It takes audacity and lots of style to open shop a stone or a diamond’s throw away from the mighty Ritz that has reigned for ever on Paris’s most prestigious square Place Vendôme. And yet, when the stylish Park Hyatt Paris launched it distinguished itself dramatically from the baggy, brooding grand old hotels around Paris with a deliberately minimalist sophistication. The advent of the Park Hyatt brought a brisk breeziness to Paris’s hotel scene. It hijacked and monopolised Parisian attention.
I recall being in Paris when the hotel inaugurated and became instantaneously the place to see and be seen. Entering into glamorous partnership with Cartier which was a few doors up the street from the hotel on Rue de la Paix, the Park Hyatt gained the reputation for being one of the snootiest addresses in town (always a good thing in Paris!). At the time I was yet a student who ventured the hotel’s intimidatingly suave interiors with trepidation. It was only when I started translating the Park Hyatt magazine whilst I was living in Paris that the hotel became accessible, relieving me somewhat of my awe of it.
Enough preludial panegyrics. Proximity to la Place Vendôme apart, the hotel is accommodatingly located close to the Louvre, Palais Royal and Tuileries; it’s a leisurely walk from the Champs Elysée and the chic of Faubourg St Honoré, besides being minutes away from Palais Garnier’s, perhaps the most opulent opera house in Europe.
The hotel entrance is decorously unobtrusive, apart from a pair of cadaverous wrought iron figures in contused poses bearing lamps (the pervasive signature motif) that flank the door. And if you expect being wowed on entry, then the surprise element is the hotel opens with a clinically bare conciergerie.
It is only when you descend a short flight of steps that you have the splendid glass-encased restaurant Les Orchidées. Past this lounge restaurant and an enfilade of lean, long white pillars, tucked away right at the end, is the unusually located reception.
The check-in, like everything about the hotel, has a slick sophistication about it. By a long, long way this is the most efficient of Paris’s big luxury hotels where service can often be indifferent, even blatantly negligent. I am sprucely escorted to my rooms where room orientation (increasingly a neglected courtesy nowadays) is conducted with meticulous assiduity. Next, my hostess takes time to explain their stringency concerning Do Not Disturb and with reason: This also happens to be one of the few hotels where the Do Not Disturb request is actually respected. Nobody enters when DND is switched on (you don’t even hear the bell if someone accidentally rings) and no the reception does not importunately hammer your room with calls during DND time (again, as I have often been in the best of hotels).
My room (Park room) is ample, the sparseness and light coming in from the windows overlooking the inner courtyard enhancing the spaciousness. Small lamp-bearing wrought iron figures here and there afford the sole enhancement to interiors in muted shades. Perhaps the rooms look a tad weary and could do with a powdering up. In the meanwhile, they are well-perfumed as a gifted perfumed candle from Blaise Mutins, the luxury perfumer this hotel has partnered, awaits me redolently… Immense bathrooms come with walk-in wardrobe boasting its own heating facilities so you don’t freeze in the bath as at many Parisian and indeed European hotels. Exclusive Blaise Mutins toiletries including hand-cream and body scrub comprise the most comprehensive and considerate selection of bathroom amenities you will find.
And if the rooms lack decorative finery, finesse comes in the form of the service, be it housekeeping, reception or concierge. In-house staff has been dispatched to collect my luggage from the Mandarin Oriental on the other side of Place Vendôme from where I have just checked out and I am delivered it with astonishing rapidity which I hadn’t anticipated but ought to have at this hotel. In fact, the service at the Park Hyatt is so extremely streamlined it almost achieves a robotic impersonality, sometimes at the sacrifice of that wonderful Parisian charm.
Charm does, however, come in the form of Stéphanie, my therapist, who has been at The Spa almost since its inception. She manages to eschew the dragon of a scar still raw and glowering post-surgery on my back as she navigates a customised signature “Haute Couture” full-body massage. The Crème de la Mer facial, yet, is the cream of this spa’s treatments. Stéphanie intimates to me the fascinating origins of this all-natural luxury product Crème de la Mer that is said to bring you all the profound rejuvenating riches of the ocean. The story goes that over 50 years ago an aerospace physicist Dr Max Huber suffered severe facial burns during an experiment and an arduous 12 years and 6000 experiments in quest of an unguent later he struck upon his “Miracle Broth” that is the essence of the Crème de la Mer range composed of nourishing algae. I shan’t say more other than that what began as an accident finished off as a miracle. Post therapy, in the relaxation area by the indoors pool with jacuzzi, Stéphanie brings me tea together with a little pastry. This spa showcasing Japanese-style wooden partitions was a sensation when it launched but a decade later could perhaps do with a strenuous uplifting facial to restore its vigour and sheen. Its dated look notwithstanding, the quality of therapies and indeed therapists remains irreproachable.
The service doesn’t slacken over breakfasts at Les Orchidées with its streaks of elegant sprays of white orchids and tableaux evoking impressionist landscapes. The glass-topped conservatory that ushers in sunshine accentuates the outdoors feel. It is almost as if one is having a posh picnic in a park. Admittedly, breakfast might want some of the vitality and qualitative rigour of other Parisian hotels or even other Park Hyatts I have stayed at where breakfasts have been outstanding and unforgettable.
Across the lounge from Les Orchidées is the terrace. In winter it assumes a Swiss flavour when Swiss haut joaillier Chopard presents the Chalet Fleurier that recreates a Swiss chalet typical of the Jura Suisse village and one may have typical Swiss dishes in its warm precincts. But come clement climes, this terrace regains its Parisian identity, making for a chic al fresco venue for cocktails and snacks.
Either in the lounge or on the terrace do linger over a coffee if only for Chef Pâtissier Fabien Berteau’s crisp nut-coated dark chocolate that accompanies coffee. Fabien is an old friend I have long known since he opened the Park Hyatt Chennai and he joins me over coffee, joking to his colleagues in Paris that I was at the hotel in Chennai every week sampling his creations and made a damn nuisance of myself if they failed to meet my less-than tolerant expectations. He proceeds to mention, “Devanshi was the only one who understood what I was trying to do.” But if Fabien’s audacious creations incorporating indigenous South Indian ingredients (everything from spices to South Indian coffee) in extravagant French pâtisseries bewildered the Indian palate, so that our poor pâtissier fled India in exasperation, back in Paris, his creations tinged with exotic influences gleaned over his travels have rewarded him with the title of best chef pâtissier for 2015 by the finical Gault Millau guide. It must surely be Chennai’s obsession with cheesecake that has impelled Fabien to make it his signature dessert in Paris!
If the Park Hyatt’s design element is said to be Asian-inspired it is also said so too is Chef Jean-François Rouquette’s cuisine at the Michelin-starred restaurant Pur, although my 7-course menu dégustation doesn’t seem to have had any smattering of the Asian. And had I anticipated cuisine as taut as the service, my dishes might perhaps have been tighter and “purer.” However, the restaurant enjoys a clientele as smart as its interiors with a central circular pillared pavilion (where I was seated) around which the “outer circle” tables are arranged in a curlicue. The service, needless to say, is as lithe as the architectural lines. Whatever my reservations about the cuisine, I remake the young Asian accompaniment of a hoary diner tucking into her repast with great relish and quaffing the wine (a fine collection they have), not one bottle but two, as vintage as her vintage companion who seems to have shown great discretion in selecting. Dessert, that Fabien has personally orchestrated for me, is the icing on the cake. Fabien hasn’t forgotten my obsession with dark chocolate or indeed with Chennai and his dessert Le Lien made of Grand Cru Équateur, Cocoa butter velvet and ganache with écorce de bois d’Inde (the titillating Indian ingredient) is magnificent, crafted like a veritable work of art. And if I didn’t like desserts containing apple, after Fabien’s fresh and lively creation, I now can appreciate why Eve damned herself and us all eternally over an apple…
The Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme is about contemporary calm, crafted service, couture spa and confection cool. Once a style icon, it has never gone out of vogue. Titivated a tad, it would wow as ever.
Where: Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme
5 Rue de la Paix, 75002 Paris, France
Phone: +33 1 58 71 12 34
Note – The Park room is available for 950€ ($1065) a night. I was hosted at The Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme but the opinions expressed herewith are my own.