What happens when you fine-tune hospitality to the nth degree? Cheval Blanc Paris is one example. A hotel that is more or less impossible to over-hype.
Before it opened last year it was heralded as having ‘all the magic ingredients to make it [2021’s] most exciting hotel opening’. A statement – or something similar – that’s issued to the press before lots of hotel openings.
Only, in this instance, whoever rustled up that phrase was bang on the money. And would have been justified tagging the phrase ‘it’ll blow your mind’ on the end.
Ted Thornhill checks into one of Cheval Blanc Paris’s 72 rooms and is wowed at every stage of his stay. Above is the astonishing indoor pool – the biggest indoor hotel pool in Europe
The rooms at Cheval Blanc offer mesmerising views of the Paris skyline and Ile de la Cite island, home to Notre-Dame Cathedral. The room above is of the type Ted and his family check in to
This extraordinary property delivers on every level, from the breathtaking views and incredible location by the river Seine to the impeccable service, from the superb dining options to the sensational bedrooms and from the spoil-me-rotten Dior Spa that features the largest indoor hotel swimming pool in Europe to the way luxury oozes from every inch of the interior.
And then there’s the art – eye-catching throughout. Often museum-worthy.
The superlative-draining hotel, opposite Ile de la Cite island, is owned by French luxury goods behemoth LVMH and housed in an iconic Art Deco building that’s also home to the company’s seven-storey La Samaritaine department store, which was reopened last year (by President Macron, no less) after a stunning refurbishment.
The ‘superlative-draining hotel’, is owned by French luxury goods behemoth LVMH and housed in an iconic Art Deco building
Cheval Blanc Paris’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Plenitude
In total, LVMH spent €750m (£646million/$750million) on the restoration of the building, a project overseen by architect Edouard Francois, with the interior of the hotel reimagined by superstar U.S architect Peter Marino – whose CV includes the design of the flagship Louis Vuitton shop in Beverly Hills – in the style of a Parisian residence, with help from over 600 craftspeople.
My partner, five-year-old daughter Emma and I arrive at the 72-room ‘Maison’ by taxi, with a small army of doormen opening the doors, whipping out our bags and smoothly ushering us inside to the showstopping double-storey marble-floored lobby.
Opposite the entrance above a cluster of sophisticated sofas and chairs are two 12ft-high pigment print artworks by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz depicting the Eiffel Tower, with a 21ft-long abstract by French artist Georges Mathieu hanging on the wall to the right.
Flanking the art and framing the space as a whole are eight alluring 22ft-high gold-and-bronze screens, complemented by 22ft-high white-and-bronze-coloured curtains.
I half expect to see a guided-tour group assemble in front of it all.
The receptionist who checks us in then shows us to our fifth-floor junior suite – a chamber of pure decadent opulence.
For the parents there’s a divine king-sized bed swathed in silky smooth sheets and gorgeous pillows and for the little one a camp bed also cocooned in luxurious bedding. And look, there’s a toy cheval blanc (white horse) tied to a balloon waiting for her on top.
There’s also an elegant sofa, a walk-in closet smothered in polished wood boasting a vast array of drawers and cupboards and a beautiful bathroom wrapped in marble.
Here there’s a vast bath, walk-in shower that doubles as a steam room, twin sinks, a mirror that almost stretches wall to wall and deluxe and plentiful toiletries – including bath products by Dior perfumer Francois Demachy.
Cheval Blanc Paris’s ‘showstopping’ double-storey marble-floored lobby. Opposite the entrance are two 12ft-high pigment print artworks by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz depicting the Eiffel Tower
The building the hotel is housed in (above centre) is also home to LVMH’s seven-storey La Samaritaine department store, which was reopened last year (by President Macron, no less) after a stunning refurbishment
The layout, meanwhile, is semi-open-plan with the tub lying perpendicular to a huge window. A blind lowers at the touch of a button for privacy, or you can leave it up and soak in the view.
And what a view.
The room extends out to an enclosed terrace complete with floor-to-ceiling windows (and bookended by mirrors for a wacky infinite-reflection effect) and two striking wooden chairs angled towards each other. Beyond is the Pont Neuf bridge, which runs across the Ile de la Cite, home to Notre-Dame Cathedral.
After plonking ourselves on the chairs’ thick cushions we gaze transfixed at the bubbling activity below – cyclists and taxis stream across the bridge, glass-panelled tourist boats rammed with eager sightseers come and go, docking at the pontoon next to it.
And relax… a luxurious massage room at the ‘spoil-me-rotten’ Dior Spa
It’s a dazzling room at a glance, but the inventory has impressive details too.
For example, the bedside lamps and central chandelier have been fashioned out of metal and plaster by sculpturer Philippe Anthonioz. They feature in every bedroom – but the designs are unique to each room.
And the soap is moulded in the shape of the hotel and even carries the pattern of the distinctive facade.
This pattern is subtlety repeated in the rug, on the complimentary slippers, on the custom hand-crafted plaster wall opposite the bed and even in the little tray for the TV remote in the bathroom.
You’ll see it all over the hotel, in fact.
But we don’t spot it in the amazing children’s room – ‘Le Carrousel’ – a mini paradise Emma falls in love with.
It has two themes, garden and nautical – there are two fish tanks, including a spherical one inhabited by a jellyfish – and Emma submerges herself in the little kingdom with a babysitter while we parents ascend to the seventh floor for cocktails and dinner.
The amazing children’s room – ‘Le Carrousel’ – has two themes, garden and nautical
Our first stop is the summer garden panoramic terrace. There we sip on perfectly executed French 75 and Pisco Sour cocktails as the sun sets, gazing from our seats through an engineered gap in the perimeter hedge that allows for a view past the striking Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois Gothic church next door and out to the Eiffel Tower.
This view is trumped half an hour later at restaurant Le Tout-Paris, just around the corner beyond the garden’s soothing grasses.
The hotel has three restaurants led by chef Arnaud Donckele, the three-Michelin-starred Plenitude, Italian eaterie Langosteria and our venue for the evening, which offers French cuisine in arrestingly chic surroundings.
Inside are chairs and banquettes in eye-catching orange, yellow, and red hues. But we’re led outside to one of the coveted tables positioned in alcoves that offer diners pinch-me views of the Seine and the skyline.
The cuisine is top-notch, the beverages delightful and the service, as at every stage of our stay – faultless.
Le Tout-Paris restaurant, where Ted dines on crab and avocado pie (la tarte tourteau), beef with dauphine potatoes and Le Mille-Feuille
Ted’s Le Tout-Paris dinner table is outside (similar to the above), affording him and his partner stunning views of the Seine and skyline. They return to the restaurant for breakfast – pictured right is a typical spread that’s served up. ‘No guest is subjected to the toil of fetching food from a buffet,’ writes Ted
I start with crab and avocado pie (la tarte tourteau), opt for beef with dauphine potatoes for mains and finish with Le Mille-Feuille.
My French partner insists that only the French know how to do patisserie ‘properly’. And she seems satisfied that her point has been made with my dish and her classic Paris-Brest.
Drinks-wise, we’re advised by the perky deputy head sommelier to start with vintage Moet & Chandon Champagnes – a 2013 white and a 2012 rose, both excellent – then she delivers a 2015 Chateau d’Issan Margaux red followed by Kopke port.
The next morning we’re back at the restaurant for breakfast, this time at a round table with a semi-circular banquette.
No guest is subjected to the toil of fetching food from a buffet. Instead, little bowls of fruit and a basket of pastries – including the ultimate pain au chocolat with the perfect crunch – are brought to the table and orders for extras taken.
It’s an Eggs Benedict for me and a hot chocolate for the little one served in a cute little brass kettle.
Our stay is rounded off by a dip in the epic 30m- (98ft) long swimming pool, decorated with a captivating wavy mosaic pattern on the floor and with moving images of the Seine playing on the walls to generate the illusion you’re swimming in the river.
Yet another magic ingredient to make this one of 2021’s most exciting new hotels – and one of the best hotels anywhere in 2022.
Ted and his family are hosted by Cheval Blanc Paris, minus babysitting fee and room service. Rooms cost from around £1,600 (1,860 euros/$1,860) a night.
PROS: Hotel hospitality that nears the summit of perfection – beautiful decor, stunning bedrooms, world-class dining, incredible facilities including a sensational indoor pool, wonderful views, first-rate staff in every department.
CONS: If you can afford it – none.
Eurostar: Visit Eurostar.com for information on its high-speed services between London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord.