A place to call home in Paris

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION EUROPE - LEE TUL­LOCH

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

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