Le Bristol: The Parisian's True Hotel

Why Françoise Labro thinks the palace property is pure Paris.

As long as I can remember, I’ve known Le Bristol, on the chic Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré, in Paris. It never felt as if I discovered the hotel, because it’s always been part of my life. As an adult living in the city, I started to enjoy it for lunches, tea, meetings, and drinks. It’s next to the French president’s residence, Élysée Palace, and it’s just a stroll away from stores such as Hermès and Louboutin, and the Champs-Élysées, the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Louvre.

Because it’s right in the middle of Paris, the hotel is in the center of the city’s power. When President Sarkozy was in office, his second wife, Cécilia Attias, used to meet friends there all the time. She was not at the Élysée Palace; she was at Le Bristol. His third wife, Carla Bruni, often came to Le Bristol as well. Parisians are present everywhere in the hotel. In good weather, the 13,000-square-foot Jardin Français courtyard is the place to see and be seen—but only if you wish. It’s big, so you can feel wonderfully disconnected from the traffic and noise of the city.

Le Bristol feels authentically French because of its decor. You can sense it is not a place that was built 15 years ago to duplicate something old. The palace hotel celebrated its 90th anniversary this year, so it’s full of history. What Le Bristol calls the Salon Castellane, for example, was used as a theater by the famous French nobleman Boni de Castellane when he was the owner of the building. Today the room is used for private events and for dining in winter, but it still has the original oak panels and an 18th-century tapestry from Manufacture de Lille.

Chef Eric Frechon’s Michelin three-star restaurant, Epicure, embodies French gastronomy. Frechon has been the chef since 1999, but he’s still creating new things every year. The restaurant serves amazing signature dishes, such as a macaroni stuffed with artichokes, black truffle, duck foie gras, and Parmesan cheese. I love fish, and he does a dish called Le Marlan de Saint Croix de Vie—a white fish with almonds, spinach, and olive oil flavored with curry and piquillo pepper in a bread crust—that is perfection. There is a little table in the kitchen for only four people. It is very difficult to reserve because the chef has to personally decide to accept you, but when you have a dinner there, you can see the ballet of the people working in the kitchen. Acclaimed pastry chef Laurent Jeannin was voted “Pastry Chef of the Year” in 2011. I also love Le Bar du Bristol, where head barman Maxime Hoerth serves an Aperol Spritz like they make in Venice, and my husband, French journalist and filmmaker Philippe Labro, says that his dry martini may be the best in France.

Didier Le Calvez is the president and general manager of the hotel and the chief operating officer of the Oetker Collection of other fine properties, including Brenners Park Hotel & Spa, in Baden-Baden, Germany, and the Lanesborough, in London. Le Calvez was the first general manager at the Four Seasons George V, in Paris, and the way he manages everything is amazing. The service is always intuitive and discreet.

It’s very rare to go into a hotel and have flowers in your room. Usually you have a big floral explosion in the lobby and then nothing in the rooms. Le Bristol’s 188 rooms and suites, some of which have views of the Eiffel Tower, are full of bouquets—the hotel budgets $400,000 a year on flowers alone—so you’re welcomed like you’re coming home and part of the family.

Rooms from $1,230; 112 Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré; 33-1/53-43-43-00; lebristolparis.com.

Image Credits: © Roméo Balancourt