What’s it like? Currently basking in the glory of its starring role in the final episodes of Sex and The City, the Plaza Athénée is one of the best five-star hotels in Paris: classic and traditional but also modern and attracting a young crowd. Arsenal football manager Arsene Wenger was in the bar the evening we visited, and author and journalist Jay MacInerney (Bright Lights, Big City) was at breakfast the next morning. Suits and jeans seem equally welcome.
Where is it? On Avenue de Montaigne, in the 8th arrrondisement, “at the crossroads of fashion, entertainment and business”, as the publicity would have it.
How many rooms? 188, divided into rooms, suites, junior suites and one presidential suite. The rooms, over eight floors, have all been refurbished in the last five years. The rooms overlooking the central courtyard, La Cour Jardin, which in summer is a riot of greenery, command the higher prices (they are generally larger).The top two floors have 35 apartments, which are about to be refurbished in Art Deco style.
Room facilities: All rooms have direct internet access via the plasma TV, a laptop safe, air conditioning, mini hi-fi system, telephone with two lines (one direct), fax on request, modem connection and voicemail. High-speed internet access costs E24 for 24 hours – my request for an internet cable was supplied within five minutes. The style of the guest rooms is Louis XV Parisian, with wood panelling (boiserie) moulding on the walls.
Business centre: Yes, the centre has two PCs on which to access the internet.
Fitness centre: In the old basement bar, wood panelled and with lots of equipment.
Restaurant and bar: Having walked down the Galerie des Gobelins (named after the Gobelin tapestry hanging on the wall), where ladies who shop relax after browsing the boutiques, the bar comes as a complete change of scene. Refurbished in 2001 by Patrick Jouin (a Philippe Starck protégé), a long illuminated bar of sculpted sandblasted glass is flanked by Louis XV-style elongated metallic stools with leather seats. Small individual Murano glass lights hang above polished metal tables and screen prints of paintings by 17th century Claude Gelee (known as Le Lorrain) have deep frames with banquette seats so you can “sit and become part of the art”.
Rose Royale is the signature drink: raspberry puree and champagne in Plaza-red. The rest of the cocktail list is very impressive and includes Cosmopolitans (vodka and cointreau with white cranberry juice at E24) and jelly vodka shots laid out to look like sushi. A glass of house champagne (Paul Drouet) is e20 and a bottle of Moet & Chandon costs e130. Service is superb; when a drink was spilled a waiter was there within a minute with a wet napkin for the person to wipe their shoes.
There are two restaurants. The Art Deco Le Relais Plaza has an old ocean liner feel (directly inspired by the liner “Le Normandie”), with regulars sitting on pale caramel leather banquettes and smoking – not just between courses – while their mobile phones ring. The food is lovely: starters are from e22-e53 (duck foie gras from the Landes Region with green beans and chanterelle mushrooms, e36); main courses are e32-e70 (Beef fillet Rossini style, in “Perigourdine” sauce with crunchy Maxim’s potato Plaza-style). Then there’s the triple Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant – book well ahead for dinner here. Otherwise try the breakfast, which is fabulous and (comparatively) less expensive. It’s worth it just for the chocolate spread options on the pastries and the room’s decoration, including modern art additions to chandeliers which give the appearance of an explosion of glass above the diners’ heads – stunning.
Verdict: An outstanding hotel with superb service, two excellent restaurants and one of the best hotel bars in the world.
Prices: From €555 per room per night.
Contact: Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris, 25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, tel +33 1 53 67 66 65,www.plaza-athenee-paris.com.