I'm just back from a two week trip to Paris, Ireland, and London. My reviews of eleven Virtuoso hotels in London is posted separately. During my time in Paris and London, I visited several new hotels. These are my impressions.
(I have also added this material to my previous site inspection reports for Paris
Raffles - Le Royal Monceau
Located a block and a half from the Arc du Triomphe, Le Royal Monceau was built in 1928 at the height of the Roaring 20's. Along with the Ritz, it was a favorite of the expatriate community in Paris.
It has been recently renovated with a bold, contemporary interior design by Philippe Stark. In a nutshell, I would describe the hotel as "more LA than LA." The sales manager spoke of "the excitement and glamour of Paris for a new generation." It's not for everyone, however. Guests looking for something quirky, artistic, and avant garde will love Le Royal Monceau. But if you favor traditional Parisian styling, or prefer contemporary styling that is simple and elegant (I.e., "Thai chic"), you'll want to look elsewhere.
Public spaces have contemporary art on display, and the design of the two restaurants and bar is striking. Guest floor hallways are quite unusual; carpeting and wall treatments feature bold stripes, and guest room doors don't really look like doors at first glance. Guestrooms have a bit of a cluttered design (Starke is not a minimalist - his intention is to provide lots of details to intrigue the eye). Each room has at least one large widescreen TV within a mirror leaning against the wall.
Bathrooms have lots of mirrors, so you'll see yourself in multiple reflections. Each room has a large, deep soaking tub, two large vanities (large, square, and just an inch deep), step-in rain shower, and a separate WC. My favorite rooms were in the back of the house, very quiet and overlooking the large garden.
Among other features, Le Royal Monceau offers the largest hotel swimming pool in Paris and a movie theatre. Virtuoso amenities include free Internet.
Mandarin Oriental Paris
The Mandarin Oriental Paris is a new hotel, having opened in June 2011, with an enviable location on the fashion street of Paris, rue St Honore. Just off the Place Vendome and a block from the Tuileries, it's an ideal setting both for visitors coming to Paris to shop as well as for tourists who want to stay in the heart of the city. Guests enter an elegant and sophisticated lobby overlooking a beautiful courtyard garden, planted with over 200 varieties of trees and plants. This sets the tone for the entire hotel which is designed to be an urban retreat in the middle of a busy cit.
As the hotel was nearly fully booked, we were shown a Deluxe Room and a Superior Suite. Rooms will appeal to guests who appreciate warm, contemporary interiors. Rosewood is used extensively in the doors, headboards, and built-ins. There are no painted surfaces in the room; walls are finished with fabric surfaces. Bathrooms are finished in polished white marble, and all rooms have dual vanities, deep soaking tub, step in rain shower, and separate WC. However, the design of the bath area in the Deluxe area was a bit unusual. The two sinks were on one side of the tiled entrance into the bedroom, while the tub, shower, and WC were on the other side. Although called a Deluxe Room, it felt like a Superior room in terms of space provided.
I had breakfast with the Sales Manager and, based on a prior comment about the MO’s slow service, took notice of the wait staff at breakfast. Everything was served promptly, and I did not notice any impatient diners!
Esprit St Germain
Esprit St Germain is a small boutique hotel in the Left Bank, near the Eglise St Sulpice, an attractive location for visitors wanting to explore the 6th arrondissement with its shops, boutiques, and markets.
The major feature of the hotel are the two homey, comfortable living rooms on the ground floor. Guests make extensive use of these common areas which feature a complimentary open bar, soft drinks, and coffee and tea throughout the day.
Guest rooms are quite small, typical of Left Bank hotels which are situated in older buildings with smaller rooms. Most luxury guests will want to book either a Premier Room or a Suite. The Premier room is essentially the size of the hotel's Deluxe rooms with a larger closet and bathroom. The top floor Premier room has a terrace looking over the rooftops of other buildings on the street toward the Eglise St Sulpice, while the others have more floor space. Suites are essentially small Jr. suites with a small sitting area separated from the small bedroom.
Bathrooms are small with tub/shower combination, a single vanity, and a separate WC. Suites have two small bathrooms, one with a soaking tub, the other with a step-in shower.
Be aware that space is really tight in all room categories at this property. If having a lot of space is a priority to you, this hotel will not work for you. But Esprit St Germain has a lot of repeat guests who enjoy the residential feeling of the hotel.
We began our trip to Europe with three nights at Le Meurice where we were upgraded to a Deluxe Suite. This is my favorite hotel in Paris, but that’s my own, very subjective opinion. There are two reasons I appreciate Le Meurice.
(1) It has a perfect location, right in the center of Paris, across the street from the Tuilleries. Guests can walk to most of the tourist attractions they would want to visit. (Note that the MO and the Ritz have virtually the same location).
(2) The hotel feels Parisian. This is a traditional palace hotel, with a strong sense of place.
If you want beautiful, updated, traditional furnishings and bathrooms, you’ll probably prefer the George V. But for the price, Le Meurice is a very good value. Rooms are large and comfortable. Our bathroom had a double vanity, soaking tub, and separate step-in shower.
If I have one criticism of my stay, breakfast service in the dining room was slow. There is a buffet —included as part of the Virtuoso breakfast amenity — but it took too long to get our juice poured and our eggs served. On the other hand, the morning of our departure to Dublin, both our wake-up call and room service breakfast came exactly at the times we had requested.
The Connaught - new wing
I had previously seen the old wing at The Connaught during a site inspection in February, 2007. During this trip, I had the opportunity to see a Deluxe Room in the new wing.
While the old wing is traditionally British, the new wing offers a pleasant contemporary style with hardwood floors, attractive furnishings, and great bathrooms. Bathrooms have black marble floors and white marble vanities. They are equipped with dual vanities, a deep soaking tub, Toto toilets (that raises its seat for you, etc.), and a separate step-in rain shower. The only downside is that the rooms are compact - Superior rooms are 30 square meters and Deluxe are 33 square meters. To get the space you'd normally associate with a Deluxe room, you would have to book an open-plan Superior Jr. Suite (43 sqm) or Deluxe Jr Suite (47 sqm).
We also saw the 2 BR Terrace Suite which occupies the top floor of the new wing. It has a very spacious Master Bedroom with separate living room and dressing area, as well as a second King-bedded guestroom down the hallway.
The Dorchester is a 250 room hotel, including 57 suites, in the Mayfair area of London across the street from Hyde Park. I initially reviewed the hotel after a site inspection in February, 2007. These are further reflections after my two night stay in May, 2012.
We spent two nights in a Deluxe room, a very traditional feeling accommodation with an entrance hallway, ample bedroom (its size being what one would expect for a Deluxe category), and a grey marble bathroom with dual vanities, deep soaking tub, and step-in shower. The room was quite comfortable, and the pillows were literally the softest that we slept on during our entire trip.
I also viewed an Executive Deluxe room, confirming my impression from five years ago. This is a WOW room and the category that luxury travelers would want to book. It is larger than Deluxe rooms, and there is light wood paneling in place of the Deluxe's somewhat dated wallpaper. 70% of these rooms have very attractive canopied four poster beds and antique furnishings.
The hotel has almost completed its renovations of Park Suites and Dorchester Suites; these will be finished in time for the Olympics this summer. The intent is to update these suites, maintaining a traditional look but introducing a more contemporary feel. The dark mahogany paneling has been replaced with lighter woods, the curtains are less floral, and there are hardwood floors in place of carpeting. colors are softer, making for a more homey environment. I loved the new design.
45 Park Lane
45 Park Lane is a new member of the Dorchester Collection, located perhaps 100 meters south of The Dorchester; guests at either up hotel have cross-charging privileges at the other. Designed in a contemporary art deco style, this hotel was a WOW for me. I loved the sophisticated design of the rooms.
There are 45 accommodations in this boutique hotel, 35 rooms and 10 suites, and there is a strong emphasis on technology. Internet is free throughout the hotel, rooms are equipped with Bang & Olufson flat screens and iPads, and all the plugs and ports you need are right in your leather-topped desktop. An additional perk: soft drinks in your minibar are free.
Decorated with an attractive masculine color palette, rooms have dark wood paneling, soft beige carpeting, and suede wall finishes. Couches have either maroon, soft cream, or baby blue upholster, and every room enjoys the greenery of Hyde Park. Bathrooms have gorgeous marble - tan floors and walls and black vanities - with dual vanities, soaking tub, separate rain shower, and a TV in the mirror. Your own Host checks you in and serves as your butler, concierge, and point of contact throughout your stay.
Originally built as a nearly 600 room grand hotel in 1885, the building of The Corinthia was taken over by the Ministry of Defense for office space and recently reconverted for use as a hotel. The hotel underwent a thorough renovation with a single room now occupying the space originally taken by two rooms.
This is a mid-price luxury hotel worth consideration by more price conscious visitors to London. Lead-in Superior rooms are 344 square feet, Deluxe rooms are 420 square feet, and an Executive room is 485 square feet. As half the rooms in the property are Executives, there is an excellent chance of an upgrade from Deluxe into this category.
Rooms come in different configurations. The Executive I saw was wide from side to side but narrow from the interior wall to the window; I'd definitely request a room with more square dimensions. Decorated in shades of green and tan, rooms have a very attractive subdued contemporary style. Bathrooms have soaking tubs, separate rain showers, dual vanities, and WC.
Trafalgar Suites have a view of the Statue of Admiral Nelson in Trafalgar Square (and come in 1 and 2 BR configurations. River Suites look out towards the river ... But you'll need to request a higher floor to to have a view over the adjoining buildings. There are seven Penthouse Suites, each uniquely decorated.
The hotel has applied for Virtuoso membership and informally offers amenities - full English breakfast, $100 F&B credit, and upgrade if available. A potentially valuable perk for now is totally flexible check in and check out ... but this could change as the hotel's occupancy rate rises.
The Bulgari London is a brand new build scheduled to open on May 28. The third hotel to have this brand (others being Milan and Bali, with a new announcement anticipated shortly), it was planned by the same team that designs Bulgari hand bags and jewelry. There are trademark Bulgari details throughout the property.
I was struck by the materials chosen for the interior design of the hotel. Extensive use is made of mahogany wood throughout the property in the hardwood flooring, solid doors, and hand-varnished wall paneling (and the left over mahogany was used to carve solid wooden clothes hangers). Other design materials include reflective chrome, leather, polished stainless steel, silver mesh screens, and black granite tiles.
Rooms are very large. Lead-in Superior rooms begin at 467 square feet; they like a typical Deluxe rooms. Deluxe rooms start at 479 square feet, and the Executive category at 490 square feet. Room design is simple and uncluttered - cool and soothing, classic contemporary design with browns, beiges, silver, and white. Even though the hotel is in noisy Knightsbridge, windows provide effective soundproofing.
Bathrooms have been finished in black marble with white veins, all carved from a single block of Manquina marble imported from Spain. All bathrooms have soaking tubs and rain showers, although some odd design choices were made. (1) Showers in some room categories are in the same glass enclosure with the soaking tub. (2) Shower floors are wooden slats, rather than tile or marble. (3) Bathroom doors in some room categories are the previously mentioned silver mesh screens enclosed in glass - attractive, but they do not block light. As a consequence, an early riser who wants to take a shower cannot avoid disturbing a still sleeping companion.
Designers have given Incredible attention to some details. Luggage racks are custom made from black leather with Bulgari branding. Minibars are set within a Bulgari steamer trunk with a Rosewood interior. The casing of the flat screen TVs are custom designed, as we're the exercise machines in the gym. The half Olympic sized pool has a mosaic of gold and emerald colored mosaic tiles with pool cabanas for guests (although the room is too warm and humid to want to sit by an indoor pool). The vitality pool (very large jacuzzi) is lined with silver mosaic tiles. The hotel has a 47 seat theatre with the largest and highest resolution (4K) screen of any hotel cinema in the UK, and there is a library of 500 movies that guests can access from their in-room television system.
The Bulgari London is unique in its incredible attention to detail and the lavishness of the hotel's design, yet the intention is to price lead-in rooms competitively with other luxury hotels in London. This property may not be for for everyone, but the Bulgari is definitely an option to consider if you enjoy experiencing iconoclastic hotel products.
Four Seasons London
Because the hotel was fully booked at the time of our site inspection, with guests literally checking into rooms that the hotel wanted to show us, we only had the opportunity to see several suites. We were not able to see any Superior, Deluxe, or Premium Rooms. However, given that the bedrooms in some of the suites are similar to the regular guestroom, I did see enough to understand why this hotel has become so popular.
Four Seasons has created a stunning new renovation of the oldest Four Seasons hotel still in use anywhere in the world. The hotel is beautiful and elegant with a classical contemporary look with wood paneling, silk wallpaper, and marble. Deluxe rooms have mahogany paneing and light terra cotta walls, and all rooms have the great Four Seasons bathrooms that you would expect in a new hotel. While rooms are not overly large, you will not be disappointed with the Deluxe category and up.