Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris - Hotel Review
by Sophie Gayot
NOTE: This article was written before the 2014 renovation of the hotel and it does not reflect the changes that have occurred.
Part of the swanky Dorchester Collection, which regards luxury and refinement as its main preoccupation, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée stretches its famous red awnings and its colorful geraniums along the ultra-elegant avenue Montaigne. What a prime location! At the crossroads of entertainment, fashion and business, it's within walking distance of many meeting, shopping and leisure venues.
"Once upon a time in the palace of tomorrow." This is how the always-smiling Director of Operations for the Dorchester Group — and the hotel's former general manager — François Delahaye, likes to describe this property, and we agree with him. The hotel first opened in 1911 and rapidly gained international fame. It has constantly been kept up, but in 2000 the biggest renovation of all took place. The goal was to combine traditional, classical style with the most modern technology.
The hotel is close to the fashion districts, and its corridors and suites are decorated with sketches and works from well-known designers and artists. The 191 rooms and suites have been entirely refurbished, while continuing to capitalize on their star attraction: the views. Choose vistas of the avenue's chestnut trees, the courtyard, or the panoramic landscapes of the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre or the legendary roofs of Paris. Choose also your style: Art Deco or French classical with Louis XV, Louis XVI and Regency overtones. Accommodations are equipped to provide maximum comfort and convenience: remote control air-conditioning, Internet access, satellite TV, internal video network, VCR, two-line telephones and faxes, and stereo with CD. For some, dreams can come true in the 5,300-square-foot Royal Suite over avenue Montaigne, or the decadent Eiffel Suite overlooking ... well, you can figure it out.
We cannot speak about the Plaza Athénée without speaking about food. Let us start with La Galerie des Gobelins, which is an intimate and exclusive place to enjoy an afternoon tea or aperitif. The bar, simply called Le Bar du Plaza, is for seeing and being seen. It was revamped in 2001, and the wood-paneled walls remain, but the furniture and ambience are very modern. Le Bar is divided into two areas: the first surrounding the long, illuminated bar made entirely of sculpted and sandblasted glass, and the second made cozier with leather club chairs. From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., or the "Blue Hours," Le Bar du Plaza is a more conventional cocktail lounge. But from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., or the "Red Hours," it takes on a new identity, where the bar "comes alive" with a new color and electro-rock music. Le Relais Plaza, a chic rendezvous spot, will welcome you with its Art Deco style. Fine ingredients are used to prepare simple and well-executed cuisine: crab, foie gras, lobster, sea bass. Two classics not to be missed are the oeufs bénédictine and the escalopes viennoise. During summer months, La Cour Jardin serves Mediterranean fare in the courtyard.
The hotel's pièce de résistance is Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. We don't need to introduce Ducasse, who has been at the Plaza since September, 2000. He is in the perfect location to execute and serve his highly luxurious (and expensive) cuisine. Although we're not sure about the décor, we have no reservations about the food. Classics include the sweetbreads and half-cooked crayfish with caviar.
What to do after all these meals? Run to the fitness room. Adorned with Cuban mahogany wood panels, it is certainly one of the most elegant workout spaces in Paris. Cybex training machines, Tae Bo lessons, Shiastu, sauna and a hamman are available for your relaxation and pleasure. For a complete escape, indulge in a wide variety of face and body treatments offered at the Dior Institut, featuring five treatment rooms (including a double VIP room) and a relaxation lounge. Capping the Plaza Athénée experience is the guest relations team. Devoted entirely to your well being, and assisted by an admirable staff, they will satisfy all your demands and make your stay the best one possible.