Plaza Athenee



Is the Plaza Athenee really the best hotel in Paris? As the first of the city's two super-luxe grande dame hostelries to reopen since being closed for a multi-million euro refurbishment, it certainly lays claim to that title, but past clients may suffer from a blast of culture shock on a revisit.

Not that the rooms throw up surprises; they are as traditional as ever, with an option to choose an Art Deco theme which is by and large less warm and welcoming than the Regency-style accommodations with their Louis chairs, marquetry and heavy drapes. Grey and white marble bathrooms are suitably sumptuous, and the only jarring note is the adoption of new technology in the form of a television disguised as a wall mirror which turns out not to offer nearly the sight and sound quality of a free-standing TV.

Changes have mainly been made in the public areas, where the flagship restaurant by multi-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse has been redesigned to resemble a spaceship and cleared of the oceans of white linen one would expect to accompany pricey main meals. A plus for the observant - all the emphasis is now on fish and vegetables. And another plus for is that tablecloths rule at breakfast, where pastries, made by a world champion patissier, are abundant enough to fill a doggy-bag and the atmosphere, thanks to beautiful lighting reflected by an ocean of white linen, enchanting. Outside the dining room, things become a little schizophrenic. The retro lobby lounge, where yet more pastries are served with tea or coffee, advertises its mouthwatering wares with holograms in a knowing nod to he 21st century.

But the bar, or rather Le Bar, as it's now known - is so keen on embracing the future, it looks like it belongs to another century - and certainly a much younger generation than the average resident. Brilliant blue light predominates here, dazzling fuschia one floor below in the Dior spa, a reminder that the hotel is a fashionista fixture on the Avenue Montaigne.

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