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A Historic Paris Hotel Gets a Glam Redesign for 2022

Décor, menu, and all.

The address alone—on the Rue de Rivoli overlooking the Tuileries Garden in Paris’ 1st arrondissement—is the first telltale sign that Le Meurice is no ordinary Parisian property. The hotel, a part of the exclusive Dorchester Collection, is the kind of place you’d half expect to be stuffy and pretentious. With its grand entrance manned at all times by no less than three doormen, the staff is all too eager to help jet-lagged travelers with their luggage or procure a cigarette and a light to fulfill a certain “When in Paris” ethos. The welcoming and knowledgeable reception staff—masked and donned in sharp navy blue attire—stand at the ready in common spaces where curious works of art take up residence. Le Meurice, in fact, eschews expected stereotypes.

A hotel as old as this—it opened in 1835 with an eye toward attracting a well-to-do British clientele visiting Paris—could certainly rest on its laurels. Instead, Le Meurice forges full steam ahead into the modern travel era, inviting loyal regulars to experience a new depth and encouraging a new set of young travelers to enjoy Paris’ most spectacular stay. Franka Holtmann, the on-the-ball general manager, who joined Le Meurice in 2006, is largely responsible for many of the hotel’s changes and significant redesign, a decade (and change) long project that Holtmann says “combines 18th-century splendor with the most innovative modern comforts.”

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Dorchester Collection

Guest rooms and suites—including or perhaps especially the Belle Etoile Penthouse—are glamorous, not gaudy, refined yet comfortable. “Technology is absolutely user-friendly, and everything has been thought out to make you feel like [you’re in] a stunning Parisian apartment with shimmering fabrics,” Holtmann explains.

Indeed, you won’t find any obsolete USB ports for your devices’ cables, which the stellar housekeeping crew neatly coils for you when not in use, and those shimmering fabrics Holtmann mentioned? Over 170 different ones are called upon to dress windows, furnish sitting areas, and add to the property’s inimitable appearance.

Holtmann, an energetic workhorse who expects the same from her team albeit within reason, has considered all of the hotel’s details and then some. Where far too many five-star properties overlook seemingly minor items, like a decent hairdryer and drinkable in-room coffee, Le Meurice, under Holtmann’s watchful eye, refuses to deliver anything less than excellence. In addition to the high-quality Baby Bliss hairdryer and Nespresso machine (you won’t find the now-ubiquitous Keurig in these parts), no guest room is ready for its close-up until it’s been adorned with a vase of gilded fresh flowers.

Whether or not guests recognize the laudable list of highly accomplished names responsible for outfitting Le Meurice’s thoughtfully redesigned spaces ought not to have any bearing on one’s appreciation of the aesthetics, the eclectic touches like the lobby’s Iberius cubes by Fausto Salvi, an Italian artist.

Dorchester Collection

Esteemed designer Philippe Starck, enlisted in 2007 to oversee the hotel’s redesign, was chosen to create a playful and whimsical interior, a nod to surrealist artist Salvador Dali who often stayed at Le Meurice beginning in 1950. In addition to Starck, Holtmann says the plan “was to gather the finest French craftsmen to do the renovations…the hand-painted Gournay wallpaper, stained glasses by Duchemin and tailor-made furniture from Charles Jouffre.”

Despite Le Meurice’s fresh changes and dazzling artwork—currently, 17 pieces are on-site, from Zoulikha Bouabdellah’s “The Kiss” statue in the lobby to the glass-encased Mirror Fireplace in the main hall—plenty of original details, like the tiny elevator just past the front desk inspired by the sedan chair used by Marie Antoinette in the 1700s, allow the history of the palatial space to shine brightly too.

Maintaining Le Meurice’s integrity was a crucial consideration in the revamp. Holtmann says the pandemic (and its accompanying and ever-changing travel restrictions) led to an increase in the number of French and European guests who Holtmann says “rediscovered the hotel under another glow…still with its lavish and authentic style.”

Dorchester Collection

Funky art pairs with exceptional hospitality (one of Le Meurice’s long-standing characteristics), offering spacious yet cozy suites bedecked with perhaps the most comfortable bed known to humans, floor-to-ceiling marble bathrooms, and the only Valmont spa in the city. All of these attributes serve to create an unparalleled guest experience, but what’s a proper luxury hotel stay without a multi-course, Michelin-starred meal?

To be sure, Le Meurice’s forward-thinking food and beverage program is integral to the hotel’s reinvention. Although Alain Ducasse had been overseeing the culinary piece since 2013, it wasn’t until 2020 that Ducasse appointed a young chef named Amaury Bouhours. Trusting the 32-year-old with injecting new life in Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, Holtmann says, “the food concept was fully reviewed to make it more attractive. Based on the basics of Alain Ducasse’s cuisine and the best French produce, Amaury gives free rein to his imagination while always making creations corresponding to the seasons.”

To partake in the tasting menu is to enjoy a theatrical experience associated with this type of elevated, high-concept dining. A toothsome piece of lightly cooked gilt-head bream from Noirmoutier sitting atop beetroot and rosehip is served on an ice pillow that functions as a dinner plate. When asked about the extraordinarily unique presentation, Bouhours jokes, “it was cheaper than buying more plates.”

Bouhours’ sense of humor belies an intense work ethic. Long days leading a kitchen of more than a dozen diverse young chefs is the norm, and creative freedom, along with Ducasse’s approval, the win. Holtmann sees Bouhours and his team as being instrumental in lending the dining experience, even one of this caliber, “a modern and uninhibited” air wherein every guest “can feel at ease.”

For total immersion, it’s mandatory to head to the heart of the hotel, Bar 228, where ordering the French classic, a Boulevardier, is never a bad idea. If you’re feeling extra fancy, maybe a glass of Dom Perignon? It’s one of the few places in all of Paris where the champagne can be ordered flute by flute.

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