This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
Mr Smith, good humour dissolving in the fading daylight, has begun to fret. The address we’ve noted down seems correct, the road is lined with the elegant townhouses we’re expecting as neighbours, but there’s no sign of the Ho?tel Particulier Montmartre. The glass door with the number we’ve got reveals nothing except yellowed junk mail and a spider family gathering.
I leave Mr Smith fighting to prevent our wheelie suitcases from rolling off down steep Avenue Junot, and follow a dog-walking local to duck down a cobbled alleyway that I suspect may provide some clue as to where we are. Well, we’re definitely in Paris: the view that opens out a few feet ahead has all the subtlety of those landscape paintings they flog on the banks of the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower dead centre.
I am still marvelling at this most tourist-thrilling of vistas when a woman, wearing an Agatha Christie-era chambermaid’s outfit, appears from behind a tall, black iron gate. She looks at me, I look at her; then she points to a tiny, barely visible brass plaque inscribedwith what can only be the hotel’s name. Minutes later, trailed by a red-faced Mr Smith, manfully dragging both cases across the cobblestones, I am in the lush gardens of the hotel. It’s so peaceful it feels as though someone’s thrown a thick blanket over the hilltop of Montmartre. You would never know we are just a five-minute walk from Sacre?-Coeur’s camera-clicking coach hordes and pavement pierrots.
Stepping through the front door of the hotel, we find ourselves in a surprising, visually arresting space in which pop-art giant lips and aristocratic antiques cohabit with kitsch life-size statues of angels, Arne Jacobsen chairs and cowhide rugs. Though there’s a mid-century-modern slant to the furnishings, the overall effect is less dry than that suggests. We contemplate a quick drink at the honesty bar but, liking the aesthetic extravagance of the lobby, we’re keen to get upstairs and see our room. We’re in the marvellously titled Trees With Ears suite and, on first glance, it’s pretty amazing. The walls are covered in fabulous, hand-printed, Japanese-style wallpaper. A bed big enough for an entire family sits next to a huge roll-top bath (happily, there is an all-important separate loo), and this segues into an elegant living area, complete with sofa and chaise longue.
On one wall, facing the window with a view of the drinks terrace and its fairy lights, I discover a rubber earpiece and brass button, next to a little placard reading ‘press to hear a secret’. Exploring further, I come across the other end of this tannoy, hidden away behind the sofa. It’s a sexy way to relay messages to your lover at the other end of the suite. I wouldn’t dream of telling you what Mr Smith whispered through it, but it wasn’t ‘Fancy a game of Travel Connect 4?’
The hotel does not have a restaurant of its own – it’s far too dreamlike to accommodate the sardonic bustle of a hot, clattery kitchen and drums of catering ingredients. Instead, you can order up a seriously good chef to prepare a private dinner for you, to be served in the garden (amazing for a summer birthday) or around its huge indoor dining table. Our plan, after a long period of luxuriating in the bath, is to head out and find our supper in Montmartre. As one of the touristiest destinations on earth, the neighbourhood is liberally peppered with the kind of restaurants that locals don’t even bother deriding, so we’re crossing our fingers we’ll land luckily.
We end up in a tiny, candlelit bistro, Virage Lepic, as it seems to be full of in-the-know locals. Tablecloths are checked in red and white, and every inch of wall space is covered with posters, film stills and mementos of Doris Day, Judy Garland and Carmen Miranda. It’s gloriously gay, in both senses of the word, and we have a fantastic evening drinking champagne and sharing melt-in-the-mouth bone marrow and duck cassoulet. The climb back up to the hotel isn’t easy, but at least it’s easy to aim for a bed the size of a principality.
Despite Mr Smith’s vow that he’ll never eat again, he devours plenty of the croissants, freshly baked bread, marmalade, fruit salad and fresh coffee that’s wheeled into our suite. With a little help from me, of course. After breakfast, we head downstairs – past the series of self-portraits by a young Japanese artist who’s currently exhibiting in the hotel – and ask for more coffee, so that Mr Smith’s got something to accompany his Gitane out on the terrace.
We spend the rest of that day looking for lampshades at Porte de Clignancourt’s fleamarket, then mooching around the boutiques of the Marais, but it’s not really that important. What is crucial is that we have the Ho?tel Particulier Montmartre to come back to. Homely enough to put us completely at our ease, yet filled with the sort of stylish and beautiful touches that makes us feel honoured to be there, it is the perfect Parisian combination. Thank goodness not that many people know about it. If only they’d make a bit more effort to hide the entrance.