Well, I can’t say that our weekend at the stylish Montalembert boutique hotel in Paris got off to a particularly brilliant start, with Mr Smith and I heading to St Pancras on separate Victoria Line tubes. We’re booked onto the last Eurostar into the French capital on the Friday evening and I am NOT risking missing out on a night at our chosen hotel.
We both make it (me in plenty of time, him by the skin of his teeth) and soon we’re pulling into Gare du Nord. Then it’s just a short hop on the Métro to St Germain and Montalembert, our home for the weekend. While I know Paris well, this is the first time we’ve stayed on the Left Bank and I’m really looking forward to exploring all that this quartier has to offer.
Montalembert, it transpires, is going to be the perfect base for doing exactly that. Everything about the hotel is refined and chic (personally, just the note I was looking to strike) in varying shades of grey. Even the so-tiny-it’s-barely-visible-on-a-map street doesn’t have room for any riff-raff. The hotel’s neighbour is destination concept restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and there’s really not much room for anyone else.
Despite the fact it’s past midnight when we check in, the high-ceilinged lobby is still buzzy and brightly lit (the restaurant and bar adjoin it in an open plan layout). We receive a warm and efficient welcome before shooting up to our room in one of those typically Parisian cage lifts, dropping off our bags and then immediately back out again in search of a nightcap. We settle for ‘nearest’ – the Café St Germain just round the corner on the rue du Bac – but spot several places on the nearby rue Jacob, which look like contenders for a suitably chic Rive Gauche drink. Mr Smith just needs to work on his detached air of existentialist angst first…
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we enjoy breakfast in bed at a very respectable 10.30am, and start to properly take stock of our surroundings. We booked a deluxe double, which gave us the choice of two styles of decor – contemporary (does what it says on the tin) or classic (a mixture of Louis-Philippe antiques and modern finishes). We felt the latter sounded more interesting, and are now feeling very pleased with our choice. As with most Parisian hotels, the dimensions are best described as ‘bijou’, but our room is undeniably stylish. The greys and taupes of the public spaces are continued seamlessly into the rooms, and are juxtaposed with the gorgeous antique polished-walnut bed and matching armoire, as well as the acres of crisp white linens that we are now rather un-chicly dropping croissant crumbs into. We’re up on the fifth floor, and our double window opens out onto a tiny Juliet balcony from which we can see the Eiffel Tower. The bathroom is also small but perfectly formed, although clever angles and sparkly surfaces distract you from its size – the zinc basin, mirrored walls and shiny marble really up the glamour factor.
By the time we tear ourselves away from our stylish cocoon there’s not an awful lot of the day left, but whilst Montalembert is smack bang in the heart of Left Bank antiques-ville, it’s also only a two minute walk to the Seine and straight across to the Louvre (if you’re culturally-minded) or the rue Saint-Honoré (if you’re after more commercial pursuits). We head for lifestyle emporium Colette, where we (almost literally) bump into Snoop Dogg, who is coming through the doors at the very same minute we go in – the backs of our heads definitely starred in more than one pap shot, and we wonder if this is the extent of our ‘15 minutes’.
Heading back to St Germain, Mr Smith is beside himself to find our route takes us via macaroon mecca Ladurée on the chic rue Jacob, and we stop for a tea in the stylish café opposite. Then it’s back to the hotel to chill out before dinner.
Our table in Le Restaurant is booked for 9pm, and we wander downstairs from our chambre into the compact but beautifully appointed dining room. Although it’s not particularly early, our fellow diners include several French families complete with cherubic, perfectly turned out enfants who behave impeccably throughout – Mr Smith and I wonder how we can ensure any future children of ours will behave anywhere near as well.
Though I had been slightly concerned that my veggie Mr Smith might not find the whole eating experience as enjoyable as I knew I would, I needn’t have worried. The menu turns out to be just as appealing for carnivores and carrot-lovers alike. As the dining room fills up with chic local couples, we enjoy chef David Maroleau’s refreshing take on Modern French cuisine, made with the highest-quality fresh ingredients, and wash it all down with a delicious bottle of Provençal rosé, as recommended by the charming maître d’. So, the food, the wine and the friendly service all get dix points from us, and we savour the fact that our stylish sleeping quarters are only floors above our heads – no inclement weather, no searching for a black cab – bliss.
Checking out the next morning, I can see why this hotel is a staunch favourite with fashion editors. It’s the hotel equivalent of an Armani suit; beautifully cut, not showy, but unapologetically classy – a work of art that also serves a practical purpose, We leave promising to return in the summer, when the outdoor terrace is the place to see and be seen. And, with that, we hop back on the Eurostar to St Pancras, on much friendlier terms by now. We even manage to get on the same tube home.
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Smith extra at Montalembert
A bottle of champagne in your room on arrival