PARK HYATT PARIS – VENDÔME
I know that I must get used to the price of fame. But I do find it difficult. Walking out of my hotel in Paris, I tried to adopt an air of nonchalance about the screaming girls. They were, after all, safely behind barricades, so the walk to my taxi was not impeded at all. Fortunately, they had realized that it would be pointless to pester me for an autograph, so none of them bothered. When I returned, a couple of hours later, the loyal young things were still there, bless them. I wondered if my re-appearance might cause over-excitement in the ranks, and perhaps even a fainting or two. But no. I reached the entrance lobby without incident. Then a porter broke the spell. It seemed that the members of a German ‘boy band’ were fellow guests and... well, I need hardly spell it out. Still, it taught me a lesson about ‘boy bands’. They like the very best hotels. For that is what the Park Hyatt Paris – Vendôme is: one of the very best hotels in Paris.
Opened in 2002, it occupies five 19th century Haussmann-style buildings a few steps from the gorgeous Place Vendôme, in the very centre of the city. If you look at the hotel façade from a distance, you will probably admire the sense of unity in its appearance. This was achieved by physically raising one of the stone fronts by several inches – a remarkable feat of modern engineering. Clearly, no expense was spared to make the exterior right. And I had the same sense that everything had been made ‘just so’ inside, too. The interior design is the work of Ed Tuttle, an American from Seattle, who now lives in Paris. His creation is modern, but not aggressively so – with Classical references in the colonnades, and hints of Art Déco fun in the use of gold and silver leaf. With lots of limestone and mahogany, Mr Tuttle has produced welcoming spaces which speak of cool sophistication and luxury. I liked them very much.
And I liked, too, the emphasis on contemporary art throughout the hotel. Most of the paintings and sculptures were created for their current locations, so the establishment has been a major patron of the arts. Interesting canvases are all over the place. Some were more to my taste than others, but that is the way it must be with art. Even the door handles and light fittings are the work of a distinguished sculptress – Roseline Granet.
Of the 178 rooms, mine was on the fourth floor. Number 401 was a ‘deluxe double’ and therefore 910 euros a night for two, breakfast extra. Here, as throughout the hotel, the clever use of mirrors increased the impression of space. The colours - from the dark mahogany woodwork, the grey carpet and the gold blinds and cornice – were restful. Once I had discovered how to dim the spotlights (the trick is to keep pressing the switch), I was able to create a pleasing atmosphere for some good music. I now travel with my own cds, so the melodies of Elgar were soon in full flow from the Bang & Olufsen television and sound system, as I relaxed in one of the two armchairs. Nowadays, my back obliges me to test every bed as soon as I arrive in a room. This one was too hard, but the ladies of the Housekeeping department soon had three duvets under the bottom sheet to soften it for me. Top marks to them.
Off the bedroom was the dressing room, always a useful facility, and then it was into the limestone bathroom. This was a long and interesting chamber, providing two wash basins, a separate loo and a feature new to me – an ‘open-plan’ shower next to the bath tub. I am a soaker myself, so I appreciated the large beige towels ( measuring five feet six inches, I think) and the good toiletries. The latter carried the name of Blaise Mautin. This famous parfumier is a most elegant young man, and an ardent Anglophile. How do I know? Because the charming and diligent Antony Doucet (the hotel’s Guest Service Manager, who did so much to make my stay enjoyable) introduced me to him over an evening cocktail in the dark and atmospheric hotel bar.
This happy encounter took place before dinner in the Pur’ Grill. This is the Park Hyatt’s grand restaurant, open only in the evenings. It occupies another interesting chamber, reminiscent – to this diner, at least – of a domed orangery. I sat within the circular central space, and felt at ease in its discreet lighting. On my round, fairly small table, were good Spiegelau glasses and beige napery. Waitresses in black – mine was the excellent Alima – moved purposefully around the room, as gentle (canned) piano music played.
Executive Chef Jean François Rouquette (who has worked in some of the greatest French kitchens, like Taillevent) says, “I like my cooking to be tasty, genuine and bear my personal stamp.” He has a Michelin star, and my meal demonstrated that it is fully deserved. The ingredients he uses are first-rate, and he handles them with intelligence, skill and confidence. This is subtle and enjoyable food.
I began with a dish from the tasting menu: ravioli of duck foie gras with black truffle. The ravioli rested on a foamed sauce of foie gras, with slices of the truffle over the top. This was superb. Each delicate constituent raised a cheer for its partners, until there was a crescendo of delight for the palate. I could have eaten this dish over and over again for a whole meal. But then I went to the carte for my other three courses. Alima transmitted to the chefs my request for slices of black truffle over the warm vegetable casserole. They did not disappoint me. This was another real treat, and further evidence that the kitchen had mastered the art of precision. My saddle of milk-fed lamb, cooked three ways, was tasty and tender, but the off-plate accompaniments were the only disappointing element of the evening: too complicated for their own good and a distraction from the meat. I finished with a candy apple with gingerbread ice cream and caramelized hazelnuts. (Allow 160 euros for four courses from the carte.)
Apart from the odd ‘foreigner’ – like the excellent 2006 Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand (75 euros) – the 150 offerings on the wine list are all French. In price, they range from a red Loire at 35 euros to 1999 Romanée-Conti at 14,000 euros. Many bottles are to be had around the 100 euros mark. Red Bordeaux shows strongly (with 1996 Lafite at 1,000 euros and 1983 Pétrus at 1,100 euros), although my eye also alighted on one of Monsieur Guigal’s great reds from the Rhone (Côte Rôtie, La Turque, 1995 – 1,500 euros). There are some interesting wines by the glass. I tried a Condrieu with typical notes of musk, lychees and melon (La Galopine, Delas Frères, 2006 – 17 euros), and a waxy white burgundy (Mercurey, Château de Chamirey, 2005 – 20 euros). For my red, I thought a bottle of claret – a Pauillac, with a balance of damp oak and damson - would go well with the lamb. And so it did (Grand Puy Lacoste, 1999 – 115 euros).
My breaking of the fast was done each morning in Les Orchidées, a restaurant and lounge in which meals are served throughout the day. This is another handsome space, with columns and a glass roof. It has high chairs and low chairs. I selected the former and found that they were ideal for my leisurely breakfasts, with the addition of a cushion. This was quickly supplied by the waiters. Here, as throughout the hotel, the members of staff were efficient and friendly, and made a point of using my name. I thought them a credit to the hotel Director, Gorka Bergareche.
So my days began with pots of good coffee, glasses of fresh green apple juice of the highest quality, bowls of honeyed Puffed Wheat (a treat I allow myself but rarely), dishes of melon and pineapple, slices of lemon cake and plates of mushrooms on toast. The buffet supplied most of these items, with the cooked dish being brought from the kitchen. (This ‘American breakfast’ costs 45 euros.) All these comestibles went down very well indeed. I pity those who greet the morning with no more than a fierce espresso and a sigh. They are missing one of life’s purest pleasures: the decent breakfast. It might not make you famous, but it will bring a smile to your face.
Actually, I think it is time I reconciled myself to a level of fame which is many, many degrees below that of a passing boy crooner. Never mind. I believe I can reconcile myself to obscurity – as long as I can stay in hotels as good as the Park Hyatt Paris – Vendôme.
PARK HYATT PARIS – VENDÔME
5 rue de la Paix, 75002 Paris, France.
Telephone +33 (0)1 58 71 12 34
Fax +33 (0)1 58 71 12 35
Double rooms from 800 euros, breakfast extra
Ask about special offers