A place to call home in Paris
The Paris bush telegraph has spread the word that I’m suffering from itchy eyes due to the leafy midsummer plane trees. Waiting for me when I check into my suite at La Reserve is a pink box of soothing eye bath with a welcome note. Forget the chocolates and the bottles of champagne (one of which is chilling in an ice bucket on a low coffee table), as this is by far the most thoughtful amenity I’ve received at any hotel.
How did they know? My female butler, Linda, won’t say, but it’s a key tenet of La Reserve’s philosophy that guests are treated as if in their own home and sometimes that involves a little bit of detective work. On one occasion, I’m told, a guest had a preference for a certain author and signed copies of that writer’s books were placed in the guestroom for his enjoyment.
This is a most sumptuous kind of “home”. It was built in 1854 by the family of the Duke of Morny, a dandy who developed the Longchamp racetrack and was Napoleon III’s half-brother. Mid-20th century, it became the home of groundbreaking couturier Pierre Cardin, now 95, who was the first designer to commercially license his name.
The mansion’s new owner is Michel Reybier, who has opened La Reserve hotels in Geneva and the French Riviera, vineyards in Bordeaux, and Swiss anti-ageing clinics. He hired renowned designer Jacques Garcia to lavishly refurbish the down-at-heel Parisian townhouse in high belle epoque style. There is no reception as such. Guests are shown into an opulent drawing room with velvet sofas, unique antique furnishings and marble fireplaces. In the public spaces there is a dining room and outdoor garden, a bar with a terrace on Avenue Gabriel, a smoking parlour, and a wonderful library stocked with well-chosen books, many from Reybier’s private collection. The restaurant, Le Gabriel, has two Michelin stars.
Hotel Le Bristol’s legendary general manager Didier Le Calvez was engaged by La Reserve last year and brought with him some of Paris’s best hotel staff. The service is always correct, but without the chill that is characteristic of too many Parisian five-star hotels.
Downstairs, the very sexy spa has red lacquered walls, a 16m pool, and a beautiful hammam of black stone. The menu includes treatments using anti-ageing products from the Swiss medi-spas. The jewel-toned flock wallpaper in the corridors, the moody lighting, the gilding and the textures of rich velvet throughout the hotel give the feel of a (very) chic bordello. My suite (No 202) has a boudoir that’s all chocolatey velvet and gold in Empire style, adjoining a vast sitting and dining room with parquetry floors and rugs and a terrace that has a splendid view across treetops to the Eiffel Tower.
I swan around in an enormous bathroom with a silver slipper bath, walk-through wardrobe and powder room. In the living area there’s a complimentary bar with juices, soft drinks, decanters of vodka and cognac, a Nespresso machine and a wine cellar, where a bottle of Chateau Cos d’Estournal 2007 might set you back €375 ($560). The butler will hustle up anything else you need. The bottom line is I adore this hotel. Do I really have to check out?
Lee Tulloch was a guest of Leading Hotels of the World.
La Reserve, top left; the library, stocked with books from the owner’s collection, main; spacious guestroom, above