I was escorted to a comfortable chair in an understated yet elegant reception while check-in was quietly and efficiently taken care of. My bags were whisked away to my room while I was taken on a quick tour through the hotel's reception area, beautiful courtyard terrace and spa before being shown to my room by a friendly porter who had plenty of stories to share about the design concept of the hotel. Staff had obviously been well briefed, and the simplicity and particularly warm welcome I received made me feel like I could have been in a friend's living room. A great start.
Located in central Paris, a short walk from Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Jardin du Luxembourg, it is the perfect area for shopping and spending a lazy afternoon drinking coffee and browsing the luxurious boutiques. If you are happy not to be in the immediate proximity of the Champs d'Elysées, it is a great alternative and a nice change of scene, yet still only a short taxi journey away from the tourist buses and attractions. Wonderfully quiet and relaxed compared to most Parisian neighbourhoods I have stayed in.
La Belle Juliette lies comfortably somewhere between a concept hotel and a boutique hotel. It's impossibly chic yet personal and unassuming - luxurious yet understated, thanks to the interior design of Anne Gelbard, the Parisian expert of "home couture", and architecture by Vincent Bastie. Its concept is based around the life of Juliette Récamier (1777-1849), the famous socialite and mistress of one of the most influential literary salons of French Empire society.
This is not your typical giant five-star with all the trimmings, but instead a rather discreet blend of traditional Parisian flavour and aristocracy offset by playful modern touches - like a hot pink Louis XIV chair, or works of modern art that hang around the hotel. Parisian hotels can be stuffy - especially in this area - but La Belle Juliette has created its own world of "art de vivre" reminiscent of the social salons at the time. There is no sign of pretence - only a genuine taste for art and design.
Parisian hotel staff often have a knack for making you feel like an irritating distraction, so I was pleasantly surprised to observe quite the opposite. Staff were friendly and more than helpful in facilitating ordering taxis and any other requirements. When late for breakfast, I was seated and told the chef would cater for my needs without any fuss on my part. Welcoming and helpful without being overbearing, it is obvious staff have been carefully selected and trained.
Paris hotel rooms are generally tiny. Mine was small but perfectly formed. I didn't feel in any way cramped, although I had a bit of a problem with the layout. The bathroom was separate from the toilet and meant there was no view from my bed, and while the free-standing claw-foot bath was a pleasure to look at, it was rather awkward to shower in, even with the curtain around it. In terms of style, each room has its own personality and theme and, because it is still extremely new, everything is immaculate. Lots of rich mauves and greys, and a beautifully polished hardwood floor set the tone. Instead of a TV there are Apple iMacs with free Wi-Fi access, keyboard and terminal in each room. In fact, this access runs throughout the whole hotel -pleasing, because I always feel a little cheated when internet is charged to the room. The bed and bedding was extremely comfortable, and little extras such as a Nespresso machine and beautifully packaged and well-replenished fig toiletries made me feel well looked after.
Because the neighbourhood aches to be explored for dinner, I tried the breakfast, which was fantastic although limited to either a selection of fantastic pastries and jams or eggs cooked to your liking. Don't go near it if you like your big buffet - there is not a pancake in sight. The best part was to be able to sit outside in the lovely little garden patio reserved for diners.
The utter lack of pretension.
The layout of the bathroom within the bedroom was off-putting. And perhaps I would have preferred a slightly larger room. I would consider upgrading in size if I went back.
La Belle Juliette is elegant without being stuffy - perfect for a weekend break. I found it a struggle to leave for the day, which was rather strange, considering I was in one of the best shopping areas in Europe.
The bottom line
Double rooms cost from Dh1,571 and the suite Dh3,667 per night, including taxes. Hotel La Belle Juliette, 92, rue du Cherche Midi 75006, Paris (www.hotel-belle-juliette-paris.com; 00 33 1 42 22 97 40).