When woody allen was scouting for a hotel in which to set his whimsical 2010 comedy Midnight in Paris, Le Bristol caught his eye. It was in the hotel’s Panoramic Suite, a 2,150sqft apartment with views of Sacré-Coeur, that Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams played out their ill-fated marriage. Allen is not the only star to have fallen under the hotel’s spell.
Over its 85-year history, it has welcomed actors Charlie Chaplin and Rita Hayworth, as well as royalty and numerous world leaders.
With the recent completion of an extensive refurbishment, Le Bristol returns as an oasis of tranquillity, culture and gastronomy. The private courtyard is the jewel in its crown.
The 13,000sqft garden—positively vast for a Parisian hotel—bursts with tulips, daffodils, azaleas and rhododendrons in the spring. A little time in the sun-drenched haven, studded with white umbrellas and carpeted with grass so emerald it looks genetically modified, is the best cure for jet lag.
If your fatigue requires something stronger, sit down for a coffee at Café Antonia in the lobby. It’s worth forking out 10 euros for an espresso just to take in the frescoed ceilings and watch the throng of fashion luminaries and politicians dive into steak tartare.
During the Second World War, Le Bristol became the home of the American embassy in Paris. Be sure to take a few rides on the magnificent wrought-iron lift in the lobby, designed during that era by a Jewish architect who sought safe haven in the hotel.
The highlight of our stay at Le Bristol was the breakfast session at Epicure, the hotel’s three Michelin-starred restaurant. For sceptics wondering how it’s possible to bring Michelin mastery to petit déjeuner, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Croissants made by pastry chef Laurent Jeannin were, quite simply, the best we’ve ever had. Homemade blinis and herbed crème fraîche accompanied gloriously intense smoked salmon, laid delicately on a plate like stained glass, while French-style scrambled eggs made it impossible to contemplate a return to the kind that are fried coarsely in a pan.
Make a beeline back to the restaurant for dinner. Executive chef Éric Fréchon, the selftitled “defender of French cuisine,” is famous for his macaroni stuffed with black truffle, artichoke and duck foie gras.
Above all, the hotel’s most alluring feature is its spaciousness. Rooms are bright, airy and feminine, with simple decor that incorporates flurries of chintz and toile de Jouy.
Each room is adorned with a uniquely themed bunch of fresh flowers arranged by the hotel’s florist under the direction of Maja Oetker, the wife of the owner, who has much to do with the hotel’s refreshed look and feel. If you’re travelling in the summer, opt for one of the two Terrace Suites, which boast 1,700sqft private decks.
For those craving a sojourn by the sea, the next best thing is a dip in the rooftop pool. With views of Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower, it’s worth popping upstairs for a look even if you don’t intend to swim.
Saunter downstairs afterwards to Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie. Don’t miss the Turkish bath and the Russian Wet Room, which features the first affusion shower in Paris.
While you could be tempted to spend your days exploring the hotel, its location on the Right Bank of the Seine provides plenty of reasons to step out. Situated on the famous Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Le Bristol is surrounded by haute couture houses and is a short walk from the ChampsÉlysées. Prepare to be spoilt inside and out.
(Text by Madeline Ross)