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WHETHER YOU’RE VIS­IT­ING THE CITY OF LIGHT FOR BUSINESS OR PLEA­SURE, A STOP AT THE PENIN­SULA PARIS IS A MUST, WRITES Em­i­lie Yabut-ra­zon

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

Whether it’s a business trip or for plea­sure, a stay at The Penin­sula Paris is a must

Paris al­ways im­presses with its grand mon­u­ments and mu­se­ums, but it is the city’s beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture, stylish han­gouts and cute cafes that truly en­chant. In Au­gust, the City of Light cel­e­brated the open­ing of the first Penin­sula ho­tel in Europe, set in a cen­tury-old build­ing a stone’s throw away from the ma­jes­tic Arc de Tri­om­phe and the Av­enue des Champs-élysées. The ho­tel, which took six years of restora­tion work to re­turn to its for­mer glory, fea­tures sev­eral no­table haunts, in­clud­ing a ter­race cafe over­look­ing Av­enue Kléber, a his­toric bar and a rooftop restau­rant of­fer­ing su­perla­tive views of the Eif­fel Tower.

The prop­erty, which oc­cu­pies a late-19th­cen­tury Hauss­mann build­ing, first opened in 1908 as The Ho­tel Ma­jes­tic and was one of the city’s most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tels. It en­joyed three decades of host­ing the rich and fa­mous, in­clud­ing lead­ing artists and mu­si­cians dur­ing the Belle Époque and An­nées Folles eras, when Paris was truly a hub of cre­ativ­ity.

Dur­ing World War II, the ho­tel was con­verted into a head­quar­ters for Unesco, and in 1958 be­came a con­fer­ence cen­tre for the French Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, which oc­cu­pied it un­til 2009. With the aim of pre­serv­ing the rich her­itage, the ho­tel’s own­ers en­listed the help of some of France’s most revered fam­ily firms—which had worked on her­itage projects such as the Lou­vre and the Palace of Ver­sailles—to re­store the build­ing’s decor, in­clud­ing the mar­ble, stucco, mo­saics, wood carv­ings and paint­ings.

It took six years for the ho­tel to be trans­formed into the iconic struc­ture it is to­day, with the façade and most of the ground floor re­stored to their orig­i­nal de­signs, and the rooms mod­ernised with the lat­est in hos­pi­tal­ity tech­nol­ogy. Part of the mod­erni­sa­tion of the her­itage build­ing was the excavation of three base­ment lev­els to pro­vide a spa, a 20-me­tre swimming pool, a fit­ness cen­tre and a pri­vate car park with di­rect ac­cess to guest floors, to­gether with ex­ten­sive back-of-house ar­eas.

On ar­rival, guests are wel­comed into the lobby by the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture page­boys in their crisp white uni­forms and pill­box caps. Danc­ing Leaves, an in­stal­la­tion that com­prises 800 hand-blown crys­tal leaves by veteran Czech ar­ti­san Lasvit that ref­er­ence the plane trees lin­ing Av­enue Kléber, fea­tures promi­nently in the main hall.

All rooms in­clude a spa­cious bed­room with a mar­ble bath­room and walk-in closet. Fur­nished in soft grey and cream hues with high ceil­ings and taste­ful art­work, the rooms boast fully cus­tomised in­ter­ac­tive bed­side

tablets for con­trol of all in-room func­tions, in­clud­ing the TV, ther­mo­stat and pri­vacy op­tions. All 200 rooms in the ho­tel— in­clud­ing 34 suites—have a seated dress­ing ta­ble with nail dryer and the sig­na­ture Penin­sula valet box for dis­creet pick-up and de­liv­ery of laun­dry and dry clean­ing. Five of the suites fea­ture their own pri­vate rooftop gar­den, of­fer­ing spec­tac­u­lar 360-de­gree views over the city.

The Lobby is a tra­di­tion at ev­ery Penin­sula ho­tel and, at The Penin­sula Paris, the Av­enue Kléber en­trance leads to a grand din­ing area with soar­ing curved ceil­ings, or­nate drap­ery and mar­ble floors. The restau­rant of­fers all­day din­ing, in­clud­ing The Penin­sula’s famed af­ter­noon tea. In the spring and sum­mer, break­fast is best taken at La Ter­rasse Kléber, the ad­ja­cent out­door cafe, with a fu­tur­is­tic glass-and-steel canopy.

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Jean-edern Hurs­tel and his team of award-win­ning chefs op­er­ate un­der the farm-to-ta­ble phi­los­o­phy. The Penin­sula Paris also has an ex­ten­sive wine cel­lar, presided over by chief som­me­lier Xavier Thuizat, and stocked with bot­tles from niche bou­tiques and small but ex­cel­lent pro­duc­ers through­out France.

An ideal spot for lunch or din­ner, Can­tonese restau­rant Lili boasts a dra­matic set­ting with mar­ble col­umns, mid­night blue walls and chan­de­liers. Sweep­ing red cur­tains, a dome in­spired by the sound stage of an opera hall and a rev­o­lu­tion­ary fi­bre-op­tic hang­ing at the en­trance en­sures a visual and sen­sory feast. Chef Tang Chi-keung, who hails from Hong Kong, is in charge of the menu. He has worked for the group since 1986 and The Penin­sula Tokyo was awarded a Miche­lin star dur­ing his ten­ure.

For pre-din­ner drinks, Le Bar Kléber has a his­toric am­bi­ence with oak pan­elling, gilded mould­ings and gi­ant mir­rors. The bar of­fers an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of cock­tails, fine wines, cham­pagnes, spir­its and in­ter­na­tional

whiskies. Dou­ble-height win­dows lead out on to La Ter­rasse Kléber for al­fresco drinks.

End the day at The Penin­sula Paris’ crown­ing glory—l’oiseau Blanc restau­rant, bar and ter­race. Lo­cated on the sixth floor of the ho­tel, it serves up amaz­ing views over Paris’ most iconic spots, in­clud­ing Mont­martre, Notre Dame and the Eif­fel Tower. With one of the city’s largest out­door ter­races, the at­mos­phere is re­laxed and com­fort­able, show­cas­ing a menu of au­then­tic French fare with a mod­ern twist, to­gether with an ex­ten­sive list of wines de­vel­oped by chef Sid­ney Redel, a for­mer pro­tégé of Pierre Gag­naire. The avi­a­tion-themed restau­rant cel­e­brates the ill-fated ven­ture of pi­lots Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who at­tempted to cross the At­lantic in 1927 from Le Bour­get but dis­ap­peared dur­ing the flight. A unique col­lec­tion of avi­a­tion mem­o­ra­bilia is on dis­play, in­clud­ing a replica of the L’oiseau Blanc bi­plane in the ad­ja­cent court­yard.

The Penin­sula Paris also boasts an ex­ten­sive art col­lec­tion, which in­cludes Moon River by renowned Span­ish sculp­tor Xavier Cor­bero, and The World Be­longs to Me, an in­stal­la­tion by Ben Jakober and Yan­nick Vu, two Bri­tish artists liv­ing in Costa Rica. There is a par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on French artists as well, rep­re­sented by the mixed me­dia works of Pa­tri­cia Er­beld­ing in ev­ery gue­stroom, bronze and alu­minium sculp­tures by Nathalie Decoster in the suites, and an oil and gesso paint­ing by Michel Alexis in the Kléber Gallery. Two-thirds of the pieces on dis­play were spe­cially com­mis­sioned for The Penin­sula Paris, and all the art was cu­rated by Hong Kong’s Sab­rina Fung, who cre­ated the in-house art pro­grammes for The Penin­sula Ho­tels in Hong Kong and Shang­hai.

The only ho­tel in the city with a cus­tomised car fleet, The Penin­sula Paris of­fers guests chauf­feured ser­vices in be­spoke Rolls-royces (in­clud­ing a 1934 Phan­tom II), BMWS and Mini Cooper S Club­man hard­tops, all fin­ished in The Penin­sula’s sig­na­ture green liv­ery and mod­i­fied by the ho­tel for com­fort.

No mat­ter where you stay, Paris will al­ways be Paris: the most beau­ti­ful city on earth. But with the el­e­gance and ro­mance of The Penin­sula Paris added to the mix, the French cap­i­tal be­comes more tempt­ing than ever.

good taste Clock­wise from left: Chi­nese restau­rant Lili; guests can be chauf­feured in a 1934 Rolls-royce Phan­tom II; Lasvit’s Danc­in­gleaves hangs in the lobby; sig­na­ture cock­tail Le Kléber

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