One of the most anticipated openings of the year is the long-awaited revamp of the grand Hotel Lutetia on the Left Bank in Paris. Paris correspondent Kasia Dietz is very impressed.
PARIS — As I approached the newly revamped Hotel Lutetia in Paris's elegant Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, I noticed the plaque on its undulating façade, placed in memory of the displaced families reunited here after World War II. It set the tone: I was about to enter into rich Parisian history.
In 1910, Lutetia (the Roman name for the French capital) was built to house clients of neighboring Le Bon Marché department store, the most fashionable address in town. Hotel Lutetia soon followed suit, as Paris's elite made this their local haunt. Literary regulars such as Jean Cocteau, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sartre were rubbed elbows with political figures like Nikita Khrushchev, George Pompidou, François Mitterrand, and Jacques Chirac. The celebrity roster to pass through these very doors included Joséphine Baker (for whom the bar is named), Serge Gainsbourg, Isabelle Huppert, David Lynch, and Catherine Deneuve. I swear I could feel their presence as I glided through the marble clad reception, taking in every well-appointed detail.
The greatest challenge for architectural firm Perrot & Richard (who worked on the Parisian masterpieces the Grand Palais and Opéra Garnier) was how to revitalize the space while maintaining its historic integrity. According to head architect Alain-Charles Perrot, "In a heritage site like the Lutetia, it is all about soul." The Set, the hotel company behind such other recent historic renovations as Hotel Café Royal in London and Conservatorium in Amsterdam, spent roughly $234 million on the renovation.
While the well-lit restaurant Saint Germain had a neutral palette and a dining patio created from a windowless salon, other details told stories of days past, including the glass ceiling, which is now a whimsical work of art evoking an imaginary ball by artist Fabrice Hyber.
Inside Art Deco Bar Joséphine, Adrien Karbowsky's agricultural-themed fresco was uncovered lying under six coats of paint and has been restored to its original splendor. I sipped a glass of Cuvée Lutetia Champagne, specially created by Maison Taittinger, and was mesmerized by the massive panels of bronze-colored glass reflected along the 10-meter long bar.
Eager to taste the Asian-influenced dishes of executive chef Benjamin Brial, I nestled into a corner seat on the patio and savored tuna tartare with ponzu dressing. I couldn't wait to discover what pastry chef Gaëtan Fiard had concocted, given his talent for combining fruit with herbs and spices, and ordered the 71% Lutetia selection chocolate dish with cardamom ice cream. Tonight, I ate at restaurant Saint Germain. Next time I'll see how three-Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passedat of Le Petit Nice in Marseille will treat his signature Mediterranean flavors when Brasserie Lutetia opens in January.
After dinner, I cozied up in one of Gio Ponti's 1960s armchairs in the library and was delighted to discovered among their 1,600 books a volume about the Hamptons, my childhood home.
My room was decorated in sea blue hues and elegant, modern furnishings. Rare Calacatta marble covers the spacious bathroom, where the bathtub is meticulously hand carved. Opening the curtains, I peeked onto my balcony and smiled at the Eiffel Tower, sparkling in the distance.
In the heart of Saint Germain's stylish Rive Gauche neighborhood.
A story is told in every elegantly refined detail.
This Place Is Perfect For
Business travelers and couples. Children are welcome.
But Not So Perfect For
Travelers looking for modest accommodations.
What's on Site
Treatments at luxurious Spa Akasha combine the four elements (fire, earth, air, water), using Carita, Aromatherapy Associates, CellCosmet, and CellMen products. The hotel has a 17-meter subterranean pool and 100-square meter state-of-the-art gym, offering private classes including yoga, Pilates, and boxing. Hair spa by stylist Christophe-Nicolas Biot.
Food + Drink
Saint Germain restaurant serves informal dining; Brasserie Lutetia will serve haute cuisine. Breakfast is served in L'Orangerie. Bar Joséphine serves cocktails, a vast wine selection, and light bites. Bar Aristide serves an excellent selection of liquors and spirits. Cigar lovers can choose from two smoking rooms.
Number of Rooms
184 rooms, including 47 suites, of which 7 are luxurious Signature suites.
Free WiFi. Hermès toiletries. Complimentary coffee and tea.
Some rooms face onto the interior courtyard, and don't have city views.
Adrien Karbowsky's fresco in Bar Joséphine is a masterpiece to behold. It took about 17,000 hours to restore the artwork.
Good to Know
Sunday evenings feature live jazz at Bar Joséphine.
What to Do Nearby
This area is packed with fashionable boutiques along the main and side streets. Chic department store Le Bon Marché is just steps away. Here's a handy checklist: Free Persephone day spa for a manicure. Pierre Hermé for a sweet fix. Café de Flore for people watching. Musée d'Orsay for more historic masterpieces.