Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris: classic façade with an eclectic interior

When a hotel features its own private cinema seating almost one hundred people you sense you’re somewhere special – and that proves true for Le Royal Monceau Raffles in Paris.

Opened in the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ 1928 to be exact, by Pierre Bermond and André Jugnot it became a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of guests, with Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Michael Jackson all enjoying a little pampering there down through the years.

Then, in 2008, a ‘demolition party,’ as officials termed it, took place after which the hotel was completely renovated over two years, with French designer Philippe Starck applying his own inimitable style.

Walk under its iconic ruby glass façade and straight through to ‘Le Grand Salon’ with multiple mirrors highlighting dazzling clusters of chandeliers and display cases with surprising contents such as a Siberian knickknack, an Italian vase and works of art.

The reception desk is tucked discreetly in a small room to the side conveniently located right in front of the elevators.

Le Royal Monceau, a Palace-category hotel owned by the FRHI Group and part of Fairmount Raffles Hotels International, has 85 rooms, 61 suites and three apartments, including three 350sqm Presidential Suites, Beyonce being a recent guest. Set over five floors, the suites offer private entry to the hotel through 41 avenue Hoche, and direct access to the hotel’s spa.

Our room, a junior suite on the 6th floor, with side views of the Arc de Triomphe, featured ample use of lamps (six different varieties), silver chrome surfaces and, of course, mirrors, with two opposing wall completely designed as such, within which are hidden TVs.

Furnishings were arranged creatively, with the bed in the center of the room, not against a wall, and a small sitting room area behind it, complete with leather sofa, matching armchair and a coffee table. A writing desk was decorated with scraps of paper, family photos and partial letters under glass as if left by a fellow traveller of the past. Guests are encouraged to jot down their own thoughts on the waxed paper mache of bedside lampshades. A walk-in dressing room stood in one corner, with mirrors generating shadowless light. The semi-enclosed gray and white marble floored bathroom was spacious, replete with central tub, shower and Clarins products.

Le Royal Monceau offers two main restaurants, the French-style ‘La Cuisine’ and the 35-seater, one Michelin-star ‘Il Carpaccio,’ with wonderful seashell encrusted entrance walls, serving Italian fare.

‘Le Bar Long’ is the place to be for informal drinks and an exquisite menu of assorted chocolate desserts and macarons designed by pastry chef Pierre Hermé. With but a smidgen of exaggeration, his Ispahan variation, with lychees, rose and raspberry, is to die for, not to mention the Grand Crue Araguani chocolate ganache with banana and avocado. The high, narrow and luminous bar-counter imaginatively positioned in the center of the room, not wall-side, added an innovative touch to the overall ambience.

A terraced garden, a Cigar Club – The Viñales Club – and a separate smoking room provide other relaxation options.

We dined in the 100-seater ‘La Cuisine,’ a spacious combo of open tables and private alcoves with an open-style kitchen and quirky framed surreal prints on the walls. Reflecting an original view of space and gravity, bookshelves are set high, close to the ceiling, and large copper domes seem to float above the tables. Under the guidance of executive chef Laurent André and chef Hans Zahner, we began with a refreshing verbena cocktail with cucumber, poured straight from a teapot. Tasty mini baguettes of linseed and black flour with the tender texture of croissant and sticks of fluffy pastry with seeds and chocolate by Maison Kayser were foretastes of what was to come.

For starters, we opted for crab and wild king prawn Carpaccio, the former served with radish sprouts and sprinkles of chili powder, the meat finely shredded like thin tiny strings of spaghetti. The prawn came in thin sheets flavored with a spread of caramelized lemon sauce and kumquat.

A dish combining gnocchi with chorizo worked well, the cushiony texture of the pasta contrasting nicely with the sharp, brittleness of the Iberian meat. Our main, a saddle of veal from Limousin stuffed with confit lemon, came decoratively as an arc of coins on a plate – the meat, rosy pink, with beetroot, carrot and parsnip around it. Our accompanying wine was a dense red, fruity Gevrey Chambertin ‘Petite Chapelle’ 1er Cru and a biodynamic Burgundy from Domaine Trapet.

So diverse is the breakfast buffet, also served in ‘La Cuisine,’ it featured not just sushi, and Hermé pastry, intense dark chocolate beverage and the most refreshing green apple drink I have ever tasted, but also an ‘anti-toxin corner,’ comprising special nutritional powders to be added to selected dishes.

The hotel’s spa, the first for ‘My Blend’ by Clarins, comprises a 1,500 square meter space that includes, aside from multiple treatment rooms, a 23-meter infinity pool, the longest in a Paris luxury hotel. It also features separate hammams and saunas for men and women, a watsu and a gym.

Added amenities by Le Royal Monceau include ‘Le Royal Eclaireur,’ part-luxury boutique, part-gallery, featuring a selection of clothes, jewellery and art and design objects. Interestingly, the hotel also has its own art concierge, Julie Eugène, who provides customized visits around the hotel’s private collection and to galleries and museums throughout Paris, as well as guiding would-be buyers on purchases. She can also organize private midnight openings of the Louvre or other art museums such as the Pompidou Center. An eclectic bookstore, operated by the concierge, is open 24 hours and, of course, there’s the Katara cinema, which is also open to the public on Sundays.

For a Palace hotel with a modern eclectic twist of décor, tantalisingly seductive desserts and a central location close to key touristic marvels in the ‘City of Lights’ as well as the picturesque Parc Monceau, it’s hard to beat Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris.

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