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Travel
March 31, 2015

Haute Hotel

Text by Shirin Mehta

Mandarin Oriental, Paris, inspired by Parisian haute couture, provides a haven of tranquil charm in the heart of Paris

Inspired by haute couture and the Parisian knack of cultivating the ‘art of living’ in all its forms — culture, shopping, gastronomy and leisure — the Mandarin Oriental, Paris, is a haven of seclusion on the Rue Saint-Honore, surrounded by leading names in fashion, right in the centre of Paris. Minutes from Place Vendome with its world-renowned jewellers, the Louvre and the Tuilleries gardens, the eight-story hotel is located in a 1930s listed Art Deco building with a unique character. What strikes even as you enter is the vast indoor landscaped garden which seems to bring greenery and romance into the lobby, here in the pulsing heart of the city. The reception desk being busy, I am taken up to my room and over a welcome pot of tea, the formalities of check-in are completed right there, indeed a luxury.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris, draws inspiration from the richness, modernity and creativity of the 1930s and Art Deco, as well as from the dictates of luxury and French fashion. The 1930s ushered in elegantly simple styles for women in softly draped fabrics, trimmed with jewels and lace. Madeleine Vionnet, Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are among the iconic women who left their mark on the era. Fashion photography, particularly that of Man Ray, too, left a mark on this time. Mandarin Oriental, Paris, revisits the aesthetic of this abundantly creative era and pays tribute to muses past and present with its truly feminine, romantic mood, its subtle shades and textures and delicate details.

The entrance porch and lobby are clad in stone, lacquer and gold leaf. Noble materials in a couture style; bold colours in subtle harmonies of grey, plum, rose, mauve and ecru are apparent. Butterflies abound, some embroidered on cushions or made from crystal and ceramic in an installation by sculptor Marcello Lo Giudice. The work of artist Nathalie Decoster, Air, denotes a sculpture that suspends fragile liberty from a thread. I am thrilled by the hotel’s personalised and impeccable service every time I enter or leave the lobby, as the desk, the concierge and the doormen wish me by name. On a day when rain is predicted, an umbrella is tactfully handed out to me even as I leave, which I am grateful for an hour later.

The hotel’s 99 luxurious rooms and 39 suites offer an eminently stylish Parisian experience and are among the most spacious in Paris. Each room and suite is styled in the quintessential Paris, haute couture style, evident in the striking colours, understated lines and refined opulent materials. The hotel has invited Man Ray, the acclaimed American photographer who made Paris his home in the 1930s, into the bedroom for his evocation of romantic Paris through modern techniques. A reproduction on velvet of The Kiss dresses the alcove on the headboard. Furniture in a contemporary style accentuates noble materials with a dominance of dark wood, pale lacquer and chrome. The photographs of talented young Iranian photographer Ali Mahdavi, which encapsulate Paris fashion in perfect keeping with the hotel, were chosen for his use of light and his vision of women.

These are displayed throughout the suites whose décor mixes contemporary style and Oriental chic. Terrace Suites are designed with gold detailing large terraces offering an opportunity to dine outside. The two-story Panoramic Suites enjoy a wealth of space and elegant décor. Couture Suites are inspired by fashion couturiers’ muses. In The Suite Royale Orientale lacquer blends with velvet, ebony with marble for an emotional journey from Paris to the Orient. The Suite Royal Mandarin is spectacular with its sweeping silks and art works. The Penthouse Floor: J’aime Paris, provides the luxurious feel of a penthouse.

The hotel offers much to satisfy every gourmet desire, through the impetus of Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage, Thierry Marx who mixes French tradition with Asian influences, drawing inspiration from his extensive travels. Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx, the gastronomic restaurant with two Michelin stars, has been designed as a white space away from the city bustle with walls and ceiling draped in white fabric and art works. The menu pays particular attention to shapes and colours, textures and temperatures and is an invitation to experience new sensations. The second restaurant Camelia extends into the indoor landscaped garden. The menu focuses on individual ingredients used in French cuisine that are influenced by Chef marx’s knowledge of the culinary traditions of Japan. A 5-course tasting menu throws up simple dishes high on flavour. Bar 8, with a monumental, nine-ton block of brown marble quarried in Spain, which forms the bar and dark wood walls inlaid with Lalique crystals, is a great place to relax before or after dinner. The Cake Shop offers patrons with a sweet tooth delicious treats to take home beautifully wrapped.

Spread over 900 square metres and one of the city’s largest hotel spas, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, is a tranquil retreat with its haute couture wall that unfolds over two levels, composed from Origami-fashion stylised flowers. Seven Spa Suites of which three are double suites, allow guests to enjoy Mandarin Oriental’s award-winning, holistic treatments. A relaxing body massage ritual with essential oils leaves me feeling completely rejuvenated. The spa also features an exclusive collection of facial therapies by Guerlain. A fully-equipped fitness centre and a 14-metre indoor pool complete the sensory experience.

Taking advantage of its central location, the hotel offers adaptable meeting and function rooms with state-of-the-art technology and tailor-made services. Besides, business and private receptions can be hosted on the spacious sixth-floor terrace. The garden can also be reserved for private events, on request. Last year, the hotel was granted an official ‘Palace Distinction’ by Atout France, the French agency for tourism development. This accolade is provided only to the best five-star hotels that fulfill certain stringent criteria and embody French standards of excellence.

One cannot forget the fan, the elegant symbol of Mandarin Oriental. Each of the Group’s hotels creates a fan that conveys the property’s uniqueness and personality. No surprise then that the fan for Mandarin Oriental, Paris was commissioned to Maison Lesage, to represent the world of Parisian haut couture. The fan has been executed using velvet, glace leather, vintage sequins, pearls and coloured butterflies, over 200 hours. As I view the fan framed in the hotel lobby, I realise that it is a fitting symbol indeed for a hotel that perfectly blends the principles of haute couture and Parisian charm.

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