In recent years, many of the top five-star and palace hotels in Paris, including The Ritz, Hôtel de Crillon, and Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris have received head-to-toe renovations to keep up with the ever-evolving luxury hotel market and up to date technology.
The Hôtel Lutetia, the only large-scale luxury hotel on the Left Bank, is the latest entry into the old grand dame hotels to be gut renovated and brought up to 21st-century standards. The Set Hotel Group, specializing in art-inspired hotels with locations in Amsterdam and London, has invested over $2 million for the refurbishment, which took over four years to complete.
The storied history of the Lutetia began in 1907, when the Boucicaut family, the owners of upscale specialty store Le Bon Marche, launched the first grand hotel on the Left Bank to accommodate their out of town clientele and suppliers. When it opened in 1910, it was the epitome of the Art Nouveau architecture movement, a vision of modernity and function, with new amenities never available before, such as hot running water, air conditioning, telephones and rolling shutters in every room. The hotel soon became the hot spot for art, entertainment and literary icons of the Left Bank, attracting luminaries such as Picasso, Jean Paul Sartre, Juliet Greco, Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and the brightest star of all, Josephine Baker.
Last renovated in the early 1980s, the worn hotel was more than ready for a redo and shuttered in 2014. Internationally renowned architect and interior designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte, was brought in to handle the tricky task of updating décor of the hotel to make it contemporary, while maintaining the core of the Art Nouveau masterpiece and its stunning architectural details.
Another important change was the reduction of the number of rooms, now 184 from 233, clearing more space to install 47 suites, along with seven signature suites. (The signature suites are due to be open in September.) Room sizes range from 300 square feet for the Superior Room, to 1, 700 square feet for the "Carré Rive gauche" suite. The blue of the sea plays an important role in the fabric and furnishings of the contemporary style rooms, along with Hermes silk throw pillows, and Art Deco inspired furniture manufactured by Poltrona Frau. We got a sneak preview of the Josephine Baker suite (opening in September), a romantic getaway on the sixth floor with a panoramic view of the Eiffel Tower and Le Rive Gauche and blow up photo emblazoned on the ceiling of the salon. The sophisticated décor of rooms and suites are geared more for adults and couples.
Even the French have joined the vegan/vegetarian movement, and an organic quinoa, cucumber and fennel salad and cold Stracciatella with heirloom tomatoes and strawberries are just two of the inventive dishes offered at Le Saint Germain, the informal restaurant serving a casual all day menu. Snag a table in the mauve leather banquette to best view the gorgeous glass ceiling with hand painted etchings by artist Fabrice Hyber.
The spirit of Josephine Baker is emulated again in the chic Bar Josephine. The 100-foot bar takes center stage along with a magnificent fresco, long hidden under six coats of paint, fully restored by the artisans at Atelier de Ricou. We had drinks at left end of the bar near black lacquer grand piano, which will be put to use when the bar hosts a jazz trio on Sunday nights. We enjoyed an outstanding cocktail of gin and whisky flavored with fennel and rhubarb, ginger extract, and ginseng honey, created by Nicola Battafarano the imaginative mixologist, while mingling with some native Parisians who came to checkout the new bar. Next time we will try Cuvée Lutetia Champagne, specially created by the Maison Taittinger for the hotel.
The cozy Bar Aristide offers an exceptional selection of the finest spirits and liquors along side cigar smoking lounges, which can be reserved for private events.
The big buzz at the hotel is all about The Brasserie Lutetia, set to open in September with Michelin star-chef Gérald Passedat creating a Mediterranean inspired menu. The two-story restaurant recovering the original space from 1910 will accommodate 180 diners but the in-crowd will reserve the private dining room for 12.
The Spa Akasha elevates the hotel spa with a holistic approach, focusing on the essential elements: Air, fire, earth and water in their treatments. Natural light creates a calming atmosphere for the 54-foot long swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
There’s just as much excitement right outside The Lutetia as there is inside, with chic, upscale boutiques and cool cafés in the area. Savor the addictive butter cookies and the original sourdough bread baked in stone ovens from the 12th century at the flagship Poilane shop on the charming Rue de Cherche Midi. The former Art Deco indoor pool at the Lutetia has been replaced with a modern branch of Hermes with a focus on home furnishings and tableware along with an elegant tea salon. Get on the fashion fast track at Le Bon Marche, where the trendiest Parisians get first dibs at the latest and greatest French and international designers. Across the street from Le Bon Marche is their legendary gourmet market shop Le Grand Epicerie. Taste your way through the aisles filled with everything from foie gras to an Iberian ham bar to a truffle restaurant to designer water bottles. Being full of hot air is a good thing at Le Recamier, which serves savory and sweet soufflés on a delightful outdoor terrace on a calm cul de sac. Is high-end vintage jewelry and accessories your thing? Don’t miss the fabulous baubles, bangles, and beads from Chanel, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton at Le Ibis Rouge.
The Lutetia is setting is sites on becoming a palace hotel, the rare designation beyond five-stars that only a handful of Paris hotels have attained. Will they succeed? Only time will tell.
45 Boulevard Raspail, 75006
Tel. +33 (0) 1 49 54 46 00