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March 30, 2010

Hotel Meurice

Reopened after a two-year renovation

Paris
If you're a restaurateur, what do you do when the world's most famous chef strolls in for dinner and you've only been open for a couple of weeks? Hats off to chef Marc Marchand and his staff at Le Meurice, the excellent, opulent Michelin-starred restaurant in the revamped Hotel Meurice for receiving Alain Ducasse's arrival with such outward calm (what was going on in the kitchen, of course, is anyone's guess.)

That Ducasse came in for dinner and then looked around the main floor rooms shouldn't have been surprising, however. Since the hotel reopened in July after a two-year renovation, plenty of curious Parisians have come in to inspect. The verdict: It's a beauty. The ornate 18th-century-style restaurant and Winter Garden tearoom have been made even grander with regilding, new fabrics, the restoration of mosaic floors and ceiling paintings, and the return of the Art Nouveau skylight (covered over in the 1960s) in the Winter Garden.

The entrance has also been moved from Rue Mont Thabor to an imposing new marble hall on Rue de Rivoli (causing much confusion for Parisian taxi drivers in the hotel's first weeks.)

Upstairs, the rooms have been enlarged and reduced in number to 160, furnished individually—no two exactly alike—with Rubelli and Braquenie fabrics and various styles of antiques, but all in the realm of Louis XVI. Some rooms are plusher than others. Generally those with inner courtyard views get more flourishes than those with Tuileries views (the 00-07 corridor), in an attempt to even the playing field, so to speak, with design. For best Tuileries views, get a room on or above the fourth floor. Ceilings are higher on the lower floors, but some rooms on the sixth floor have compensations: small foot terraces and cozier decor meant to resemble a Parisian apartment. Suite 628 (and the junior suite 528 below it) also has a great view of Montmartre from the bathroom window. Best view of all, though: the 360-degree Paris panorama available on the 2,960-square-foot seventh-floor terrace of the equally large La Belle Étoile, the hotel's premier suite.

Another luxe touch is downstairs: an outpost of Bordeaux's Les Sources de Caudalie spa (see page 85), which opened in September. Dinner, $180. Rooms, $450-$8,285. 228 Rue de Rivoli; 800-226-6800; 33-1-44-58-10-10; fax 33-1-44-58-10-10; www.meuricehotel.com.