It starts before one even steps foot into the lobby of Le Bristol Paris. There, by the black carpet of the entrance stand some of the most courteous doormen you could ever have the pleasure of meeting.
“Can I have your name, sir?” asked one of them as I made my way into the lobby.
“Azimin Saini,” I responded, a little grumpily from having to endure a 13-hour flight.
“Welcome to Le Bristol, Mr Saini.”
Stepping through the revolving doors, one would see two handsome wooden counters housing the check-in desk and the concierge. Further ahead was a chandeliered lobby where suited staff bustled about. One would never have guessed from such an intimate space, that the hotel houses 190 rooms.
In fact, it felt a little bit like entering a dear friend’s home; any grumpiness dissipated.
This is the essence of Le Bristol. For two nights, we were treated to its brand of hospitality par excellence – where the staff greet you by name, where breakfast is served in an elegant three-Michelin-starred restaurant and where the French hallmark of la politesse is taken to the next level.
Welcome to Le Bristol, indeed
Le Bristol is a “palace” – an official status bestowed by the French Ministry of Tourism and one that’s only given to 25 properties in France. These hotels are said to embody French excellence and promote the country’s image to the world.
Perhaps it is fitting as Le Bristol has played host to the who’s who of French society since it started operating as a hotel in 1925. It was the roaring 20s and Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Salvador Dali are just some of the notable names to have graced its corridors.
Today, the hotel is owned by The Oetker Family and is very much a household name in France for its association with luxury. All one needs to do is step into one of its rooms and you’ll see why.
The junior suite on the eighth floor felt tiny at first – that is until you open the door of the marble clad bathroom which reveals a massive double sink, a bathtub that can comfortably fit two, and a separate bathroom and shower. The bathroom is, in fact, so big that there’s space for two terraces from which you can see the Eiffel Tower.
Design-wise, the furnishings of the room revolve around the aesthetic language of French kings Louis XV and Louis XVI – the tail end of when the French monarchy still reigned. This might seem old-fashioned for some, but traditions are the lifeblood of grand properties like Le Bristol and even the most contemporary design aficionados will soon succumb to its elegant charms.
The beds are plush and luxurious, swaddled in linen crafted by renowned Italian brand Quagliotti. Sleep comes easy, and you’ll arise ready for a breakfast served in a way only Le Bristol can.
The Dining Options
The first commandment one must observe at breakfast is to arrive hungry, as a spread awaits at Epicure, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant at the hotel’s lobby. It isn’t everyday that you could say that you’re having breakfast in an establishment bestowed with French gastronomy’s highest honour, as they’re typically only open at lunch and dinner.
Here, no last attention is spared. Le Bristol is so serious about its culinary DNA that deep beneath the hotel sits a flour mill that grinds wheat varieties like touzelle, grand epeautre and khorasan into flour to bake all of its bread.
Thus, when the bread basket arrives with the croissants, baguette slices and pain au chocolats, only a fool would refrain from sampling everything. We’d recommend diving into the American breakfast – which is a bit of a misnomer; the attention to detail paid into each plate is unmistakably French.
Poached eggs, for instance, arrives perfectly round in shape while those who ask for scrambled eggs will be met with a warm bowl of runny eggs cooked with generous amounts of butter. Each side dish comes on its own plate and we’d recommend having no more than three sides as the portions are generous.
One tip: always order the yogurt. It might sound like a thoroughly uninspiring part of breakfast but it’s made by artisanal butter makers Bordier and will be presented in a silver cloche that makes a dramatic clinking sound when lifted.
This is just one of two Michelin-starred restaurants in the hotel, the other being the one-starred 114 Faubourg. Both of these restaurants are helmed by executive Eric Frechon, whom many in France regard as culinary royalty.
A dinner degustation at Epicure is listed at 380€ (S$580) while 114 Faubourg is €130 at both lunch and dinner.
All that eating needs to be burned off and there’s a decent gym on the sixth floor. It is equipped with a reclining bench, dumbbells up to 30kg, treadmills, stationary bikes, a rowing machine and an elliptical. There is also a technogym unica machine which allows you to do over 25 different exercises. While seasoned fitness buffs may not be able to do barbell work, it’s certainly more than enough to get a decent workout during your stay.
A visit to the heated, indoor swimming pool is essential, if not to squeeze in a few laps then to marvel at how it is designed to look like a caravel with views of both the Eiffel Tower to the right and the Sacre-Coeur to the left. Those visiting in summer can make use of the reclining outdoor decks and soak in the sun. Otherwise, a steamroom and sauna which fits two is also available for you to unwind.
A stay at a palace like Le Bristol is a privilege. For those of you heading to Paris, the hotel is worth a pitstop for a night or two. Splurge, if your budget permits, and forget any notions of how a hotel in this century should fit modern archetypes.
After all, the property will outlast all of us, and those of us who are lucky enough to stay in one of its legendary rooms can attest to one thing: it will leave an impression that will last a lifetime.