Zak Smith visits Le Bristol, the recently renovated jewel in Paris’s hotel crown, for one night of magic from a ‘vastly different era’
With almost a century’s worth of glitz, glamour and joie de vivre, Le Bristol, one of Europe’s finest hotels, celebrated its 90th anniversary in style with a roaring Twenties-themed ball where distinguished guests, hoteliers from around the globe and patrons of Paris’ first Palace Hotel together toasted one of Europe’s enduring icons.
For history buffs, Le Bristol, located on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honor’ close to the ’lys’e Palace, is a perfect example of the mystical charm of Paris. From the day the Jammet family opened its doors in 1925, it has welcomed a veritable who’s who of Europe’s cultural elite, with the likes of Coco Chanel, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso enjoying its effortless sophistication and elegance.
Under the control of the Oetker Collection since 1978, the hotel has recently undergone a ’150 million renovation, restoring and refreshing the almost timeless appeal of its belle ’poque glamour. It is against this backdrop that the hotel celebrated its anniversary in fit fashion.
Upon entering Le F’te, guests were greeted with the most overwhelming sense of the hotel’s history, transported back to a world of riotous decadence. Hazy lighting, the sparkle of diamonds and grand bouquets created a most memorable ambiance, one that felt like Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris. When I heard the band strike up Sidney Bechet’s ‘Si Tu Vois Ma M’re’, which features on the film’s soundtrack, I realised the film was actually shot where I stood, and that I was wearing a stupefied gaze not dissimilar from Owen Wilson’s character’s.
With waiters in white gloves pouring endless flutes of Dom P’rignon, one could almost get a sense of what it was to be a part of Parisian high society, dancing long into the night, during one of Paris’ most fabulous eras.
The head chef at Le Bristol since 1999, ’ric Fr’chon is central to the hotel. Holding three Michelin stars and a French L’gion d’honneur for his culinary masterpieces, the menu he created for the evening was an epicurean time traveller’s dream, harking back to dishes that graced the same tables at the hotel all those decades ago.
Dishes like chicken broth with duck foie gras and black truffle, followed by Cancoillotte cheese with plum alcohol and white truffle, were as rich and indulgent as they sound, with a warning by Eric himself at the start of the meal to forget about cholesterol for the night very much on point.
Rare dishes like game poultry pie were served, not only showing off the head chef’s ability, but also playing into the sense of occasion and the importance of feeling, even for just one night, the magic of a vastly different era. As the five-course extravaganza finished, guests were treated to a Bas-Armagnac Ch’teau de Laubade 1925 in celebration of the year the hotel was opened, a treat most connoisseurs in the room savoured with utter delight.
An evening of decadence and beauty was befitting of a hotel firmly in the history books, but not of the history book, and with such pedigree and glamour, no doubt Le Bristol will have many more such f’tes to come.