Hotel insider: Peninsula Paris
The Peninsula’s first European hotel, which opened last summer in a painstakingly restored Belle Epoque building, seeks to delight in every corner, and so there are two ways to arrive: the public entrance guarded by the Peninsula’s lion statues on Avenue Kleber leading into the magnificent gilded and frescoed Lobby dining room, or the guest entrance on Avenue des Portugais designed for a discreet arrival by car. We pull up to the latter, where the black-cloaked doormen and white-capped pageboys sweep our bags into the lobby. While smoothly checked in at the counter, I marvel at the 800 hand-blown crystal Dancing Leaves individually suspended from the ceiling, dazzling in the natural light.
In the 16th arrondissement, it’s a short walk to the Arc de Triomphe and a longer walk (or short ride) to the fashionable shops on Avenue Montaigne.
My superior suite is grande by Paris standards, elegantly decorated in cream, grey and dark brown, with bouquets of fresh white roses and a sumptuous bed with hand-carved leather headboard. The living room has a fully equipped desk and behind an art-deco wall panel is a Nespresso machine, mini-bar and TV/speaker system (repeated in the bedroom). From both rooms, French doors open out on to a long, narrow balcony with green canvas awnings. Leading into the master bathroom, which has a Japanese toilet, mood lighting and optional spa music, there’s a dressing room with a walk-in closet, vanity table with nail dryer and valet box to leave your shoes for shining. From desk and bedside tablets, and LED touch-screen wall panels, I can control everything in the language of my choice (including Arabic).
As charming and efficient as French service can be imagined, the stylishly uniformed staff all nod as I pass and smile “bonjour”; requests are handled with a conversational grace that only sometimes seems a bit uncertain.
A sprinkling of impeccably fashionable visitors from Europe and Asia were present during the off-season in February; the hotel expects to draw more guests from this region, particularly since its partner in the building is Katara Hospitality. Locals pack the wood-panelled Bar Kleber, the salon where Henry Kissinger signed the Paris Peace Accords. Below-ground is The Peninsula Spa, the largest in the city, with its own indoor pool.
While you can dine all day in the lobby, the highlight is the Peninsula’s afternoon tea, served by waiters in white jackets while a jazz trio plays. You must visit the rooftop restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc, if not for its classic French menu that changes every day (a set dinner menu is €99/Dh406), then for its view of the Eiffel Tower from its glass atrium or gardened terrace (a replica of its namesake, a vintage bi-plane, is suspended outside). The Cantonese restaurant LiLi is another design delight; be sure to book a booth behind paper-lace panels cut from the pages of French-Chinese dictionaries.
Wandering the place. The four-year restoration by France’s top craftsmen seamlessly melds historical preservation with modern art and design flourishes. It’s like stepping forward into history.
Getting into my bath only to realise that the TV in the wall is on the fritz. It’s the only misfire, and while I can call from the bath to have it fixed, the timing is awkward.
A modern French fairy tale fulfilled.
The bottom line
Rates at the Peninsula Paris (19 Avenue Kleber; www.paris.peninsula.com) start at €850 (Dh3,487) for a superior room, including taxes plus free Wi-Fi, movies on demand, long-distance calls on the wireless phone, soft drinks from the mini-bar, and a shoe shine.
Published: July 9, 2015 04:00 AM