Hotel George V

Four Seasons renovation, Paris

With its $125 million renovation of Four Seasons Hotel George V has largely succeeded at pulling off a high-wire act. In coming to Paris, the company has, in effect, returned to the source, since it is the palace hotels of Paris—the Ritz, the Bristol, the Meurice, the Crillon, and the Plaza Athéée—that set the standards against which the Canadian group measures itself. So think of this story as a spectacularly gifted student returning to give his teacher some lessons.

What Four Seasons has brought home are high-tech luxury (state-of-the-art infrastructure and telecommunications), ultra-luxurious amenities (four-hour-return dry cleaning, CD player and stereo, goose-down pillows and comforters, a spa, indoor pool, workout room, and 24-hour room service), and a relaxed North American style of service. You won't find high-speed Internet access, video games, and employees wearing nametags in the other palace hotels.

When it came to rooms and public spaces, however, the chain chose to be more like its siblings, dressing itself in polite pastels, silk brocade, and Louis-something furniture. However, aside from a few antique accent pieces, most of the furniture and fabrics read Park Avenue or Palm Beach as much as they do Paris. (The Directoire chairs in my suite were made in Italy for a High Point, North Carolina, furniture house.) The upshot is that during a weekend very happily spent in a deluxe room, it was surprisingly easy to forget where I was. There's an easy solution, though. Make the French capital part of the decor by booking one of the south-facing suites with private terraces in the south wing, among them 631, 639, 738, 739, 825, and 838. They offer spectacular views of the gilded dome of Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, and the Left Bank.

The hotel restaurant, Le Cinq, is also one of the best new tables in town. The gilded pilasters, Wedgwood-style medallion moldings, and huge bouquets of fresh flowers are a magnificent setting for the lavish cooking of Philippe Legendre, formerly of Taillevent. (Best dishes: tartare of scallops and oysters topped with caviar, Bresse chicken cooked in a casserole with lobster.) Service is very slow (but that may be opening-night jitters), and the wine list is splendid; however, the sommelier seems to reserve his charm for French clients. Another problem is that the hotel bar is too small—people were being turned away both nights I came in after dinner—and for some reason has been illuminated with daytime lighting. Overall, Hotel George V has been very graciously reintroduced to its peers. And if you like 21st-century comfort more than creaky parquet or antiques, you'll love the place. $498-$7,120. Dinner: $160. 31 Avenue George V; 33-1-49-52-70-00; fax 33-1-49-52-70-10.