel are, thankfully, free of large vehicles so perhaps it was not tested as severely as it might be. The air conditioning worked well the few winter days I was there.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel’s superb fine-dining restaurant is Epicure, a three-Michelin-starred eatery under chef Eric Frechon that opens out on to the central garden in summer. Open since 2009, 114 Faubourg is a French brasserie. It’s more informal than Epicure, but also serves delicious food, including fish and chips and a choice of steaks.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is a small business centre just off reception, and seven meeting rooms looking on to the central garden, three of which can be combined to host a reception for 300.
LEISURE FACILITIES The hotel opened its new La Prairie spa last year, the only one in Paris. The fitness centre on the first floor is tiny but was empty when I visited in the morning. There is also a swimming pool on the sixth floor with natural light and a view over the rooftops.
VERDICT Very luxurious, very French (there’s even a resident Burmese cat) and good for business, while at the same time feeling more like a home from home for a wealthy, old-money European elite. If your budget stretches this far, it’s a wonderful Parisian base.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 188 in total, a mixture of Superior, Deluxe and Prestige rooms and Junior, Junior Deluxe, Deluxe, Imperial and Honeymoon suites.
- ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The restrained luxury, the comfortable bed and the good soundproofing.
- PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in March started from €800 for a Superior room.
- CONTACT Hôtel Le Bristol, 112 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré; tel +33 153 434 300; lebristolparis.com