Le Meurice, a palatial Parisian experience

One of oldest Parisian hotels, Le Meurice opened its doors in its current location on Rue Rivoli in 1835 and its tale is a most remarkable one, considering its founder Charles-Augustin Meurice was hardly a hotelier and his idea to open a hotel was merely to provide comfortable accommodations for the British travellers who would visit the French capital at the time. Le Meurice offered everything to make life easier for the traveler: apartments of various sizes, areas set aside where travelers could sit and talk, specialty laundry soap, English-speaking staff, and currency exchange, among other amenities. The hotel advertised “For an English traveler, no hotel in Paris offers more benefits than Le Meurice”.

From these humble beginnings, Le Meurice soon became one of the greastest stories of success in luxury hospitality, the ideas of Charles-Augustin Meurice becoming defining features of a luxury hotel till today. His success with Le Meurice proved that beyond an exceptional location and a beautiful building, a luxury hotel could only succeed if it offered the highest level of services and amenities. By 1935, the Le Meurice rooms were equipped with modern, tiled bathrooms, telephone, and electric butler bells and the hotel had an elevator which was a copy of the sedan chair used by Marie Antoinette. Throughout its history, the lavish Louis XVI interior design have turned Le Meurice into an architectural landmark.

Le Meurice was acquired in 2007 by the Dorchester Collection and the hotel underwent a renovation program which included the redesign of public spaces, which have maintained the defining classic Louis XVI style of the hotel, but added the contemporary touch of Phillippe Stark and his daughter Ara, the Le Meurice being the very first project the two worked together. I learned Philippe Stark had consinstently refused to work with his daughter and when commissioning the design of the ceiling of the main restaurant of the hotel, his daughter won the project under a different name. Ara Starck hand painted a 145 square metre canvas inspired by Salvador Dali, the iconic patron of Le Meurice who almost lived at the hotel for 30 years.

During my recent stay at Le Meurice, I found that although only 5 years passed by since the 2007 renovation, some of the contemporary design elements by Philippe Stark already looked slightly outdated, probably because many of the design details such as chairs or lighting are so widely marketed internationally, both through such hotel projects but also through retail stores. This is, of course, a matter of personal taste!

As for the rooms of the hotel, I did not find the same WOW factor which dominates the public spaces – rooms are rather small and I could hardly sense the extensive renovations, otherwise only 5 years old – especially from the point of view of bathrooms (quite basic), bed, technology and lighting. I n terms of renovation / refurbishment, I compare Le Meurice with other Dorchester Collection hotels, which I recently stayed at – Principe di Savoia and Bel Air, both properties seemingly having undergone more visible works, probably of a different investment scale too.

By contrast, the suites of the hotel are truly stunning: beautiful Louis XVI furnishings (carefully restored furniture) exuding a plush and cozy feel – a large working desk with a leather cover, an immense couch, a huge bed in the bedroom – overall a very residential feel. The Suites facing the Tuilleries Gardens offer spectacular views of Le Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. My only suggestions regarding the suites would be for the hotel to place better quality, more natural bathroom amenities (the current ones are predominantly artificial, rife with chemicals and preservatives), the mini-bar selection should include healthy products too and some technology improvements – the actual phone sets (recently renovated Dorchester Collection hotels feature multi touch phones which control lighting, air-conditioning, DND and curtains).

Bedroom -Prestige Suite, Le Meurice Hotel, Paris

The highlight of the hotel is undoubtedly the Food & Beverage offering,  Michelin starred celebrity Chef Yannik Alleno running both restaurants – the Dali which has an all day offering and the fine dining Meurice, which boasts the most impressive Louis XVI architecture of the entire hotel, which makes you feel you are dining at the famous Versailles Chateau.

For the fifth anniversary of the Dali restaurant, Alleno conceived a A ”Gastronomer’s Menu”, highlighting the festive harmony of a meal, sitting down at the table, actually inacting a true ritual. The dishes are carefully chosen from Yannick Alléno’s imaginative repertoire - the fine seasonal, preferably local produce always with his touch for the exotic tastes. The exquisitly prepared food offering is paired with the carefully selected wines by the hotel’s very own somelier Estelle Touzet, one of the few women someliers among the major luxury hotels in Paris.

Unfortunately, during my stay, the SPA of the hotel was closed for renovations, however, I learned that once it reopens at the end of this month, the 340 sqm SPA at Le Meurice will feature three luxurious treatment suites (including one double suite for ultimate intimacy), a nail bar, state-of-the-art fitness room, sauna and two hammams. The SPA at Le Meurice features treatments by the exclusive Swiss skicare specialist brand Valmont.

One of the greatest achievements of Franka Holtmann, the lady who has been running Le Meurice since Dorchester Collection acquired the hotel is the Meurice Prize for Contemporary Art. In its fifth year, the international prize has successfully established Le Meurice as a patron of the arts. The Prix Meurice for contemporary art is open to all disciplines in the visual and plastic arts (painting, sculpture, installation, photography, video, etc.). It distinguishes a project of international stature, proposed by an artist and their gallery and the hotel awards 20.000 euros to the winner. To mark the fifth anniversary of the program, Le Meurice announced earlier this year that it will purchase one work each year from a young artist living and working in France. This artist can be a winner or a finalist of the Meurice Prize for contemporary art. This way, Le Meurice is establishing its own collection of exceptional contemporary art pieces, some which are already displayed throughout the hotel.

Overall, the quality of service is at very high standards, especially restaurants, housekeeping and front office. I have encoutered minor inconsistencies in terms of front door and arrival, as well as front office, which would seem to provide a slightly warmer service to hotel patrons. I believe the already exceptional level of service would greatly benefit from improved name recognition, so that staff would recognize guests by name and avoid asking a room number, irrespective of the length of stay.

A short video on the Prestige Suite is available on your YouTube channel.

Oliver Petcu in Paris