Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

Hotel Insider: Paris's Hotel de Berri sculpts out an elegant haven for art lovers

The 8th arrondissement hotel houses odes to some of the Louvre's finest works

Inside a junior suite at Hotel de Berri. Courtesy The Luxury Collection 
Inside a junior suite at Hotel de Berri. Courtesy The Luxury Collection 

The welcome

Much warmer than the wintry Parisian temperatures outside. Arriving very jet-lagged after a traffic-congested two-hour journey from the airport that should, on a normal day, take about 30 minutes, I’m whisked through check-in at Hotel de Berri, a Luxury Collection Hotel. I’m a few hours ahead of the requisite time of 3pm, but I’m assured a room can be made ready earlier, and guided to the adjoining bar-cum-cafe to have a coffee while I wait.

The hotel is in a heritage building, one side once the abode of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte and the other formerly occupied by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In the 1970s, the original mansions were demolished and replaced by offices. The bland, utilitarian glass frontage, designed by Maurice Novarina, is protected from alteration but inside, the owners have been able to let their artistic inclinations loose. Expect a neoclassical haven liberally scattered with sculptures and artworks, many pieces replicated from works in the Louvre.

The neighbourhood

Hotel de Berri is a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysees, with its myriad restaurants, bars and boutiques. Emerging from Rue de Berri to the famed shopping district, the Louis Vuitton flagship is in view, as is Fouquet’s, a brasserie first opened in 1899 that has counted Liza Minnelli, Edith Piaf and Catherine Deneuve among its patrons. To the right is the towering Arc de Triomphe and about a 30-minute walk left are the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries.

The room

Fusing modern comfort with a nostalgic lavishness, rooms are perfect sanctuaries in which to rest tired feet after a day spent pounding Paris’s rues and avenues. Each of the 75 rooms is unique in some way, whether furnished with different fabrics, adorned with distinctive paintings or replete with contrasting objets d’art.

My king deluxe room has a cooling grey, cream and teal colourway, accented with wooden herringbone floors, a leopard-print chair and blue striped wallpaper. It sounds headache-inducingly busy, but the effect is calmingly well curated. All the mod cons one would expect are present, but the room never feels clinically contemporary, thanks to the abstract art, the velvet headboard, chandelier bed lamps and uplighters housed in Botticelli-style shells.

With the added details – the TV is designed to look like a mirror when switched off, while showers come with inbuilt aromatherapy pods, a Nespresso-style addition that allows you to infuse your water with scents – the room is designed for comfort without compromising on style.

The service

Enthusiastic without being suffocating. Other than a walk-through of your room upon arrival, staff will greet you with a cheery bonjour but not encroach on your time. The concierge is helpful and ready to assist with directions, bookings or answering the smallest of queries. All the receptionists seem extremely knowledgeable about the hotel’s history, artwork and nearby hot spots.

The scene

In my long-weekend stay, the hotel is popular with couples anywhere from their twenties to their seventies, while Bizazz Bar comes alive from 6pm with suited businessmen, elegantly dressed groups and flamboyantly outfitted creatives. Despite the humming atmosphere, the hotel never veers anywhere towards rowdy, instead vibrating with a voguish elegance.

The food

Le Bizazz Bar is where you’ll find breakfast, although I chose to take a basket of flaky pastries, fresh grapefruit juice, tangy lime yoghurt and piping-hot coffee in my room, on occasion. The breakfast buffet is much the same, with eggs, pancakes, breads and more added to the table. The watery eggs fail to impress my fellow diners, but the buttery pains au chocolat and chaussons aux pommes are hard to fault.

For lunch and dinner, venture next door to Le Schiap, the name a nod to former inhabitant Schiaparelli. Echoing the eclectic decor of the hotel, the restaurant’s walls are cloaked in a mural by illustrator Hippolyte Romain, a work that took three weeks to complete and pays tribute to designers and movie stars from the 1930s until today. Spot Coco Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and, rather conspicuously, Woody Allen among the stars. Here, the compact menu is an unpretentious selection of Italian-inspired plates executed with flair: think crispy Atlantic octopus, chickpea and spiced capsicum; Northern sea codfish, bouillabaisse jus, potato and fennel; and gateau Saint Honore.

Loved

The eclecticism of the communal spaces juxtaposed against the home-from-home feel of the rooms. Creating a hotel that is multifaceted and playful without ending up claustrophobic or inelegant is quite a feat. The sprawling, 300-square-foot hotel garden, overlooked by Le Bizazz and currently not accessible to guests, is a prime example of that; an enchanting, overgrown space left to nature that has beauty in its clutter. The generous refreshment of Diptyque toiletries in the bathroom is a nice touch, too.

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Hated

While generally smooth, some things fell through the cracks when it came to service. For example, in-room breakfast on checkout day arrived 40 minutes late, only prompted by a phone call.

The bottom line

Rooms start at €445 (Dh1,811) a night; www.marriott.com

Updated: March 3, 2020 01:15 PM

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