Who’d have imagined that what was at nascence a medieval nunnery would attain the apogee of luxe parisien, conferred the ultimate and uniquely parisian designation “Palace Parisien.” Notwithstanding, the Mandarin Oriental, a precious stone’s throw away from Place Vendôme necklaced in haute joailliers, is so discreet you could slip past it on designer-boutique-streamed Rue St Honoré. And yet, the MO has stamped itself reverberatingly on the Parisian luxury circuit
Sensationalism isn’t emblematic of brand Mandarin Oriental, but the check-in at MO Paris is nothing if not sensational. “What would you like to drink?” you’re asked. Your “welcome drink” might be champagne, Louis Roederer Rosé no less. The only other time I’ve been offered champagne as a “welcome drink” was at Sir Richard Branson’s Kenyan resort Mahali Mazuri. But it was Moët et Chandon, which I disdained (a girl cannot be drinking cheap champagne, dahlin) and almost fled the resort on learning they served Kellog’s at breakfast, compelling the poor chef to present himself at dawn to make me homemade muesli lest I truly depart.
Sensationalism isn’t emblematic of brand Mandarin Oriental, but the check-in at MO Paris is nothing if not sensational. “What would you like to drink?” you’re asked. Your “welcome drink” might be a glass of champagne, Louis Roederer Rosé no less. The only other time in all my rather extensive hotel experience I’ve been offered champagne as a “welcome drink” was at Sir Richard Branson’s Kenyan resort Mahali Mazuri. But there the champagne was Moët et Chandon, which I disdained (a girl cannot be drinking cheap champagne, dahlin) and almost fled the resort on learning they served cereal from boxes at breakfast, compelling the poor chef to present himself at dawn to make me homemade muesli lest I truly depart. The MO Paris, needless to say, doesn’t lend itself to such mortifications.
Sara from Guest Relations escorts me to my room dressed in plush plum & pomegranate opening with the bathroom which is half the room with walk-in wardrobe on one side and on the other the bath area showcasing exclusive Diptych toiletries. Nice design element, even if trekking from the toilet to the washbasin across the central aisle isn’t terribly practical. But when you’ve the poshest bed with the plumpest cushions to plonk on to, nothing matters.
My “welcome” champagne could partake of the retinue accompanying me to my room, but it’s better on that terrific bar terrace embowered in trimmed foliage and speckled with striking white seating. What could be more decadent than une coupe de champagne rosé, Louis Roederer too, at 4 pm in the afternoon? On my shoulders is a furred white shawl lent me to combat the wintry chill; on my table are the crispest assortment of nuts and the pertest olives; at my feet is Patrice the concierge, kneeling gallantly, as he delivers the information I requested that he has cunningly excavated. This man is so wily he could fetch you the personal number of the French President.
Champagned up I wonder if I’m just seeing life through rose-tinted glasses or if I’m too high on the high life or is there really, really an enormous white bird cage stationed on the terrace with a tumble of stunning pink flowers over an oriental bowl-like receptacle embedded with a table. Truly, there is the fantasy Garden Table, a stroke of extravagant caprice.
And if elsewhere you run indoors to escape the rain, at MO Paris rushing into Bar 8 dampens the spirit so to speak as walls bespattered with green Lalique crystal resemble rain drops and lights of Murano glass falling torrentially evoke a rain-refreshed forest.
This hotel must manoeuvre the delicate line between a “Palace Parisien” and an embodiment of an iconic brand like Mandarin Oriental. The MO Paris is predominantly a Palace Parisien and indeed declares itself resolutely Parisian. Commensurate with the Parisian identity, that slick and suave oriental service inveterate of a Mandarin Oriental sometimes cedes to a rather more Parisian style of dispensation. Of course, Paris’s most stylish terrace bar pulsates busily with the most rarefied creatures in Paris (both humans and their manicured pets) and one is happy to se patienter for the tapas over another glass of champagne- you’ve an astonishing 8 exclusive champagnes served by the glass, a luxury not even the loftiest 3-Michelin-Starred restaurants afford. There’s Dom Pérignon 2006, Bollinger grande année 2005, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée Rosé Laurent Perrier etc etc. And if the French are remarkable for losing their heads the Mandarin Oriental Paris has found a finer way of effecting it with besides 8 champagne Paris’s priciest cocktail 251 (costing €251 and served in a Lalique crystal glass) Marie-Antoinette would agree.
Get street smart with Street Marx as celebrated chef Thierry Marx smartens up street food but bar staff cannot necessarily distinguish what’s vegetarian so vegetarians, take care. The tapas could be tauter and dim sum daintier- this is, after all, the Mandarin Oriental and whilst we’d gladly drink a magnum of champagne to the glorious Parisian spirit and indeed bubbly spirits, a Mandarin Oriental girl like myself would’ve feign liked oriental flavour flecking the flagrantly French..
I have just that at Thierry Marx’s 2-Michelin-Starred restaurant Sur Mesure (meaning made to order in couture parlance). Conjuring the quintessentially Parisian world of haute couture this ultra contemporary restaurant in unmitigated white has walls of fabric, seemingly remnants of some sartorial execution. Marx tailors creations with textures of silk, satin or taffeta, stitching together seamlessly French finesse and oriental exoticism in dishes like soya risotto, sea bass with chestnut and kabuto-infused butternut or an accompaniment of crusty roasted potatoes with kasu sake. This parade of avant-garde epicureanism culminates in “Sweet Bento & Ylang-ylang” as dainty desserts come in a bento box. Sweeter still is the service- élégance à la parisienne seasoned with oriental graciousness.
MO Paris’s Spa Guerlain is doubtless Paris’s best. As you enter a gong sounds signifying zen. But zen flounders when you’re confronted with the troubling collection of Guerlain perfumes exclusive to Guerlain boutiques or Guerlain spas. The Guerlain Orchidé Oriental facial is surely Paris’s lavishest. My therapist Laetitia so delicately and copiously applies sumptuous Guerlain products. The facial involves blackhead extraction and eyebrow tweaking- not that the chichi guests who grace this ethereal space have spots other than beauty spots or that those permanently inflected eyebrows ever need pruning.
After spa treatments there’s tea and cake served in-suite but I’ve had quite enough at breakfast where unlike at Mahali Mazuri there’s home-made muesli and even honey at all-day-dining Camélia. A select buffet emphasising quality not quantity includes phenomenally good breads and fromages affinés besides varietal vienoiseries and exotica like mangoes the size of coconuts (even in winter) that are artfully cut into florets and served at your table. It’s worth awaking at the Mandarin Oriental Paris for this breakfast. But then, being the Mandarin Oriental girl that I am, I always awake at a Mandarin Oriental.