The Mandarin Oriental is the third Asian hotel chain to plant its flag in Paris in the last year, but General Manager Philippe Leboeuf stresses that the company “tried to fight being an ‘Asian’ hotel. We don’t want to be a cliché.” In the hotel’s execution, Leboeuf lost some of that battle, which is not such a bad thing. The new Mandarin Oriental Paris is a combination Art Deco/Zen palace wrapped around a garden atrium, offering tranquility that’s a perfect counterpoint to the bustling city center. Outside is everything you love about Paris: art, architecture, history, shopping, food and every high-end boutique known to shopping kind.Within lies an island of serenity.

Located on rue Saint Honoré near rue Cambon, close to such august competitors as the Hôtel Costes, the Meurice and the Ritz, the Mandarin’s 1930s building was once an annex of France’s Ministry of Justice, but architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte convinced the hotel group to demolish everything behind the historic facade to build something grander.

Guests entering their 400-square-foot (superior) to 500-square-foot (deluxe) double room are greeted by Oriental music from a Bang & Olufsen sound system, as a butterfly floats across the huge screen of a flat-panel TV. Over the bed, a big photo mural with a detail from Man Ray’s 1930 The Kiss announces the hotel’s Jazz Age influence. But the rich cherry wood paneling, the soft silver-gray carpeting and even the lamps speak to something Far Eastern. The East/West, classic/contemporary mélange, the work of French interior designer Sybille de Margerie, is chic and ultra-comfortable.

In our room, a good-sized desk sat between two windows overlooking the atrium, fully outfitted for the multi-device traveler. En plus, a cleverly designed shelf slides out from beneath the TV, to hold cameras, game players and/or laptops that can be connected to the flat screen via state-of-the art cabling. And as far as comfort goes, if you can’t sleep here you need to be sedated: The rooms are virtually soundproofed; the bed, dressed in Frette sheets, is a dream in itself.

Bathroom facilities are split: toilet, whirlpooltub and sumptuous waterfall shower share a smoked glass enclosure with sliding doors. Across the hallway, his-and-hers handbasins are at either end of a run of richly appointed closets—monsieur’s sink is taller than madame’s, as is the mirror height.

Two restaurants and a bar flank the lobby: at one end the silver and black Bar 8 and the haute cuisine restaurant Sur Mesure run by culinary director Thierry Marx, at the other the more casual restaurant Camélia—although casual is overstating it a bit. In between is the lush outdoor garden, where you can take meals, sip coffee or just relax. Downstairs there’s an elegant spa, a pool long enough for laps and a well-equipped gym.

No expense was spared on Mandarin’s Paris outpost. Industry sources say the company splashed an astonishing $4 million per room on the 138-room property, or some half-billion dollars, so guests should be prepared to provide some return on that investment. Standard rooms start at €865 ($1,250); Continental breakfast is €45.

251 rue Saint Honoré, 1st, 01.70.98.78.88. website

Originally published in the September 2011 issue of France Today


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