One of the best things about living in London is, ironically, the ability to leave it so easily. Thanks to excellent rail connections, in particular the Eurostar, much of Western Europe can be reached in half a day, and it boasts a much lower carbon footprint than air travel to the same destination.
So, off to Paris then (an early start will get you to Gare du Nord by 10:30 am), and specifically Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain, a new boutique hotel straddling the 6th and 7th arrondissements. The location is notable not only for its heritage as the heart of aristocratic Paris but as the stomping ground of TS Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir and James Joyce, who wrote part of Ulysses in one of the hotel’s buildings (Eliot lived here for a while, too). In fact, some of the city’s most important cultural spots are just around the corner, with Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore, and a plethora of high-end antique shops, art galleries and museums, including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, all within walking distance.
Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain is the fourth hotel opened by family-run business Chevalier in the city – the others are Pavillon des Lettres, Pavillon de la Reine and Hotel du Petit Moulin. Encompassing part of what was formerly Le Saint hotel, this newest addition to the group is spread across three Hausmann buildings and was refurbished during the pandemic, opening in April 2022.
With plenty of time to renovate while the tourism industry lagged in the pandemic, managing director Tim Goddard and longtime collaborator, architect Didier Benderli, remodelled the entire ground floor to create a glass and stone entrance that offers a corridor view through all three buildings. It stretches from a newly created library (stocked with books from local publisher Éditions Gallimard) and the James Joyce Bar to the restaurant, Les Parisiens, at the end of the block. The result is an airy yet intimate space that is the perfect place to pause after a day among the crowds of Paris.
The cherry on top of all this is the lounge, also on the ground floor, which is decorated with impressionistic green lacquer on the walls and evokes Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, which, incidentally, can be admired a short walk away at the Musée de l’Orangerie.
There is also a brand-new spa and gym in the basement, which is accessed by lift or the building’s original 19th-century stone staircase. The space was formerly a cabaret club in the 1940s, but there are no theatrics here today – its peacefulness makes you forget that you’re in one of the city’s busiest districts. The spa is stocked with a selection of treatments in partnership with Parisian skincare expert Codage, and a massage using its moisturising body creams is a brilliant way to unwind after exploring on foot all day.
This being a boutique hotel, no two rooms are decorated the same way, but all share generous proportions and the signatures that have made Didier Benderli such a sought-after interior designer. Blending a hint of mid-century with dark wood, curved lines, velvet, and blue, ochre and anthracite colours, the custom-made furniture feels contemporary and chic. The spacious double bed is incredibly comfortable and, combined with the heavy, light-blocking curtains and a quiet room, ensures a sound night’s sleep. And when it comes to amenities, there are toiletries from Codage, a Nespresso machine, water and a welcome box of macarons from Ladurée in every room.
At the very top of the building in the eaves is the impressive James Joyce suite. At 70 square meters and with two bathrooms, plus a lounge and rooftop views, it is every bit the dreamy Parisian apartment that most Francophiles covet. Elsewhere there are duplexes and suites, as well as rooms overlooking the hotel’s glass-topped lounge, and others overlooking the streets. Rooms with a balcony extending the length of the bedroom and bathroom will also satisfy those hoping for a quintessential Parisian experience, Brummell can confirm.
The idea behind Les Parisens is that it should be as much a neighbourhood favourite as it is hotel restaurant, and this works effectively thanks to its separate entrance on the corner of Rue de l’Université and Rue du Pré aux Clercs.
The neo-brasserie is headed up by one of France’s most exciting chefs, Thibault Sombardier, who is well known for his appearance in 2014 on the French version of television show Top Chef, and for his role at Michelin-starred restaurant Antoine. The dishes in this new venture are inspired by the flavours he remembers from a childhood spent in Burgundy and Beaujolais, so expect traditional French cuisine mixed with contemporary additions in a spot-on example of haute bistronomie. Brummell tries the snail ravioli with peas and buttered vegetable broth, which delivers delicate flavours and is an interesting way to sample the French delicacy. Next is the utterly delicious sweetbreads with vegetables, which is complemented by a thick jus. The hot pistachio soufflé is a creamy treat that is enhanced by the side of raspberry sorbet to cut through the richness – it is a perfect way to round off the meal.
In the adjoining James Joyce Bar, head barman Clément Lepage explains that his cocktail menu blends commonly recognised flavours with more obscure ones to intrigue guests rather than confuse them through a list of unknowns. Brummell tries Prométhée, a rather showy drink that is wood smoked right before serving and arrives under a smoke-filled glass cloche (there are lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ when it is lifted). Rittenhouse rye whiskey infused with long pepper, red vermouth, bénédictine, tobacco liqueur and chocolate bitters produces a surprisingly smooth and drinkable aperitif – it is neither too sharp on the whiskey nor too sweet on the chocolate notes, and certainly worthy of another round.
Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain is the very best of contemporary Parisian hospitality. Modern, minimalistic hotel design has a somewhat unfair reputation for feeling cold, but there is none of that here. And in fact, the warm and welcoming feeling is elevated by the friendliness of the hotel’s staff, who go out of their way to ask guests about their day and offer refreshments. Paris’ routine and occasional visitors alike will delight in the fresh design, excellent food and convenient location of this spot.
Rooms at Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain start at €350 per night; en.pavillon-faubourg-saint-germain.com/