This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
To me, an Australian chef and food writer, Paris is not simply the epitome of style, sophistication and romance. It’s a place of pilgrimage, a rite of passage, the olde-world yin to Sydney’s bright, sunny yang. The French capital is such a finely structured city – with its centuries-spanning architecture and meticulous urban planning, and all those beautifully kept gardens and iconic monuments – that, naturally, we’re hoping for a hotel to match. And absolutely, from first impression to last, Hotel Keppler matches our high expectations.
It is located on narrow Rue Kepler (sic), just off Avenue Marceau, in the chic 16th arrondissement, an ideal address for a boutique bolthole, within trotting distance of the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées. Perhaps surprisingly, given its proximity to such high-powered shopping, dining and wining, our hotel is not only fittingly fashionable, but also luxuriously tranquil.
Outside, Keppler is all imposing Haussmannian townhouse; inside, designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has signed off a sophisticated meeting of high-society modern style with camped-up classicism. Riddled with alcoves, plastered with frescoes and dotted with intriguing artefacts (note the man-size china vases flanking the door to the winter garden), the hotel has an air of opulence that’s nicely tempered by the unstuffy air of its incredibly helpful staff. The concierge and reception staff are friendly and generous with local knowledge, offering advice and tips and chasing up our ‘urgent’ requests with speedy efficiency.
After checking in, can you blame us for choosing to stay put for our first afternoon? We feel it’s our duty, as reviewers, to luxuriate in our style-drenched boudoir and order in champagne. We fling open two sets of doors onto an internal courtyard and let the afternoon light stream in. Our executive room, in case you’re wondering, is a decent size without being notably spacious – after all, this is Paris. Rather than the exoticism of the ground-floor communal areas, all objets and orchids, the rooms are designed to feel stylish yet serene, with sparing use of Keppler’s signature bold prints and colours, and just a smattering of artworks. We can’t believe the calm and quiet; we plug in our laptops (a necessary evil – at least we’re tapping away together) and use the WiFi for an hour before eyeing up a much more fun in-room option: the big bath in the black and white tiled bathroom.
Floating in a sea of fragrant bubbles is the perfect way to ponder where to eat. So many places, so little time... Aux Lyonnais, Ze Kitchen Galerie and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon are at the top of a very long list, which meanders off into the realms of stratospherically expensive fantasy when it gets to Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée and L’Astrance, both within easy walking distance of the Keppler. There are so many phenomenal restaurants in Paris, it really is worth planning ahead and splashing out at least once while you’re here. Actually, at least three times, if you’re here for a long weekend.
Lazy breakfasts are the perfect kick-off to our Parisian days – particularly when taken in the bright and inviting lower-level winter garden room. Here, pastries and breads are too good to refuse, ripe red strawberries are delicious unadorned, juice is just-squeezed, and espresso is best taken black (a cunning way to sidestep the UHT milk). The luxury service doesn’t end there. This is a land where laundry is returned the same day, each article of clothing wrapped in tissue paper and artfully laid in a chic white box complete with ribbon. Yes, it costs a bomb. But that just gives me a feeble excuse to shop for something new; after all, we are in the vicinity of some of the best shopping in Paris, and it’s a bit selfish not to contribute to the local economy when you’re on holiday – that’s what we tell ourselves when we realise we’re ordering lobster. Again.
Walking these streets at twilight sums up all that is perfect about Paris; the deep-blue sky with just a sliver of new moon makes a magical backdrop as we promenade with well-heeled locals. Another temptation on our doorstep here is Hédiard. This branch of the ultimate purveyor of to-die-for delicacies is so close by it’s dangerous, at least it is for someone as food-focused as I am. We can’t resist squirrelling a few treasures back to our room for late-night snacking – a perfectly ripe cheese, buttery biscuits, chocolates and fruit jellies – all wrapped in the store’s signature red and black packaging. Little wonder we’re in heaven for much of our stay.
We do emerge from our boudoir to enjoy the guests-only bar from time to time. The decor is all high-camp sophistication, awash with stripes, animal print and big puffy cushions for fabulous folk to perch on and look the part. My only criticism is that the cocktail list could be shorter and sweeter – we thought the bartender got a bit stuck, thanks to too much choice. The arty/fashiony books in the ground-floor salon make it another lovely spot to ensconce yourselves for tea or a cocktail. There’s no restaurant but, as you can probably tell, we’re ecstatic heading out to dine spectacularly elsewhere, or calling down to take advantage of a charming in-room delivery of cakes from the famous Angelina tearoom and patisserie on Rue de Rivoli. The most wonderful aspect of our stay at Keppler has been having so many decadent indulgences within our grasp. Our one regret? Not having booked the big top-floor suite with its own private rooftop terrace. Now that sounds like my idea of quintessential Paris.