Each time I visit Paris, one of my priorities is to have a good duck breast For dinner. The duck tastes better in Paris: the atmosphere of the city permeates the fat; the nonchalant chic of its inhabitants is infused into the sauce.
Despite this clearly fictionalized nonsense that I completely imagined, when I explained it to Romaine – the friendly and knowledgeable concierge at Maison Albar Hotels Le Vendôme – she didn’t bat an eyelid at my stupidity. Instead she made a quick and discreet phone call and within two minutes informed me that I had a reservation that night to eat what she assured me was ‘the best duck from the city”. She was right.
Why stay here?
Along with the staff’s thoughtful personal touches and impressive local knowledge, Maison Albar Hotels Le Vendôme’s location makes it an ideal choice for exploring Paris. Located in the heart of the 9th arrondissement, in the Opera district, you are within walking distance of all major tourist destinations. The hotel itself is set behind a wood-panelled facade dating from the late 1880s – a remnant of the building’s previous incarnation as Le Lyon d’Or, one of the original cabaret restaurants in Paris – but once inside, the aesthetic is clean and modern.
The homage to the Golden Lion continues throughout the decor, with carvings in public areas and designs on each guest room door paying homage to the heritage. There’s a relaxed elegance to the lobby and lounge; plush velvet furnishings create comfortable spaces to sit with a coffee and plan your day. Rooms have opulent marble bathrooms and state-of-the-art technology — they’re not huge, but generous by central Paris standards. Space is limited in this city, and many other hotels in the area have sacrificed an extra meter here and there to squeeze more than the 51 rooms and suites at Maison Albar Hotels Le Vendome.
Descending the stairs from the lobby to the ground floor – the stairwell itself is another restored period feature, with beautiful mosaics originally installed when the property housed the Russian Bank of Foreign Trade in the 1930s – leads us to a fitness center and spa. The Parisian brand of luxury cosmetics Carita offers massages and the swimming pool is located under a huge skylight. The chance to enjoy a swim in natural light is a rare treat in this part of town and the perfect way to energize the body in the morning.
Eat and drink
At the heart of the hotel is Yakuza Paris by renowned Portuguese chef Olivier Da Costa. The restaurant serves an exciting and intriguing range of Japanese cuisine mixed with Southern European flavors. Customers have the opportunity to sit around the open kitchen, allowing them to marvel at the team’s knife skills as they prepare the fresh sushi and see their selections personally presented and explained by the chiefs. This approach offers interesting insight into the thinking behind the pairings, making the dining experience a little more collaborative and personal. Highlights include the nigiri engawa and taco sakana.
Yakuza Paris is also where breakfast is served each morning, with the option of al fresco dining in Kyoto Garden weather permitting. The garden is a great use of the vestibule in the center of the building, and the wind chimes echoing delicately from the trees make this space a peaceful oasis any time of the day.
Outside the walls of the hotel, the surrounding streets offer many possibilities at all levels of the gastronomic pyramid. This beautiful duck spotted for me on the first evening was only a ten minute walk away at French Paradox in the Passage des Panoramas. Classic Parisian cafes are all around, but Café de la Paix has the best view of the Opera; if it’s a bit too touristy, try Chez Marianne on Boulevard des Italiens for a bit more local vibe.
What to do
If a massage and a dip in the spa followed by a leisurely tea in the garden haven’t filled your day enough, a stroll through the local architecture surely will. The Opéra Garnier next door is one of the most spectacular buildings in a city known for its grandeur, but it’s far from the only gem within walking distance of Vendôme. A short walk east brings you to the smaller and lesser-known, but equally impressive Opera Comique. Boulevard Haussmann is home to Les Grands Magasins – the famous department stores of Paris – and following this street west will quickly bring you to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. Just a ten minute walk south of the hotel, down Rue de la Paix and past the magnificent Vendôme itself, you will arrive at Rue de Rivoli and all the world-famous museums and galleries that surround it.
Paris is a city full of cultural opportunities and hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. The Vendôme’s location makes it the ideal launching pad to discover as many of them as possible; their team’s deep knowledge and personal attention to detail will help you find ones you didn’t even know existed. This is a young hotel occupying a grand old Parisian building, and this mix of sleek modernity and classic charm creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere. You will be happy to consider it your second home while seeking out the facets of the French capital hitherto only known to residents.
Rooms at Maison Albar Hotels Le Vendome start from £354 on a B&B basis. 7 rue du Helder, 75009 Paris, France; maison-albar-hotels-le-vendome.com