Darius Sanai checks in to the newest luxury hotel in Paris. Does it have the substance to match the style?
It’s a winter’s afternoon in Paris and, laden with big bags from Moynat and Hermès, and a smaller one from JAR, you decide to walk the few blocks from Place Vendôme to the Rue de Louvre, the big wheel of the Tuileries Christmas market appearing and disappearing to your right and Francois Pinault’s Bourse du Commerce museum an apparition in front of you.
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Your arrival at Madame Rêve, the newest luxury star in the unrivalled Parisian swanky hotel galaxy, is a little unexpected – or ours was, anyway. There is no palatial lobby with a concierge desk a marble tennis court distance away from reception. The building is impressive enough, a palace from the Hausmann era, but you enter through a simple door on one corner and are immediately presented with two small reception booths beyond richly mosaiced floor area.
Our receptionists were young, friendly and eager – evidently they had skipped the module of “Parisian hauteur” at hotel school – and soon we were rapidly whisked up via a lift, and two long, right angled corridors named after the streets that they line, to our room. The darkness of the corridors made the surprise of the room even greater: instead of a view across the street to a man in the apartment opposite sipping an espresso and smoking a cigarette afforded by so many Parisian hotels, there were angled skylight-type windows, letting in a sky’s worth of light, and looking over rooftops to the church of Sacré-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre.
Furnishings are delicious, swathed in caramel leather with bespoke throws, rosewood panels and a bathroom and separate toilet room on either side of the vast bed, located so you can prop yourselves up and watch the light change as the sky turns into night.
All rooms are situated along the quadrangle of corridors on the same floor, officially the third floor, but in effect the eighth floor as the lower floor ceilings of this former post office and repository are so high. So, with the exception of a few rooms facing the inner courtyard, every room will have a view, whether of the Eiffel Tower, mid-restoration Notre Dame, or our view of Montmartre.
The hotel is celebrated for its rooftop terrace and bar, but this being winter, it was more compelling to have dinner downstairs on the ground floor in the casual chic restaurant/bar Kitchen. We recommend a pre-dinner aperitif seated at the long bar itself, where you can appreciate the wooden panelling and seemingly Eiffel Tower height ceiling of the room, while rubbing shoulders with art collectors and film producers who have made this their local hangout since the place opened a year ago.
Then, retreat to the lounge style seating all around, order another Negroni and choose from a menu from two Michelin-starred chef Stephanie Le Quellec that blends super-contemporary and traditional, the dishes split into categories like “Healthy Trendy”, “Flashback” and “Gluten Free But Not Vegan”. Roasted cauliflower cacio e pepe style was influsingly spicy, and the Prime Rib of Normand Beef Blazed with Bourbon was served on the bone and had a succulent tang – although the brick-style fries could have had a little more crispness and contrast between skin and interior. A salad of red leaf lettuce with ginger vinaigrette was zingy and uplifting.
Paris has never been wanting for luxury hotels, but until quite recently, the choice of style was fairly constrained to old-fashioned high luxury, aimed at an international private jet and business traveller set rather than a new generation of more stylish and culturally demanding traveller.
Madame Rêve addresses this, and how? The serving staff are less formal, more the type of people you might imagine bumping into at the right kind of bar, though they do their job just as well as their penguin-suited peers. As with any hotel with an innate sense of style, not built simply to please anyone and everyone, you may disagree with certain touches: we weren’t sure about the darkness of the long corridors on the room floor, for example.
But that only provides even more of a contrast to the lightness and tranquility of the rooms. And did we mention the location? You are minutes’ walk away from the Louvre, the Marais, the Seine and the Pompidou Centre, as well as the retail temples of St Honoré. And when you come back from an exhausting day of meetings or museums, you have one of the most compelling social scenes in Paris inside your own hotel. Chic!
Rates: From £410 per night (approx. €480/$515)
Book your stay: madamereve.com