Delightful in Paris:
Once a classic hotel, always a classic hotel? Not necessarily so. In the case of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris this iconic hotel still retains its classicism and yet it enhances and re-invents itself time and time again.
The Plaza Athénée first opened its doors in 1913. Designed by a famous architect of the day, Charles Lefebvre, in the distinctive Parisian Haussmann style of architecture, its classic cut-stone façade is decorated with wonderfully ornate wrought-iron balconies, which remains true to its origins to this day. One of its many unique selling points is its balconies bursting with summer red geraniums and reminding regulars of its striking presence on the salubrious Avenue du Montaigne.
The art deco Le Relais Plaza restaurant opened its doors in 1936. The restaurant has gone from strength to strength. Under the baton of Alain Ducasse from 2001, it was awarded the ultimate prize of three Michelin stars. During his tenure, Ducasse, a visionary on the French culinary scene, adopted the Naturalité concept of cutting red meat from the menu and offering fish, vegetables and grains. In 2021 the baton was passed to Jean Imbert, one of the exciting new generation of French Chefs. Alain Ducasse still retains his collection of signature restaurants and his dishes can be enjoyed in the nearby Hotel Meurice, also part of the Dorchester Collection.
Thankfully, although the hotel changed ownership several times before it joined the Dorchester Collection, this move ensures its future by being in safe hands. The Dorchester Collection includes several famous hotels; The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, Hotel Eden in Rome and of course the famous Dorchester Hotel in London.
Now it has been some years since I had the pleasure of staying in the Plaza Athénée but it was (and still is) a highlight of my working life. Fortunately my hosts (The Historic Hotels of Europe) were footing the bill when we were gathered in this sumptuous location for a meeting.
Being Chairperson of the HHE at the time I was allocated a Suite. I can, with my hand on my heart, admit that I have never stayed, before or since, in such a luxurious room. The rates on the back of the door were positively eye watering. The additional touches of flowers, fruit bowls, chocolates etc. made me feel like a celebrity and I lapped it up. The furniture and fittings were totally in keeping with a classic hotel. Today the rooms and suites are constantly upgraded as befits a five star hotel and the bylines ‘Sleep in Splendour’ and ‘Bathe in Bliss’ are as apt now as when I stayed there.
When Alain Ducasse joined our group for lunch I nearly lost the run of myself seeing all the stares and knowing that everybody was wondering who I was. I was slightly dizzy and nearly got a fit of the giggles thinking that the previous day I was loading turf into my shed at home and looked similar to an old fashioned chimney sweep! I did, however, wear the ‘best suit’ for my Paris trip so was able to hold my chin up.
Paris is one of the great capital cities of the world with so much to see and do. The only problem is that a guest may be torn between spending time enjoying the hotel experience or getting out and about and immersing oneself in Parisian life. Each to one’s own…
Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 25 avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, France.