Our gastro tour of Paris began with Cornish pasties on the Eurostar, which were to be our last taste of England for a few days. We were delighted that our base camp for this expedition was to be the recently conceived, ultra-modern Hotel Sezz, on the left bank of the Seine, a stumble from the Eiffel Tower. Tucked away in a quiet and conservative neighbourhood and hiding behind a classic facade, it was a surprise to pass through the glass doors into such a heavily designed luxury Paris hotel, straight out of the pages of Wallpaper*.
Respected designer Christophe Pillet, one-time protege of Philippe Starck, is the brains behind the furniture. His pieces lend a faintly masculine air, though in the lobby, for example, they are broken up with pastel colours and the occasional bit of floral decoration. Either side of the entrance sit two stylish, comfortable waiting areas strewn with highbrow glossies. A video installation and original prints underline the exclusive feel. We felt very grown up as we attempted to check in.
With no reception area as such, staff popped out like smartly dressed meerkats emerging from their burrow. This behaviour, although slightly disconcerting, ensured our needs were met. For the duration of our stay we were provided with a friendly and competent PA. Though I have always had aspirations of barking orders to have my TVR brought round, or to get me Gisele on line one, we didn’t actually use ours much, but the thought was appreciated.
We had treated ourselves to a suite – a perfect size for the weekend-long adventure ahead. The lounge portion was neat and well equipped, with WiFi access, LCD screen and a well-hidden DVD player. Furnishing and decor were suitably chic, with a strong colour palette encompassing oranges, greens, reds. Our personal pieces of Pillet included a sleek firm sofa, desk with a mock-croc chair and a lozenge-like coffee table laden with arty books. Black lacquered floor, pinstriped curtains and a lamp that resembled the head of a spring onion completed the scene.
Moving through the sliding doors, we reached the bedroom, which was very simple and comfortable, with a generous bed. Most notable was the smoked glass walling off the bathroom, which got full marks from me. Not because of any peeping Tom tendencies, but because the innovative layout added loads of space to both rooms. Design, again, had a more mannish leaning, with polished Portuguese-stone floor and rough tiled walls, asymmetrical moulded sinks and separate toilet and shower cubicles... any bachelor's dream pad. But once Mrs Smith had tipped out the contents of her make-up bag, and lip-enhancing this, eye-brightening thats, and all manner of pretty magic potions lay strewn across every surface, it felt as unisexy as can be.
Feeling peckish, we were surprised to learn that Sezz manages without a restaurant (but not without a champagne bar area, before the epicureans among you despair). According to the management, the intention is to break down barriers between staff and guests, although our concern was that perhaps this can also mean spaces without obvious uses, so the hotel feels less of a hangout than it might. Still, we were happy enough as it forced us out into the open to hunt for the perfect bistro.
The Paris bistro is a beast well worth seeking out as often as possible. On consecutive nights we valiantly made our way through extensive menus at L’Os a Moelle and L’AOC. The former was jam-packed and had a charming sister bar across the road. The latter specialised in authentically regional and protected foodstuff, where we sampled pigs’ trotters, marrowbone, ‘head cheese’ terrine and rotisserie belly of milk pig.
Since we’re made of the right stuff we went for the full gourmand experience and sought out food to take home. For cheese and transportable meats we visited the awesome market at Bastille. This place is actually worth a visit just for the spectacle. Stacks of perfect veg; bushy bundles of herbs and leaves; massive fish and shellfish on piles of ice. For the other essentials we popped over to La Petite Scierie on the Ille St Louis. Foie Gras, gizzards and rillette from the owners’ small local farm drove our buds and bank balances crazy.
We packed massive amounts into our long weekend in Paris and Hotel Sezz was ideal for this purpose. It is perfectly placed, functional living space. Indecisive, last-minute types can still get a pummelling massage as long as they give two hours' notice, but we are well past this time limit when we tiptoe to the slate-lined Wellness centre in the basement. Avoiding other couples is easy though – we book a whole hour of privacy to ourselves to wallow and steam ourselves silly.
Mindful we should try as much on offer as possible we also checked out cocktails before departure. In the Veuve Clicquot bar seated inside a vaguely erotic pink alcove we sipped champagne paired with Pimm's and Amaretto. After the staff had melted away into the background we had the place to ourselves. This was a very private experience, which seemed to be a Sezz signature.
Making our way back home was hard work. Our bags spilled over with stinking Epoisses de Bourgogne, Mont d'Or Vacherin and Reblochon. We were weighed down by bottles of wine, jars of goodies and particularly well satisfied bellies. Avoiding the Delices de France stall back at Waterloo Station was the easy part.