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Pierre-Yves Rochon

Bars, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris

A Cocktail Tour of Paris with Le Bar du Bristol

Le Bar du Bristol is a favourite haunt among stylish Parisians and clued-up visitors for a chic apéritif or an evening of creative cocktails.

Opened at the end of 2012, the bar is an intimate, cosy hideaway within the luxurious five star palace hotel Le Bristol, in Paris’ prestigious eighth arrondissement.  It has Le Bristol’s signature friendly, unpretentious atmosphere and attracts a well-heeled crowd – perfect for a bit of civilised people-watching.

I had a memorable stay at Le Bristol a few years ago and was thrilled to be invited back for two nights to attend a special masterclass and cocktail tour of Paris hosted by award-winning Head Bartender Maxime Hoerth.

We travelled to Paris by Eurostar and enjoyed the delights of Standard Premier – spacious seating, generous luggage allowance and a tasty meal with drinks and plenty of tea or coffee, plus a selection of complimentary glossy magazines to pass the time.

On arrival, I found that the lovely people at Le Bristol had kindly assigned me the very same Junior Suite that I stayed in last time as a surprise.  It was wonderful to feel like a regular and I was touched that they had planned this even though the hotel was busy.  After checking in, we were granted a private audience with Fa-Raon, the hotel’s famous Birman cat (he is the hotel’s real VIP, after all).

The highlight of the trip was a private cocktail masterclass at Le Bar du Bristol with Head Bartender Maxime Hoerth.  After a leisurely lunch in Le Jardin Français, we spent a few hours learning all about Le Bristol’s approach to the art of cocktails, even getting behind the bar ourselves.

Designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon and Maja Oetker, Le Bar du Bristol is a chic yet homely space with exquisite frescoes and tapestries, plus quirky touches such as leopard print stools and taxidermy birds and peacocks.  There is even a cosy open fireplace where guests can curl up with a fine whisky – that’s if Fa-Raon hasn’t claimed the space for himself.

Head Bartender Maxime Hoerth is a well-known personality on the Paris cocktail scene and was awarded the title of ‘Best Craftsman in France 2011′.  Not only is he France’s top mixologist (and a really cool, friendly guy), but he knows Paris inside out and is happy to share tips on where to go.

Maxime’s favourite cocktail is an Old Fashioned, so he demonstrated how to make six different versions of the classic drink, including a special Christmas Old Fashion made with a home-made spice syrup, an Irish Old Fashioned using Kahlua and a Bourbon Old Fashioned.

Maxime offered to create a special cocktail for each of our websites, based on the types of drinks that we like.  I reeled off a number of favourite ingredients and within a matter of moments, the Chérie Club was born.

Based on a classic Clover Club, my new signature drink includes No.3 London Dry Gin, St Germain liqueur, muddled raspberries, lychee flavours, rose syrup, lemon juice and egg white.  I loved the fresh, fragrant taste and the romantic presentation with dried rosebuds and a touch of sugar on the rim.

An exciting new project from Le Bar du Bristol is the Spirited Cocktails Collection, a collaboration between Maxime Hoerth and La Maison du Chocolat Master Chef Nicolas Cloiseau.  The limited edition chocolates are based on Le Bar du Bristol’s unique cocktails flavours, marrying the finest juices, fruits and tea with sumptuous dark and milk chocolate.

The five chocolate flavours include MOF2, Bellini, Faubourg, So Bristol and Peacock and come in coffets of 8 or 27 chocolates bearing the signature colours of Le Bristol.

Our first stop on the cocktail tour was Le Mary Celeste, a hip nautical-inspired bar in the Marais.  Created by the team behind Candelaria and Glass, Le Mary Celeste is a popular spot among Paris’ creative crowd – it even hosted a pop-up raw juice bar during Paris Fashion Week.

Over drinks and bites, Maxime Hoerth introduced us to the Paris cocktail scene, explaining that the arrival of the Experimental Cocktail Club kicked off a trend for artisanal cocktails served in low-key bars in the city’s coolest neighbourhoods.

The well-edited selection of cocktails are exciting and innovative, plus the bar offers a tempting menu of small plates and has a daily oyster happy hour.  My chosen cocktail was Valentina – Plantation 3 Stars Rum, violet liqueur, fino sherry and lime (€12).  Served in a coupe, the fragrant and tangy cocktail had an attractive pale pink colour and was finished with a sprig of lavender.

We grazed on a selection of gourmet small plates including the most delicious Gratin Japonais (€9), Spiced Cauliflower with almonds and pickled red onions (€8), Crudo of Pollack with with soya sauce, orange and fennel (€11), Aubrac Beef Tartare with rice, pork rinds, fresh herbs and a spicy sauce (€12) and Devilled Eggs with ginger, fried rice and spring onions (€7).

Dishes on the constantly changing menu are so tasty and inventive that it’s worth visiting Le Mary Celeste for dinner rather than just drinks, to experience as many as possible.  The bar is also well-placed for a hip bar crawl with neighbours such as Candelaria, Little Red Door, Grazie and wine bar Au Passage.

Just a short walk away from Le Mary Celeste, is Sherry Butt, a laid-back, spacious bar that specialises in rare and interesting whiskies.  It has a hidden, discreet feel and is designed in a cool industrial loft style with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and leather banquettes.

Cathleen McGarry and Amaury Guyot opened Sherry Butt after honing their skills at Curio Parlour and Prescription Cocktail Club.  We were lucky enough to have a large table to ourselves when we visited on a chilled out Wednesday evening, but the bar can get much busier when DJs play on weekends.

Sherry Butt is known for its excellent Whiskey Flights, but we were keen to try the cocktails, all of which are priced between 12 and 13 Euros.  After the delicious small plates at Le Mary Celeste, I was in the mood for something sweet, so I tried a Banana Rose – Calvados, Tawny Port, banana flambee syrup, lemon juice and chocolate bitters (€13).

The bar bites at Sherry Butt are simple, delicious and ideal for sharing.  We grazed on moreish Pata Negra ham (€20), Taramasolata with Truffle and toasted sourdough (€13), cool and creamy Burrata Tartines with pistachio pesto (€14) and some tasty Sausage Rolls with tomato and Pedro Ximinez chutney (€12).

Sherry Butt is a cool, chilled out place to catch up with friends or bring a date, plus it’s close to the bars of the Marais and within stumbling distance of Saint Paul to catch a cab.

The next evening, Maxime took us to Jefrey’s, a small but sophisticated bar in the fashionable Montorgueil neighbourhood, on the same cobbled street as Experimental Cocktail Club (and hipster burger joint Big Fernand for pre or post-cocktail munchies).

The speakeasy bar takes inspiration from the Prohibition era and is furnished with comfy purple velvet and and brown leather armchairs, silver tray tables and dimmed lighting.  The mezzanine level features a vintage gramophone and a cabinet storing premium bottles bought by regulars.

Mixing at the bar is Guillaume Bisiaux, formerly at the Prince de Galles and Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme.  His innovative cocktails (many with American-inspired names) include the the gin-based Colline de Portland, an El Rey made with Tio Pepe sherry and a Bubble Cup made with Mamont vodka, Pimms Cup, raspberry cordial, rose and Champagne.

Another cool touch is Jefrey’s DIY Martini, offering a wide selection of spirits and mixers for a custom drink.

I loved the refreshing, smooth Bonne Poire – Grey Goose La Poire vodka, liqueur de Poire Bierce, Alain Milliat Summer Pear Nectar, lime juice and home-made vanilla syrup.  We accompanied our drinks with some light bar plates of scrumptious Pata Negra ham, Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella and Cheese Straws.

To round off a splendid evening in Paris, it was then back ‘home’ to Le Bar du Bristol.  By night, the bar has a warm glow and buzzing atmosphere with well-heeled guests sipping cocktails on the plush sofas.  A cool Parisienne DJ plays sexy French disco and soul and the enormous screen behind the bar shows contemporary art videos by a different artist each month (during our visit, Corsican artist Ange Leccia’s work was shown).

On arrival we were presented with a sweet and fruity welcome cocktail while Maxime talked us through the bar menu.  I started with a zingy, aptly aptly named So British – Earl Grey infused Beefeater 24 gin, Monin elderflower syrup, freshly squeezed lime and and fresh grapefruit juice.

The cocktails are creatively presented, particularly the 365 – a limited edition cocktail made to celebrate the bar’s first birthday – served in a tall, elegant coupe and finished with a colourful peacock feather.  I also loved the warm, spicy Hot Punch, which was an excellent night cap.

Tapas are by the hotel’s Executive Chef Eric Frechon and we munched on a luxurious selection of Gambas Tempura with ginger and coriander mayonnaise, Maki Rolls with king crab and vegetables in spicy ketchup, Pata Negra ham and Crudités.  To end the night on a sweet note, we enjoyed a plate of exquisite mini pastries, a selection of macarons and hand-made chocolates.

Le Bar du Bristol is open until 1.30am and it is a rare luxury to simply wander back upstairs after a night out in Paris – hotel bars are perfect for that.

The next morning, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of Eggs Benedict with shaved black truffle, viennoiserie by Laurent Jeannin, fresh apple juice and a pot of English breakfast tea, served in my room.  A stay at Le Bristol isn’t complete without a relaxing swim in the hotel’s glorious rooftop pool with a great view over Paris.

We finished our stay with an indulgent lunch in the hotel’s Michelin star brasserie de luxe, 114 Faubourg.  I took a reflective pause in the hotel’s beautiful, peaceful garden before we headed back to Gare du Nord to take the Eurostar back to London without even the slightest hint of a sore head – it must be the magic of Le Bristol.

Rates at Le Bristol start from €830 per night on a room only basis.  For more information and booking, visit: www.lebristolparis.com

The Spirited Cocktails Collection is available at La Maison du Chocolat stores and online from 5th May 2014. 

Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with return fares from £69. Eurostar also offers connecting fares from more than 300 stations in the UK. Fastest London-Paris journey time is 2hr 15 minutes. Tickets are available from eurostar.com or 08432 186 186.

2-for-1
Eurostar travellers to Paris can also take advantage of 2 for 1 entry into paying exhibitions and permanent collections at some of the city’s most popular galleries including; Musée d’Orsay, les Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Le musée du quai Branly and le Jeu de Paume – all by simply showing their Eurostar tickets at entry.

Standard Premier
With the option of flexible fares, Standard Premier offers the freedom to work, think, or simply unwind. You will be presented with calm, spacious surroundings with on-board staff offering a light meal and a selection of magazines. Standard Premier fares start from £189 return.

Chérie City was a guest of Le Bristol and Eurostar

Photos by Chérie City, Le Bristol, Le Mary Celeste & Jefrey’s

France, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris

A Luxury Stay at Shangri-La Paris

Shangri-La Paris is one of the city’s most refined new luxury hotels, combining French elegance with warm Asian hospitality.

The five star hotel occupies the former home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, and was previously known as Palais Iéna.

Nestled discreetly in the prestigious, leafy 16th arrondissement, Shangri-La Paris is on the doorstep of cultural delights such as the Trocadero, Palais de Tokyo, Galliera Museum, Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet and the Avenue Wilson food market.

It’s also conveniently close to the Seine, Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées and the designer stores on the chic Avenue Montaigne and Avenue George V.

The mansion house has been thoughtfully restored with many of it original features revived and the interiors have been designed by the inimitable Pierre-Yves Rochon.  The stately marble lobby is decorated with elegant chandeliers, Ming Dynasty vases, integrated monograms of Prince Roland Bonaparte and elaborate floral displays –  during our stay there were large vases of vibrant sunflowers.

The lobby leads seamlessly to the grand staircase and private salons where tea and exquisite cakes and are served in refined surroundings.

If there are no private events being held, it’s worth walking up the staircase for a peek at the opulent Louis XIV style Grand Salon with its gold-leaf appliqué walls, the mahogany panelled Salle à Manger and the feminine Salon de Famille with its ceiling painted with an orb of sphinxes and plants.  Close your eyes for a moment and it feels like the Château de Versailles has been transported to the heart of Paris.

The south-facing hotel features 101 rooms and suites, including the impressive Suite Shangri-La with its dazzling interiors and outdoor terrace boasting breath-taking panoramas of the city.  This summer, the hotel opened a brand new botanically inspired Garden Wing with 20 rooms and suites overlooking a perfectly landscaped garden and courtyard.

My beautiful Eiffel Premier room was very spacious and elegant, designed in an ‘Empire meets luxury minimalist’ style, in a palette of blue, white and ecru.  Its custom-made furnishings have luxurious textures such as silk-threaded wallpaper, soft velvet seats, crystal hardware and an elaborate patterned carpet.

For true authenticity, Pierre-Yves Rochon researched archive documents and photos of the original Palais Iéna interiors and translated the motifs and fixture for a contemporary luxury hotel.

Room features include a large LCD TV with cable and movie channels, executive writing desk complete with stationary drawer, a comfy seating area and free wifi.  At the entrance to the room is a separate drawer unit with a Nespresso machine, a kettle with a selection of fine teas, a well-stocked minibar and refined china cups and saucers.

I was welcomed with a fine bottle of Château Le Borderon Haut-Médoc 2009 and a fruit bowl, placed next to the prettiest flowers that brightened the room.

The highlight of staying in an Eiffel Premier Room is the expansive terrace with sun loungers and a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower.  What could be more magical than enjoying a glass of Champagne on the terrace while watching the evening Eiffel Tower light show?

The walk-in wardrobe is a wonderful feature, with extensive storage space, a floor-to-ceiling mirror and a vanity desk.  I made use of the complimentary shoe shine service, leaving my shoes in a basket in the wardrobe and returning later to find them looking fresh and renewed.

I found the king-size bed extremely comfortable, covered in sumptuous linen with a silk-trimmed throw and blue cushions.  At evening turndown, complimentary bottles of mineral water were placed by the bed with a Shangri-La  bookmark and the room was prepared for sleeping.

The elegant marble bathroom with heated floors features a rainfall shower, deep soaking tub, double sink, a mist-free mirror with flat-screen TV and a drawer filled with bathroom essentials.  There are plenty of large, fluffy towels, face cloths and plush embroidered bathrobes and slippers.

The bathroom is stocked with a generous amount of BVLGARI White Tea bathroom amenities plus bath salts and a reed diffuser with the Shangri-La signature scent – a blend of vanilla, sandal, musk, bergamot and tea spiced with ginger.

In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast served in La Bauhinia, the hotel’s stunning all-day dining restaurant.  To begin the day well, La Bauhinia offers a selection of substantial American, Chinese, healthy and Continental set breakfasts.  As this was a real foodie trip, I ordered lightly from the à la carte each morning and loved the fluffy pancakes with maple syrup, crepes with sugar and home-made apple compote topped with fresh berries.

I was kindly offered a newspaper or magazine to read and was brought some bircher muesli and fresh green apple as an amuse-bouche.  Breakfast service can often let down even the best of hotels, but at Shangri-La Paris, the efficient staff make it easy to start the day in a good mood.

Shangri-La hotels and resorts are known for their superior health and leisure facilities and Shangri-La Paris really wows with its stunning 15x6m indoor pool.  Not only does the pool look heavenly with its tiny mosaic tiles, grand pillars and hand-painted blue sky ceiling, but it has a great sense of calm and the water is just the right temperature.  I enjoyed a leisurely morning swim and took in some sun on the serene outdoor terrace with a pot of green tea.

I was kindly treated to a fantastic facial at the hotel’s chic CARITA spa, which left my skin glowing and deeply hydrated.  There is also an excellent fitness centre with state-of-the-art equipment.

Shangri-La Paris features three fabulous restaurants, an indoor and outdoor bar and intimate lounges.  La Bauhinia, with its glass cupola and Murano glass chandelier, serves afternoon tea, light bites and a dinner menu of French and Asian specialities.

The one Michelin star Shang Palace brings the art of Cantonese fine dining to Paris, serving authentic Chinese dishes and excellent set lunch menus with traditional dim sum, barbecued meats and comforting soups.

The hotel’s gastronomic, two Michelin star restaurant L’Abeille (paying homage to Napoleon’s bee emblem) is one of the city’s hottest fine dining restaurants and during our dinner there, it was a full house. Executive Chef Philippe Labbé creates exciting, innovative dishes using the freshest ingredients and the restaurant’s doors open to the garden in the warmer months.

Before dining at L’Abeille, we had a Champagne apéritif at the pop up Bollinger Champagne Bar on the first floor outdoor terrace.  Le Bar is a cosier spot with expertly-mixed cocktails served in an Empire style room with oil paintings of horses adorning the walls.

Service at Shangri-La Paris is at the typically high level that you can expect from the renowned hotel group and I found the staff friendly, meticulous and polite.  Head Concierge Tony Le Goff arranged for us to visit the beautiful Château Vaux le Vicomte and suggested we take a private tour of the Seine on a Venetian water taxi and lunch at the nearby Chalet des Iles.

Shangri-La Paris is an exquisite hotel that brings back to life the opulence of a 19th century palace, balanced with understated contemporary French and Asian design.  With a heavenly pool, indulgent food and magnificent views on the doorstep, it’s easy to get lost in the charming world of Shangri-La while the city awaits.

A double room at Shangri-La Hotel, Paris starts from 750 Euros per room per night (room only).  Price includes tax and service.  To book, visit: www.shangri-la.com or call 0800 028 3337.

Chérie City was invited by Shangri-La Paris

Photos by Chérie City and Shangri-La Paris

Afternoon tea, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Restaurants, Spa

A Relaxing Day At Sofitel St James London

One of my favourite things about living in London is how close it is to Paris and all of the delightful French things that make their way across the channel.  Sofitel St James is a little corner of Paris in historic Mayfair – a perfect marriage of French elegance and English refinement.

Housed in the former Cox’s and King’s bank close to Piccadilly and the private members clubs of Pall Mall, the five-star Sofitel St James complements the building’s original features with chic yet homely interiors by Pierre-Yves Rochon and Russell Sage.

I was invited with London Unattached and Lela London to experience a day of relaxation and indulgence, like true Paris-London ‘ladies who lunch’.

We began the morning in So SPA, a stylish urban retreat with an impressive reception area and treatment rooms set across three floors, filled with natural daylight.  So SPA uses Carita, Cinq Mondes and Mamma Mio skincare products and treatments are designed to appeal to the five senses.

On arrival, we sat at the large communal table and were welcomed with a neat little tray of lavender tea, a fruit jelly and a warm flannel to freshen up.

I was given the usual health consultation form to fill in, but So SPA also requested my preferences for music, scent, temperature of the room, if I liked a heated bed and so on.  This was a thoughtful touch and I loved that the treatment room was tailored exactly to my wishes.

We began the de-stressing process getting rid of toxins and relaxing the muscles in the hammam and jacuzzi.  There are no clocks in the spa, so we relied on the therapists to call us for our treatments and this was done seamlessly.

With the Spa Butler’s help, I chose the signature So Rejuvenating Facial Treatment (60 minutes, £90).  The therapist began the sensory journey by spritzing a delicate rose fragrance in the air and applying a layer of warm honey on my lips.  My bespoke facial using Cinq Mondes products included a double foam cleanse and tone, exfoliation, a hydrating mask and a kaolin mask applied to the t-zone, lymphatic drainage massage and a relaxing hand and arm massage.

She very gently pinched and tweaked the skin around the eye area, cheekbones and jaw to expel impurities and reduce puffiness.  A nice surprise was hot stones smoothed along my arms and placed under each palm.

After the treatment, I felt blissfully calm and was offered some great skincare advice before being guided into the well-equipped Relaxation Room.  I ordered a Mediterranean Rose tea, which came with another lovely fruit jelly, and was left to continue my spa journey on the comfortable bed with magazines and an iPod system with soothing music to choose from.  I could have happily lingered in the Relaxation Room, but lunch beckoned.

Before sitting down to a delicious three-course lunch at The Balcon, we met with Executive Chef Vincent Menager (formerly of Brasserie Roux, Sofitel New York and Alain Ducasse) at the Charcuterie Bar to sample the finest cured and air-dried meats from France and Wales with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne.

True to the Anglo-French philosophy of the hotel, the marble charcuterie bar focuses on meats, cheeses and terrines from Mas le Rouget in Cantal and Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire in Wales.  Guests can stop by for a light indulgence or share a tasting platter before moving on to The Balcon.

Designed by Russell Sage, The Balcon combines the elegance of the Parisian grand brasserie and London’s modern-classic approach.  The high ceilings, large windows and light colours make it an attractive spot for all-day dining.

The test of an authentic French restaurant is how good is the soupe à l’oignon gratinée, so I just had to start with the Normandy onion soup with Roskoff onion and Aspall English cyder.

This Normandy-meets-Suffolf onion soup was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  Served in a traditional French bowl, the soup was rich, dark and packed full of soft caramelised onions and topped with a baguette crouton, melted Gruyère and fresh herbs.  It’s a comforting dish for when it’s cold outside, or particularly for home-sick Parisians in London.

For the main course, I was tempted by the Rump of Devon lamb, French green beans, pequillo peppers and sweetcorn.  The lamb was tender, juicy and pinkish in the middle, cooked perfectly medium as requested.  I enjoyed the accompaniment of glazed green beans, soft slivers of pequillo pepper, buttery sweetcorn freshly cut from the cob and rich jus.  While the dish was colourful, it was presented in a simple, unpretentious way, which seems to be the concept at The Balcon.

The Blackberry financier with green apple sorbet came highly recommended, so I was keen to try the restaurant’s most popular dessert.  The freshly-baked financier was crisp and golden on the outside with a light, gooey almond cake centre.  It went well with the sweet blackberry coulis and I adored the luscious, home-made apple sorbet.

To finish the meal, I ordered an English Breakfast tea, which came in a Japanese-style cast iron teapot with Gavottes (French caramelised wafer biscuits) on the side.

I loved the bright, elegant design and refined atmosphere at The Balcon and wish I’d discovered it sooner.  It’s now on my list of stylish, central London eateries.

To walk off the lunch, we took a tour of the hotel and viewed the temporary collection of sculptures by Daphne du Barry and the hotel’s current Limelight exhibition, featuring photographic portraits of Barack Obama, Mick Jagger, Valentino Garavani, Francoise Hardy and Dita Von Teese.

We also had the chance to take a peek inside the Presidential Suite, with a stunning bed that looked so inviting for a post-lunch snooze.  I particularly liked the romantic, dusky St James Bar, inspired by the interiors of Coco Chanel’s 1920s Paris apartment.

We ended the day of pampering in the stylish surrounds of The Rose Lounge for afternoon tea.  The intimate lounge is a treat for all the senses with an enveloping rose scent as you enter, heavenly music by a harpist each afternoon and beautifully-designed interiors.

Lunch was a long, leisurely affair, so rather than attempt the full afternoon tea, we enjoyed a pot of Postcard Earl Grey tea and warm, freshly-baked plain, raisin and apricot scones served with clotted cream, lemon curd and the most heavenly strawberry, rose and geranium jam.

I’ve experienced afternoon tea at The Rose Lounge before and the combination of delectable pastries in a relaxed, luxurious setting make it perfect for a post-shopping treat.

Sofitel St James is a beautiful, calming place to spend time in London, whether it’s unwinding with a treatment in So SPA, a leisurely meal in The Balcon or catching up with a friend over afternoon tea in the exquisite Rose Lounge.  When you’re feeling nostalgic for Paris, it’s the place to come for a bit of la vie en rose.

For more information and booking, visit: www.sofitelstjames.com

Chérie City was a guest of Sofitel St James

Photos by Chérie City and Sofitel St James

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Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris

My Midnight In Paris: A Stay At Le Bristol Paris

There are few luxury hotels in the world that can match an exquisite setting with a family approach, but Hotel Le Bristol Paris is a five star palace hotel that enchants with its warmth.

I was delighted to make Le Bristol Paris my temporary home for one night and it was a rare experience to be welcomed into this dreamlike world, where anything is possible.

Opening as a hotel during the Roaring Twenties, Le Bristol Paris has played host to glamorous icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Josephine Baker.

Named after the Count of Bristol, Le Bristol Paris was the named the first French ‘palace hotel’ and is now a member of the exclusive Leading Hotels of the World.  Le Bristol Paris is part of the five star family-owned Oetker Collection, which includes Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and new addition, Palais Namaskar in Marrakesh.

The hotel is just a short walk from the Élysée Palace, rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré and Le Champs-Élysées and is in good company among the high end art galleries of the 8th arrondissement.

We arrived at Le Bristol Paris and were immediately welcomed by the attentive, enthusiastic staff, who knew exactly who we were.  We were greeted and checked-in by the delightful Jeremy, who told me that ‘Chérie City is already very famous here’ and that we had been upgraded to a Junior Suite.  Could there be any two better sentences to hear upon arrival at one of the most prestigious landmark hotels in the world?

As we arrived early, the finishing touches were being added to our suite, so we were invited to have a drink in the bar while we waited.  The bar was elegant and beautifully-designed with antique tapestries and master paintings, but our interest was piqued by the comings and goings of Parisian businessmen, well-heeled guests and fashion PRs hosting lunch meetings.

We both chose a signature hot chocolate, which was brought to us on a silver tray and poured into dainty china bearing Le Bristol’s double unicorn coat of arms, served with a glass of Vittel water.  In the winter, a jug of thick, Parisian hot chocolate is an absolute must and this was easily one of the best in the city.

The bar also plays host to Fashion High Teas, guests can enjoy an ‘English Tea’ with exquisite patisserie by acclaimed pastry chef, Laurent Jeannin.  Meanwhile, models pass by, wearing looks by leading fashion houses that have included Céline, Stella McCartney, Chloé, Yves Saint Laurent and many more.

Innovative, formal dining can be experienced at Epicure, the 3 Michelin star gastronomic restaurant headed up by renowned head chef, Eric Frechon.  In the summer, guests can also dine outside in the 13,000 sq.ft French-style garden, which had a light covering of snow during our visit.

Our Junior Suite was on the first floor in the new Haussmann-inspired Matignon Wing, occupying the corner of rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré and Avenue Matignon.  Classic with a modern finish, our spacious suite was designed by Madame Maja Oetker herself.  It was filled with Louis XV and Louis VXI style furniture, sumptuous heavy fabrics, mirror panelled wardrobes, original artwork and contemporary chandeliers.

The four corner windows allowed plenty of natural daylight, which complimented the light shades in the room and the French flag could be seen gently waving from the wrought iron Juliette balcony.

On the table waiting for us was a bottle of Alfred Gratien Champagne on ice, two slate dishes of handmade petit fours and chocolates and a bowl of fresh fruit.  A hand-written note welcomed us to the hotel and I received a beautiful home perfume as a memory of Le Bristol, which I now remember fondly, like Proust and his madeleines.

It would be easy to spend a lot of time relaxing and preening in the spectacular bathroom, designed entired in white Carrara marble.  It boasts a double sink with a large mirror, a deep bathtub, a shower cubicle, separate toilet and powerful heated towel rails.  The generous selection of bathroom amenities were by Anne Sémonin (one of my favourites) and Hermès and even more bottles were added at turndown. We also had use of fluffy embroidered bathrobes, slippers and plenty of large Egyptian cotton towels.

Usually our Paris trips are spent walking around the city until we almost collapse, but this time we stayed in the comfort of our room, drinking Champagne and working our way through the sweet treats.  Tomorrow would be the day for exploring and walking off the excesses.

In the afternoon, we took a dip in the relaxing rooftop pool, shaped like the inside of a boat, with a quaint maritime wall mural.  The pool area offers splendid views over the rooftops Paris and plenty of natural light.  Swimming past the French flag was an experience I’ll never forget!

For the ultimate indulgent stay, visit the sleek Spa by La Prairie, designed in neutral colours by Pierre-Yves Rochon.  The highlight of the spa is the Russian room – a heated marble table with an affusion shower, the first of its kind in Paris.  Each treatment room has access to its own private terrace for relaxing in the fresh air and sipping tea or having a quick snack.  The spa uses products by niche luxury brands such as The Organic Pharmacy, Russie Blanc, Maison de l’Argan, Les Thermes Marins de Saint-Malo and By Terry.

That evening, we dined in 114 Faubourg, Le Bristol’s casual restaurant in the Matignon Wing, overseen by Eric Desbordes.  Mentored by Epicure’s Eric Frechon, Desbordes may be a young chef at just 30 years-old, but he has secured a strong reputation in Paris and the staff at Le Bristol spoke about how proud they are to have such a talent at the helm.  But more about our magnificent meal at 114 Faubourg later…

If it’s too cold to wander the streets of Paris at night, or like us, you’re too full after an indulgent dinner to go dancing at Le Montana, you can play ‘spot the hotel’ with a special complimentary movie – Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris.

The whimsical film based on the revivial of luminaries from the Jazz Age, was shot in the Paris Suite and stars Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, with a cameo role from the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

But our stay would have been incomplete, without meeting Le Bristol’s majestic ‘empurrer’.  Fa-Raon is hotel’s fluffy Birman cat, the playmate of the children and guests at Le Bristol.  An unapologetically pampered and polished cat, Fa-Raon plays in the lobby and has free reign of the garden, although we believe his favourite spot could be perched on the information desk, accepting the attention of the doting staff and guests.

Fa-Raon’s official home, however, is in the children’s room, Les Amis d’Hippolyte, named after the hotel’s mascot, a white garden rabbit.  Children staying at Le Bristol can play games and even use the Nintendo Wii in their own games room or take part in a treasure hunt around the hotel.  Other sweet touches include rabbit-shaped cookies strawberry water in the room, a welcome card written by Hippolyte, tiny bathrobes and slippers and Hippolyte-themed bed linen.  They are even sent a birthday card from Hippolyte as a memory of their stay at Le Bristol Paris.

Our stay at Le Bristol Paris was truly magical and went beyond any possible expectations.  The exquisite design, refined atmosphere and prestigious location charmed us, but it was the warm, caring staff that made the hotel come to life.  They went beyond the usual politeness and engaged in conversation, speaking openly about what they loved about the hotel.  This human approach is what gives the hotel its unrivalled reputation as one of the best hotels in the world.

Le Bristol Paris, if you are ever looking for a ‘writer in residence’ to chronicle the adventures of Fa-Raon, I’m your girl!

Superior rooms are priced at 850 Euros per night and a Junior Suite is 1250 Euros.  For more information and booking, visit: www.lebristolparis.com

Chérie City was a guest of Le Bristol Paris

Photos by Chérie City and Le Bristol Paris

Beirut, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury

A Blogger In Beirut: Day Two

The second day of our Beirut adventure was our first full day and our itinerary lay somewhere between a few planned sights and roaming around the city, taking in the culture and atmosphere.

We started the day with a hearty breakfast in The Grill Room at Four Seasons Beirut.  I had my usual Eggs Benedict and Steven tried the Buttermilk Pancakes with maple syrup.  We were also served a traditional Lebanese breakfast of flatbread and cheeses.

Our morning was spent by the rooftop pool, planning our route for the day and relaxing in the pool and jacuzzi.  We asked the Concierge for advice before we left and he marked all of our planned spots on the map.

Our first stop was the Beirut Souks, just 5 minutes walk from Four Seasons Beirut.  A million miles away from a bartering market place, the Beirut Souks is a luxury shopping mall with every designer and high street brand you could ever want.  The Fakhry Bey and Allenby areas of the souks are particularly flash with resident stores including Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Chloe and Stella McCartney.  I was particularly excited to see the See by Chloe store, which I hadn’t even seen in Europe yet.

There are lots of dining options at Beirut Souks, including a new outpost of Momo, just opened in the jewellery souks.  We had lunch on the terrace at The Met – a design-led informal restaurant with an international menu.

We ordered four plates of small bites to share, which came with various dipping sauces and satay.  The food was excellent and portion sizes were generous, so if you get hungry in the souk, The Met is a good, affordable choice.

Beirut’s downtown shopping area, also known as Solidere, is mostly pedestrianised and it has a cosmopolitan, Mediterranean atmosphere with chic terrace cafes and street art, including this silver shark sculpture outside Cartier.

The architecture reminded me of Marseilles – a mixture of French, Moorish and Middle Eastern influences.

The military check-points were confusing at first, as we assumed they were protecting the mosque or blocking certain paths.  After exploring more of the city, we discovered that the soldiers are there mostly for security and they politely allow you’re allowed to walk freely without any questioning.

The tree-lined Rue Monot, in eastern side of the city centre,  is the place to come with friends and catch up over tea and shisha or a long lunch.  It’s a mix of Lebanese and French brasseries and western restaurant, including an outlet of Le Relais de Venise l’Entrecote.

This street leads up to the Place de l’Etoile, also known as Nejmeh Square, a quiet pedestrianised square in the renovated historical district of Beirut.

Just off the Place de l’Etoile, down a side street, we found extraordinary views of the Mohammad Al-Amin mosque, St Georges Maronite and some Roman ruins (the Roman Baths are nearby).

Designed by architect Azmi Fakhuri, the Sunni Mohammad Al-Amin mosque was built between 2002 and 2007 and was commissioned by the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  Assassinated in 2005, Hariri was buried next to the mosque, which was inaugurated by his son three years later.

The stunning blue dome bears Ottoman influences and is said to be inspired by Istanbul’s ‘Blue Mosque’.

We walked around the outside of the mosque, taking in the intricate tiles, inscriptions and impressive towers as we went.  This led us to the Place des Martyrs, a poignant statue commemorating the memory of Lebanese nationalists who were hanged by the Ottomans in World War I.

Ridden with bullet holes, the Place des Martyrs was the central location of anti-Syrian protest during the 2005 Cedar Revolution and is still a meeting place for political demonstrations.

On the other side of the Places des Martyrs is Gemmayze, Beirut’s own version of Shoreditch or east London.  With narrow streets full of international restaurants, cafes and bars, Gemmayze comes alive at night and is the place to come for all-night partying.

It feels like the kind of place where you never know what you might find.  We stumbled across an arts festival at the foot of the Escales Saint Nicolas, where local artists showcased their works to the music of a live band.  Having learned by experiences that good things are usually to be found at the top of punishingly steep stairs and hills (Marseille’s Cour Julien boho hilltop neighbourhood, for example), we made the climb in the baking heat.

Almost passing out at the top, we discovered it was a residential area with one cafe and no gilded utopian village as hope for.  However, it was worth our while to saunter back down, taking in the artwork and crafts on the way.

Tired and worn out, we treated ourselves to gelato at Chocolat Milano, a quirky, modern ice cream parlour in Beirut Central District.  Then it was back to the hotel for a rest and to start blogging about our adventures.

That evening, we’d planned to have dinner at Leila, a much-loved traditional Lebanese restaurant.  While out in Gemmayze, we saw a desolate building with Leila’s pretty, nostalgic design plastered all over and mistook a new opening for being closed to renovation.  In fact, there are two other Leila outposts in the upmarket ABC shopping centres nearby, so if you manage to eat at Leila, please report back!

A happy accident however, as we went up to the Four Seasons rooftop bar and ordered their signature Rose Mojitos.

We sat by the pool, which was now bearing fire, and took in the spectacular views from the 26th floor.  The rooftop bar scene is huge in Beirut and Four Season Beirut’s Club 26 boasts the highest bar in the city.

The rooftop pool serves a selection of Asian tapas, but we were tempted by the room service menu.  We ordered on Shish Tavouk with Steamed Rice and one Spaghetti Bolognese and shared both.  They came on a large, fully-set table with enough flat bread and rolls for a whole dinner party!

The food was excellent once again and we felt that we hadn’t cheated by ordering a Lebanese dish.  We heard a few bangs and looked outside to see the most magnificent firework display over the harbour.  We quickly moved our dinner onto the table on the balcony and finished while watching the sky.  It was an unforgettable moment, just magical!

On the first night at Whisky Mist and then from the balcony at Four Seasons Beirut, there were fireworks to end our evening.  What an incredible city!

Chérie City was a guest of bmi British Midland International and Four Seasons Beirut.

All photos by Chérie City.

Beirut, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Restaurants

The Grill Room At Four Seasons Beirut

Having already visited Amaranto at Four Seasons London, I knew that The Grill Room at Four Seasons Beirut would be a decadent start to our Beirut adventure.

The Grill Room is grand and utterly seductive, designed in gold and darkest brown with Arabic inscriptions throughout – another triumph from designer Pierre Yves Rochon.

The sumptuous red bar is perfect for after-dinner cocktails, digestifs and fine cigars.  You can choose to have dinner on the terrace overlooking the marina, but on such a balmy, humid evening we went for the comfort of air conditioning and sat in the main dining room.

The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly and offered to explain the menu and suggest wines.  We just had to try Lebanese wine, so we ordered a glass of Chateau de Musar – a light red wine bursting with ripe fruit and a sun-kissed sweetness.  Lebanese wine is now on my radar and I was thrilled to find out that it is having a real moment in London, making it easier to find.

For such highly-regarded restaurant with a with an undoubtedly affluent clientele, the atmosphere was relaxed and unreserved, with guests having a good time, laughing and chatting away.  There was no stiffness or ‘people watching’, as everyone just enjoyed their evenings.

A large slate and wood platform at the centre of the table is used for serving and we were presented with an adorable freshly-baked mini loaf with garnishes of sea salt, coarse black pepper, butter and olive oil.  It’s these small touches that make the Four Seasons experience so special.

I started with Porcini Mushroom Pappardelle with Black Truffle.  I knew from Amaranto that the pasta at Four Seasons is exceptionally good and this dish didn’t disappoint.

The pappardelle was cooked al dente and the sauce was creamy yet light and well-seasoned.  The mushrooms were deliciously plump and somehow just melted in your mouth – quite unlike any I’d ever tried before.

Steven ordered the Caesar Salad with Red Mullet, which was a new combination that worked very well.  It also came with herb crisp bread, parmesan crisps and thick shavings of high quality parmesan.

For the main course, we asked the waiter to recommend a lean, tender steak and he suggested the Charolais Filet Tenderloin, 9oz.

We couldn’t have asked for a better steak.  It was round and thick with charred edges and a tender, juicy centre (cooked medium, as requested).  It came garnished a half roast garlic, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary.  We forgot to order sauces, so our waiter thoughtfully anticipated this and brought us little jugs of red wine sauce and a trio of mustards.

The sides were just as exciting – Macaroni Cheese, Potato Gratin and Steamed Asparagus with Roasted Vegetables.  The Macaroni Cheese was thick and gooey, topped with breadcrumbs and oven-blasted in a cute mini Le Creuset dish.  The Potato Gratin was creamy and smothered in delicious cheese and the vegetables were cooked to perfection.

Dessert was an absolute must, especially after seeing the next table’s spectacular birthday cake!  Steven ordered the Limoncello Positano Baba with Lemon Sorbet.  The sponge was moist and laced with syrupy limoncello and the lemon sorbet was refreshing.

Lightness wasn’t in my vocabulary that night, as I chose the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Parfait with Caramel Ice Cream.  It was rich, dense and smooth and I loved the piped peanut butter ganache – a new way of presenting this fashionable dessert.

The Grill Room was an absolute treat and it was quite possibly one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  The surroundings and food are exquisite and staff are welcoming and dedicated to excellence.  What a way to begin the trip!

Chérie City was a guest of Four Seasons Beirut and bmi British Midland International.

All photos by Chérie City.

Beirut, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury

A Downtown Dream At Four Seasons Beirut

Four Seasons Beirut is one of the luxury hotels leading the regeneration of Beirut’s flourishing downtown district.  Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, the spectacular, glass-fronted Four Season Beirut already feels like an established part of the city’s luxury, international scene.

Inside, Four Seasons Beirut has a more ornate, historic feel with a unique blend of Chinese and Arab influences.

I noticed design similarities to Four Seasons London and later found out that both hotels have been designed by the prolific Pierre-Yves Rochon.

From the moment we arrived, the hotel staff anticipated our every wish and went out of their way to make our stay memorable.

As an indulgent treat, we were upgraded on arrival from a Deluxe Sea-View Room to a Four Seasons Room with a view of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains on the seventh floor.

Our room was very spacious, 549 sq.ft. to be exact, and was designed in an elegant contemporary style in soft beige and stone shades with light wood furnishings and touches of gold.

To make it feel as homely as possible, there was a large work space, an armchair and ottoman and a vanity table.

The sumptuous king-size bed was incredibly comfy and faced a huge 37 inch LCD satellite TV with over 60 international channels – perfect for relaxing at the end of the evening.

We were given a plate of delicious baklava and large bottle of mineral on arrival and a fresh fruit bowl every day.  There was also a constant supply of mineral water next to our bed and in the bathroom.

Our balcony overlooked the marina and we had excellent views along the coastline.  Downtown Beirut is a luxury developement in progress and despite numerous cranes and building works nearby, there was hardly any noise at all.

On the second evening, we ordered room service and ate on the balcony while watching an impromptu firework display over the marina – just magical!

The huge bathroom felt decadent yet homely and boasted a walk-in shower, a separate bath and double sinks, all carved from marble.  I loved the antique gold floral wallpaper and the plentiful L’Occitane bath products – a reference to Beirut’s French heritage.  There were stacks of towels and flannels and embroidered bathrobes and slippers to lounge around in.

In between the room and the bathroom was a dressing area with double wardrobe, shelf and drawer space and an area for our cases.  The walk from the bathroom to the room was so much longer than any hotel I’ve experienced that I forgot about the dressing area and kept turning the corner into the wardrobe!

Four Seasons Beirut boasts the highest rooftop pool in the city and the views from the 26th floor are really spectacular.  We were shown to the pool loungers and were given towels and bottles of mineral water.  Staff came round the loungers with plates of melon chunks while we soaked up the sun and dipped in the pool and jacuzzi.  It felt like absolute heaven and it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the pool scene to explore the city.

At night, the rooftop pool area becomes a cool rooftop bar with cocktails, champagne and Asian tapas.  Our second evening was spent on the rooftop sipping Rose Mojitos and enjoying the breath-taking views.

The dining facilities at Four Seasons Beirut are unbeatable and you can enjoy traditional Lebanese and international dishes at any of the bars or at all hours with in-room dining.

On the first evening, we enjoyed a three-course meal at The Grill Room.  We feasted on the most superb Charolais steak and experience Lebanese wine for the first time.

The Boulevard, located in the lobby, has the atmosphere of a Grand Cafe and serves light snacks, cakes and coffee throughout the day.  The Bar is like a bijou jewel box, designed in seductive reds with stunning tassel chandeliers.  You can smoke Cuban cigars or curl up in one of the nooks and enjoy a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.

Guests also have access to the business centre, the fitness suite with sauna and steam room and can book treatments at the spa, which uses Sodashi natural skincare products.

What makes Four Seasons Beirut stand out is the immaculate service.  Whenever we went to the reception or spoke to staff on the phone, they greeted me warmly by name.  As I was tweeting throughout my stay, the staff anticipated our every wish and offered to make reservations for us.

The real cherry on the cake came on our last day when I tweeted to a friend that I would try to bring back some sumac (a traditional Middle Eastern spice) if I could find a market on time.  A pouch was delivered to my room from the Concierge, filled with sumac!  It was touching that the staff wanted to give us the best possible memories of Beirut and offered such a personal gift.

Apart from the pedestrian areas in the centre of town, Beirut isn’t particularly geared towards walking.  Four Seasons Beirut help you avoid negotiating the busy roads with a complimentary limo service.  I wish I’d remembered this when attempting to cross four lanes of high-speed traffic in heels…after a huge dinner…and a bottle of Champagne!

Four Seasons Beirut is an exceptional hotel that combines Middle Eastern hospitality with international comforts.  It is a symbol of new Beirut and the city’s imminent return to being the Middle East’s most exciting destination.

Chérie City was a guest of Four Seasons Beirut and bmi British Midland International.

All photos by Chérie City.

bmi British Midland International has launched their lowest possible one way fares for travel this autumn and winter.  Book early and take advantage of great fares – including Beirut from £169 one way from London Heathrow – when booking now for travel between 1 September 2011 and 31 March 2012.  The offer closes on Wednesday 22 June, so book today at www.flybmi.com

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