Confession time: I have no reason to stay here, other than to review it. Andrew Harper auctions have made me act like a compulsive gambler at a roulette table, self-assured that my next fix is the last one I will ever need. Not only do they draw me in with their ever crazy offers, but then I justify it by believing I’m doing something good.
I first saw La Reserve Paris last year when looking into options in Paris, but knowing the then-Director of Rooms (and now GM of The Beaumont) of Le Bristol, we chose comfort in familiarity. Having very fond memories of our stay in 2013 in La Reserve Ramatuelle and seeing the Gallivanter’s Guide praise, it found its way near the top of my list. Whilst I travel the world to try the best hotels, this must be the first time I’ve ever gone somewhere for no credible reason.
Whoever first mentioned Andrew Harper auctions to me, I love you and I hate you. (But really I love you. Thank you.)
La Reserve, Paris
Room type: Prestige Suite
Duration: 13th > 16th October
Booked with: Andrew Harper
So after wiping away that never-ending shame of once again going on yet another holiday after saying I would not go on anymore this year, I received the order confirmation from Andrew Harper. Still mentally high fiving myself, I decided to drop La Reserve a simple email to state I was looking forward to coming, just to see the response. Well, well, well, it seems La Reserve have put more thought into their customers than almost any other resort I’ve been this year. It negates a large part of our already pre-defined stay list: what temperate do we want the room; do we want help unpacking; what flowers do we like; what are our hobbies; dietary requirements; allergies. I love me a good pre-welcome list. Then just as I thought it could not get any better, concierge get in touch. Then the day before arrival, the Front Office Manager gets in touch to introduce herself and let us know the weather for our upcoming stay. 10/10 for communication, 1/10 for weather clairvoyance.
I don’t know Paris. I’ve been twice, now three times, in 6 years. 6 years ago I could just about afford a croissant, so stayed in a 3 star, that instead of a butler had rats, which I can only assume were highly trained to take care of all your requests, including room service. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad. Probably. Instead think Bates Motel, just with more screaming – from me. I always viewed Paris as the creme de la creme of rip-offs. That was until staying at Le Bristol last year. This made me realise that staying in Paris was a wonderful experience, as long as you were prepared to spend £1,000/n on a hotel room and the GDP of some African country on dinner. It changed my mindset enough to return a year later. Once again via the Eurostar and once again via Uber from Gare du Nord to the hotel, it once again took approximately 20 minutes of travel time and 30 minutes of waiting for one to arrive. Next year I may even remember this, so I can ask the hotel to collect me.
The warm welcome from La Reserve was exemplary, but it was not amongst the best I have ever seen; it did not give the impression of being truly expected, like The Beaumont does so well – that is the miracle of arriving and being welcomed by someone you have never met.
Less than a 2 minute walk to Le Bristol, which was remarkably handy, as I had some vague idea of where I was. La Reserve Paris is to Parisian Palaces as to what Bob Geldof is to Mondays. Assuming that makes any sense at all, they are basically synonymous. What it lacks in terms of size, it more than makes up for in terms of ambition and style. The design is entirely French classical, but is prepared to move away from this when it fits the requirements of a modern hotel. The entire hotel smelt like a spa, and my clothes continue to smell like it a few days later. I bloody loved it.
The standout stars of La Reserve: the room and the butler. If my French went beyond shrugging my shoulders and saying English words with a loud tone, I may have remembered her name. But the room I can remember. Even enough to write about it.
Once again we were given an upgrade and no one thought it was appropriate to tell us, so I found out by asking what room type we were in, as the room appeared too large for what we had booked. I’m not sure the rationale for so many hotels doing this. It’s rare that you will know exactly what room you will receive, so you may not even be aware if you had an upgrade and this gives an opportunity to be thankful and excited about receiving something. It’s a good way to make you feel special. It a remarkably picky point to complain about being given an almighty upgrade, but welcome to my world.
Our room was seven shades of awesome. I would dedicate an award to them for our stay list, if I had any idea where to buy one from. As our stay list is generic and mostly focused on warm countries, it features points such as our general hatred of mosquitos. La Reserve therefore decided to include mosquito and fly spray for us, even though I’m pretty sure that the 4th floor of a Parisian hotel in the middle of Autumn is an unlikely destination for them. They were incredibly generous too – two words I never thought I’d concatenate when thinking of a Paris hotel. The free, frequently restocked, minibar is packed with all the Alain Milliat I could ever want, and the sheer amount of junk food they provided me will have my dentist laughing all the way to the bank.
I was truly impressed with the room and the utilisation of space. A guest toilet, living room, bedroom, walk-in wardrobe, main toilet, bathroom, outside balcony, mini-bar/snack area and some semi-strange desk area, pushed into a rather cosy space of – according to the website – 70-85sqm, but all without feeling compact. The hard product is really, really excellent. It reminds me of a more modern version of The Connaught and no doubt similar to what they will end up with during their next refurb; the elements of classic and modern design merged together.
Comfort is a priority too, even down to ensuring your feet feel at ease as you step out of bed, onto their beyond comfortable, foam mats. With the benefit of truly blackout blinds in the bedroom, you’re guaranteed a good nights sleep. The tech is also impressive, with the iPad for controlling the temperature, lighting, room service menu with pictures and more; TV built into the wall; free movies; AirPlay for linking up Netflix/iTunes to the TV and surround sound system that is hidden within the walls; charger cables by the bedside tables and even an actual phone system that is usable. These are the glory days.
It was not without its faults, as any hotel is. The Internet connection would frequently fail; the iPad was in English, whereas the phone system was in French; they included 3 charging cables, but only offered 1 USB charging port that was directly underneath the TV, so too far from the ground to actually charge anything. There are no locks on the toilet doors, even though you can see the doors clearly have locks on them, and the water pressure in the toilet sinks was too weak, with the guest toilet sink being warm, whereas the main toilet sink being too cold and no way to adjust either. The desk was so low that I could not fit my legs underneath it, whereas the TV was too high that it hurt my neck to watch it in the living room.
Then there’s the free movie selection. I’m always a huge fan of this added perk in hotels, so this is a first for me to complain about it. But if you had found yourself watching some god awful Jennifer Lopez movie with a 10% Rotten Tomatoes score, you would know how I feel. And that was apparently one of the better films on offer. I will never forgive them or myself for until the day I die.
My main aesthetic issue is the abundance of mirrors everywhere. I’m trying to take some photos here, damnit, and doing so without capturing myself is freaking hard! It also doesn’t help that there’s so many that I’m starting to feel like one of those 80s action films where they end up having to shoot the baddie in a somewhat conveniently placed mirror gallery. Only I’d miss. I’m struggling to tell if the room has ended or there’s a mirror there when I’m standing 2ft away from it. I’m already doing my best zombie impression, by walking around with my arms stretched out, in case I’m walking into a mirror.
Entrance with guest bathroom door open
Bedroom with balcony to the left
Bedside table. They even have Blackberry charging cables, bless’em
Toilet. Motion censored water control, cos having a Toto wasn’t enough tech.
After 4 days in the suite, my major criticism I would walk away (if you’ll excuse the pun) with is how slippery the wooden floor is, which will undoubtedly take a few lives at some point. But it is so beautiful to look at, so pros and cons, I guess. It’s pretty easy to overcome: if you are fond of your neck, do not wear socks.
- Le Bar – you can guess what this is.
- Le Grand Salon – hotel restaurant
- Restaurant Le Gabriel – a 2 Michelin star restaurant
- Cigar lounge
- Courtyard seating area
- Spa – with steam room and pool
Ahhh, Paris, the City of going into a basement and enjoying the spa. Only me?
The spa offers a very small, but intimate and relaxing atmosphere built around the 16m swimming pool, steam room and therapy rooms. All treatments use their own product range, which I can only assume contains elephants blood, based on all the elephant statues within the spa. We did not have the opportunity to have a treatment, but did enjoy the tranquility of the area on several occasions by just lounging around there. The glass windows around the pool give an increased feeling of space, but once you enter, the staff pull the curtains so it feels very private and exclusive and you are separated from reception. It’s once again a real reflection of La Reserve utilising the space incredibly well. Sadly the spa area was not that warm, certainly not to the extent I would like, and I also discovered something new about myself: I find 32C too cold for a pool. I definitely will not say the same about the steam room, which I believe they said is 46C. It is absolutely stunning, but alas, 46C and steam pouring everywhere means that taking a photo is more difficult than performing open heart surgery on yourself.
Most unique is that the area is staffed until 9pm, but is left open 24/7, so guests can enjoy it whenever they want. I cannot recall seeing this at any other resorts before and it just adds to the relaxation in not having to hurry yourself along to enjoy the spa before it closes or keeping an eye on the time in the evening, knowing you soon have to leave.
The only encounter I had with any member of staff that just felt bizarre was in the spa, where the orange juice was suddenly removed, so I asked for more and they just told me it was all gone. I’m not having much luck with orange juice lately – must be a worldwide shortage. Then about 5 minutes later she came back and asked if I wanted her to go get one from upstairs, implying I had to pay for it. Daily spa limits on orange juice? I have no idea. It was just all a bit weird that suddenly something clicked for her to ask this about 5 minutes later.
Spa pool – with more mirrors
Paris. Love. Art. Countless dog shit on the pavement. There’s all kinda things to do here without me telling you.
Of course, the day after we leave they completely reinvent the menu. They must have pre-empted this review, as neither of us liked the food.
We did not try their Michelin star restaurant, but between 3 breakfasts and 2 dinners (can’t say I’m not perseverant), nothing impressed either of us. In particular the dinners were very bland and stood out only for how expensive they were. The dining room was so empty that on the Saturday night there were 2 couples (us included) in the dining room at 9pm, but that could just be that the locals already know it’s not worth bothering with. On our first night, with the restaurant also only containing a few couples, some rather incongruous dance music started around 7pm, that would have been more fitting of a club.
Every meal was slow to arrive, and every meal was underwhelming. On our last day we were leaving at an awkward time, so it was a decision between eating elsewhere, eating at the hotel or grabbing something at the train station. The train station was the second best option, with no prizes given for guessing what the least appealing option was.
On the plus side, breakfast was included, so on the first morning I could look at the €160 breakfast bill and just ignore it, whilst pretending that’s a normal price when I hardly ate anything. The mini bar in your room is also free, whereas a bottle of water is €15, so I can only conclude that the water itself is very cheap, but the glass and ice cost a significant amount.
I saw their “Well Being Breakfast” on the menu the day of arrival, but it did not appeal. However, in light of several reviews on FlyerTalk, I did feel obliged to try it. I’m afraid I won’t be joining the fan club, but that’s likely as I grew up thinking that “healthy” just meant it wasn’t a takeaway. My mother – wonderful woman – was not the best cook. I’m not saying she was awful, but we grew up watching old war movies like the Great Escape and admiring the food that the POWs received. We would long for them to bring back rationing, as it looked a highly nutritious meal in comparison to what we were eating. I think what I’m trying to say is, it didn’t contain enough bacon for my liking. An additional course of cheese helped put the demons to bed and bring back some normality. Were breakfast not included, the healthiest option would be not to order anything – healthier for my bank account.
The restaurant manager was taken from Epicure, Le Bristol’s 3 Michelin star restaurant, so there is hope for them yet. I met him as part of the hotel tour, whereby he introduced himself by making jokes about himself and every other Frenchman. He really knows the way to talk to Brits. We’re now best friends.
Service was very good, with the welcome, hotel tour and staff interaction being incredibly impressive. But when we left La Reserve Paris, I could not help but feel a bit disappointed by it – but only a little bit. With only 40 rooms, it has the capability of offering Aman levels of service, and the pre-arrival introductions, questions, reach outs and information was beyond impressive. But it just failed to gain the momentum after that point. I was talking to another GM before we left for Paris about how impressed I was with La Reserve’s pre-intro, and he made the salient point that the issue with stay lists if that if you fill them out and then they do not deliver on them, you wonder why you bothered. Now La Reserve did actually really go above and beyond with the stay list, but I felt that they considered this greatest achievement and were patting backs rather than following it through with the rest of the service.
For example, we do not drink, so this is in the stay list. The room has no alcohol, but every single meal we had someone asks us whether we wanted a glass of champagne. The Beaumont and The Goring can successfully remember their guests and have 50-80% more rooms, whereas we were asked our name and room number countless times at La Reserve. The Beaumont also works on anticipating when their guests will arrive and greeting them accordingly, but even though La Reserve knew all the details, the arrival was all very standard. When we came to leave, they knew what time our train was, but I had to try and organise the late checkout and working around this.
We had a handwritten note to say they hoped we enjoyed our first night, but it was delivered after the second night; we never met management, nor had a farewell from anyone; we had to wait over 80 minutes for breakfast, yet did not have the room serviced during this time.
This is why I say it is only a slight disappointment. I felt they had everything in place to exceed customers expectations, set the tone for it, but then don’t quite deliver on it, all in minor areas. Anticipating clients needs is tough, but it is a helluva lot easier when there’s only 40 rooms. I had high expectations going in, some from reviews, some from it being recommended, the majority from their pre-arrival interaction, and their service was very friendly and very good, but it was not what I hoped it would be. It did not wow me, nor did it beat other city hotels I have stayed in. La Reserve is a new hotel which has been heavily invested in, both from the hard product and the management, so I have little doubt they will step it up.
I checked on our arrival and it seemed at least half the rooms were still available, plus at breakfast time there was barely anyone there, so I would have hoped they could have done some of these things better and got to know their guests.
We were upgraded, plus were already on a great deal, so I didn’t expect anyone to be treating us above and beyond a normal customer. I do not expect to meet management at city hotels – in fact, I would never expect it at any of them, unless I knew someone there. But it felt like La Reserve was not trying to be a city hotel, but a resort, hence why I rightly or wrongly keep thinking of how it could compete against Aman, in the same sense of Aman Venice or Aman Tokyo (just with good service). How somewhere makes you feel is a very unique and very hard to describe, but having the belief that the hotel is thinking one step ahead of turns it into a definitively positive experience and makes it feel like home. La Reserve just isn’t quite there yet. They’re all small points not worth complaining about, but worth noting. One of the butlers was really exceptional and had this forward thinking mentality, but ironically we needed so little in our room, as they had set it up so perfectly, so I only met her twice.
There were no service failures, but they could have tried harder and tried to do more.
Every other week it seems someone new is jumping ship from Le Bristol to join La Reserve Paris. They have invested significantly and look certain to make it a success, but I cannot help but feel it will take a bit longer than they would have hoped.
- Great pre-arrival and attention-to-detail of setting up the room
- Good location
- In Paris, bad food is why they invented the guillotine.
- Stunning property and rooms
- Personalised, engraved name tags on your luggage. The future has arrived.
La Reserve Paris is so, so close to perfection. I want to say I love it, but I loved most of it. It is 98% of the way there, but just needs to put in that final extra effort to push it beyond a great city hotel into a memorable, wonderful city hotel that you want to visit, even when you have no reason to go there. I would return.