Le Bristol has been a favourite with the fashionable since opening in the 1920s, from screen sirens to designers. Amelia Hungerford follows them through the legendary hotel’s revolving doors.
Le Bristol carries the style and elegance of decades gone by into the 21st century
Just two blocks back from the chaos and selfie-taking tourists of the Champs-Élysées, the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is a breath of Parisian fresh air. The narrow street in the eighth arrondissement – which shares its real estate with the presidential Élysée Palace and embassies and ambassadorial residences for the UK, the US, Canada and Japan – is best known for its high-end shopping. After Hermès established its eponymous horse harness and bridle store at number 24 (where it remains to this day, albeit with a rather more diverse product line-up) in 1880, international luxury brands have sought to establish themselves on the world’s most fashionable street.
It is in this milieu that Le Bristol has established a reputation for impeccable luxury, service and discretion since opening in 1925. Liveried doormen usher guests into a marble lobby where the elegance of the 18th century lives on in antique rugs, paintings, Gobelins tapestries and a bust of Louis XVI (pre1793 decapitation) that seems to be saying “Révolution? Quelle révolution?”.
This is the historic core of Le Bristol, the centre that hotelier Hippolyte Jammet converted from the Comte de Castellane’s Parisian mansion into a glamorous second home for the wellheeled. It has since been joined by the Residence wing (a former convent) and, most recently, the Matignon wing, which opened in 2009. At its heart is a rare feature for a Parisian hotel: a French garden. It has been turned into a forest of Christmas trees for winter, but those with a keen eye will be able to see where a rose garden will soon be flourishing. In summer, tables from the three-Michelin-starred Epicure, executive chef Eric Frechon’s superb gourmet restaurant, spill out onto the terrace and children patrol the fountain and flower beds in search of Le Bristol’s fluffy feline resident, Fa-Raon.
Cakes and cocktails
Guests braving the chill take tea and sip champagne in the colonnade, the air gently perfumed by orange trees, while others recline in Café Antonia under the painted gaze of Marie-Antoinette. Although the ill-fated queen almost certainly never said ‘Let them eat cake’, resisting the tiered afternoon tea service or one of the exquisite gâteaux on offer seems an insult to her memory.
Even breakfast at Le Bristol is an unmissable event. Each pastry is crisp and flaky, the juice fresh, and the bowl of berries a work of art. The signature soft-boiled eggs – topped with caviar, a dash of maple syrup and gold leaf – arrive with a flourish, accompanied by petits soldats just right for dipping.
On the Avenue Matignon side of the hotel at one-Michelin-starred brasserie, 114 Faubourg, the atmosphere is more contemporary than nostalgic, with the two-course prix-fixe lunch a favourite for shoppers and locals alike.
At night, Le Bar du Bristol is a chic haven of animal prints and avant-garde art, with a DJ playing to accompany the alchemical cocktails and Frechon’s curated tapas menu.
The decadence continues in the 190 rooms and suites, each one bearing a unique 18th-century-inspired design under the direction of Maja Oetker, the matriarch of the owning Oetker family. Antique furniture, rich silks, spacious marble bathrooms and swirling florals galore combine to create a sense of sophistication that balances the finest quality with a lived-in warmth.
Our Junior Suite in the Matignon wing has a small balcony with table and chairs, and a private view of the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the dark.
Little wonder the family-owned hotel was one of the first to boast France’s above-five-star Palace rating. From its celebrated dining to its La Prairie spa, Le Bristol offers everything you could ask for in a Parisian pied-à-terre. oetkercollection.com