24-Hour Room Service: Hôtel de Crillon Paris
Saturday 22 September 2007
The taxi driver didn't need the address: "Crillon" was enough, because, like the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, this hotel is a Parisian landmark. Commissioned by Louis XV in 1758 as one of a pair of government buildings at the northern end of the Place Louis XV – now the Place de la Concorde – it was soon transformed into a hotel. In 1788, it was acquired by the Comte de Crillon, but was then promptly confiscated by the government during the Revolution. It was later returned to the family and was taken over by the Société du Louvre and refurbished in 1907.
The hotel is still imbued with its illustrious past: the Salon Marie Antoinette, with its high ceilings and tall doors that open out on to a sweeping terrace, is where the young queen is said to have taken piano lessons. Elsewhere, one of Leonard Bernstein's pianos takes pride of place in a suite dedicated to the composer. And the guest book includes the names of, among others, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, King George V, Churchill, American presidents from Roosevelt to George W, Madonna, J-Lo, and even the Dalai Lama.
Why they all chose the Crillon is clear the second you walk through the revolving doors. From floor to ceiling, the hotel is covered in marble – in cream and toffee-coloured swirls – that is polished to such an extent that the light reflecting from the twinkling crystal chandeliers creates an almost holy glow. The gilt and brocade furnishings and antique artefacts dotted throughout are a perfect match. Then there's Les Ambassadeurs, the hotel's world-renowned restaurant, which boasts two Michelin stars and a celebrity chef, Jean-François Piège. The hotel even caters for dogs (though not in the restaurant) with baskets, special menus, their own Crillon collar, and walks by the concierge staff. But despite the opulence, there is still a homely feel. The card awaiting us in our suite read: "Welcome to your Parisian home". And to an extent, that's how it felt, albeit on a rather more decadent scale than my two-bedroom flat in south-east London.
Hôtel de Crillon, 10 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris (00 33 1 44 71 15 01; www.crillon.com). The hotel is a short walk from the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the Grand Palais, the Jardin des Tuileries and the swanky designer shopping area around the Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.
Time from international airport: around 30-40 minutes by taxi from Paris Charles de Gaulle, depending on traffic. The Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord is about a 20-minute drive from the hotel.
The 103 guest rooms and 44 suites or "Grand Apartments" (including five overlooking the Place de la Concorde) have been restored to Louis XV-style opulence. Our suite was arranged over two floors. On the lower level there was a lounge area with a small sofa and ornate period furniture. French windows opened to allow a light breeze to circulate on a warm and balmy weekend. A spiral staircase led up to the bedroom, with its super-kingsize bed. The bathroom was, of course, covered in marble.
Dinner at Les Ambassadeurs is a treat: the seven-course "tasting" menu on which we feasted made things of beauty from ordinary-sounding dishes. "Carbonara", for example, was a cube of pork belly accompanied by a Parmesan mousse and wrapped in spaghetti. Dessert was a strawberry-and-basil mousse and ice cream creation, inside an intricate cylinder of meringue lattice. Other touches included frozen sweets served from a huge ice-filled jug, with coffee and tea – the tea fresh from the infusion trolley, with leaves plucked from an array of potted herbs.
Freebies: a bowl of fruit; a plate of chocolates, roses and orchids; mineral water; the International Herald Tribune; Annick Goutal toiletries; bath salts.
Keeping in touch: direct-dial telephones, flat-screen TVs with free internet access, and hi-fi in the rooms; a well-equipped business centre.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Leading Hotels of the World (00800 2888 8882; www.lhw.com) offers stays at the Hôtel de Crillon from ¿€682 (£487) per room per night, including breakfast. The "tasting menu" at Les Ambassadeurs costs ¿€200 (£143) per person, not including wine.
I'm not paying that: the Hôtel Daniel (00 33 1 42 56 17 00; www.hoteldanielparis.com), which is just off the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, has double rooms from €390 (£279) per night, room only.
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