Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Mandarin Oriental

21 Jan 2013 by Jenny Southan

WHAT’S IT LIKE? One of only six Mandarin Oriental properties in Europe, the luxurious, five-star Parisian hotel opened in June 2011. It took a long time to find the perfect location and the hotel is now housed in an eight-floor building that was once home to offices for the Ministry of Justice. It has a decked garden courtyard in the middle, with abundant foliage and a water feature.

Echoing the brand’s Asian heritage, the hotel features delicate oriental touches, such as the butterfly motif found throughout and touches of bright pink. The elegant, contemporary, feminine design of the public spaces, rooms and spa was conceptualised by Sybille de Margerie, with a key palette of pale grey, dark purple and cream, while the restaurants and bars were the vision of Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku. Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte was the guiding force behind the restoration of the building’s art deco façade.

Stepping in off the chic shopping street of Rue Saint-Honoré, the gold-ceilinged lobby is light and airy, looking on to the garden courtyard through double-height, floor-to-ceiling windows. Reception is to the left, and as I waited for my room to become available (this took about 20 minutes – I arrived at about 10am) I was offered a cup of coffee and hot towel for my hands, while I sat one of the nearby velvet armchairs. The shiny floor is of white and grey marble, laid out in stripes, and staff uniforms have a classy, Asian look.

WHERE IS IT? Opposite the Emporio Armani store on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris’s fashionable Arrondissement 1. It’s about 20 minutes by taxi to Gare du Nord, traffic permitting, 30km from Charles de Gaulle airport and 25km from Orly. Metro stops Concorde, Tuileries and Opera are all within five minutes’ walking distance.

ROOM FACILITIES Bedrooms start from 37 sqm, with Superior being the entry-level category and having views of Rue Saint-Honoré (some higher category rooms look on to the garden courtyard or city skyline). The classy, modern décor is neutral, in the main, with a palette of silver, slate, white and beige, but with splashes of pink from the edges of the silk bedspreads, the odd lampshade and velvet chair.

Bathrooms all feature walk-in showers, Frette robes and Diptyque amenities. Other standard features and services include twice daily housekeeping, Nespresso coffee machines, workdesks, Bang and Olufsen TVs, wired and wireless internet (€15 for 24 hours or free in suites), and iPod docks.

I was staying in the next category up (Deluxe), which was a little larger, at 39-44 sqm and featured the same décor and amenities but also a separate bath tub (though the overall wet room was fairly small) and another area with twin sinks and plenty of toiletries. The king-size bed was extremely comfortable.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The ground-floor Bar Eight serves champagne cocktails and “street food” from 11am to 12am (until 2am Tues-Sat), and sports a glowing bar carved from a single piece of smooth marble. Floor-to-ceiling windows open on to the garden and Lalique crystals are embedded in the golden walls.

Adjacent to the moody bar is the highly unusual fine-dining restaurant, Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx, which, when you enter, is like walking on to a set from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Every surface of the cocoon-like interior is white or cream and the fabric-covered walls are peeled back in places to reveal layers beneath. The idea is to create a “black canvas” for the diner, against which he or she can experience Marx’s “culinary voyage”, which is “guided by ingredients that pay particular attention to shapes, colours, textures and temperatures”.

I didn’t eat here, but the avant garde, French (with a Japanese twist) menu listed dishes such as structured and de-structured sweet potato; pressed foie gras, smoked eel, “Earth and Estuary”; and risotto under pressure with black truffle. A six course tasting menu costs €165, while nine courses in €195. The venue seats 40 people and was awarded two Michelin stars in 2012. It’s also worth checking out the washrooms, the walls of which are covered in pink plastic petals.

Simpler (yet equally expensive) food is served in the all-day Camélia restaurant, also on the ground floor but to the other side of the lobby (the right). Diners can either sit outside in the garden or inside, and I enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast of the highest quality here in the morning. (The bread and pastries are a must.)

I also had dinner here one evening and found the atmosphere so relaxing and the food so delicious that I forgot to go to a show that I had booked (fortunately the concierge managed to change my ticket to a performance later that same night).

I sat outside and had a delicate tart piled with raw and cooked seasonal vegetables and zucchini puree (€22), followed by a fillet of wild seabass on a bed of yellow peppers, tomatoes and sherry vinaigrette (€49). The presentation was colourful and artistic, and the flavours delicious.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are four event spaces (Jasmine, Darjeeling, Oolong and Ginseng), seating between 24 and 60 delegates in the largest, and overlooking the inner courtyard. This garden area can also be hired out and features a giant birdcage in one corner fitted with seating for eight people around a table in the middle.  

LEISURE FACILITIES The Mandarin has a 900 sqm spa on level two with seven treatment rooms, a herbal steam room, and a 14-metre pool open (7am-10pm) with soft lighting and a wall at one end with water trickling down it.  There is also a 24-hour fitness centre with Technogym equipment, a Kinesis machine and free weights, though no natural light. Personal training is also available on-request, while the nearby Tuileries gardens is a great place to go jogging. 

VERDICT Paris is an expensive city, and the Mandarin being one of its very best five-star hotels means that its rooms are incredibly dear (not helped by the pound to euro exchange rate). Of course, everything from the service to the food is top quality, and the interiors elegantly designed. An excellent luxury hotel that I would be delighted to go back to.

FACT FILE

HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 99 rooms (Superior, Deluxe, Mandarin and Terrace) and 39 suites (Junior, Superior, Deluxe, Atelier, Premier, Crystal, Couture, Premier Atelier, Cabochons, Royale Oriental and Royale Mandarin).

HIGHLIGHTS The beautiful swimming pool and bedrooms, and the top-notch dining options. The location is hard to beat too.

PRICE Internet rates for flexible midweek stay in March started from €825 for a Superior room.

CONTACT Mandarin Oriental 251 Rue Saint-Honoré; tel +33 170 987 888; mandarinoriental.com/paris

Jenny Southan

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