“TheRue de Rivoliis very straight and unaltered from end to end: three simple storeys above an arcade,” according toNairn’s Paris. “But it feels quite different from the autocratic straightness of the 18th century. That was for show; this, basically, is for convenience, and there is a fine, underplayed urbanity in the wayPercierandFontaineconsistently refused to hot up what is in fact a very long elevation. Impersonal but not inhuman; the mile long covered street never gets on top of you, and life can take what shape it likes inside the framework.” Life takes on a luxurious shape insideNo.228 Rue de Rivoli: Le Meurice, an urbanVersailles.
Continuing the bookending theme of a year well spent: Easter in George V, Christmas in Charles V. The former, westward upstream of Notre Dame; the latter, eastward downstream. One, extrovert art deco; the other, discreet Swedish rococo. Charles V Hôtel is in St Paul, a village embedded in the city between the River Seine and Rue St Antoine. It’s on the site of Hôtel St Pol built by Charles the Wise in the 14th century. Even back then, St Paul was super fashionable. Later hôtels particuliers there are aplenty. Within a polished stone’s throw of Hôtel Charles V are Hôtel d’Aumont (now offices), Hôtel de Sens (now a library) and Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre (now European House of Photography). Next door to Hôtel Charles V is La Mâle d’Effeenne, fashion designer and visual consultant Nico Thibault Francioni’s treasure trove of a shop. Nico calls it a “univers de choix”. Ian Nairn wrote in his eponymous guide to the French Capital: “Paris is a collective masterpiece, perhaps the greatest in the world.” St Paul is a sophisticated slice of that masterpiece. Hôtel Charles V (petit boutique five storeys with just two to six bedrooms per floor) adds some fairy dust. Bises de Paris.
Chicks with Bricks Founder Holly Porter introduces three inspirational preprandial speakers. Award winning interior designer Tala Fustok starts, “Interior design is so much more than pretty trimmings! We enhance people’s lives and experiences. I lived in Paris for six years and gained a huge level of experience. I came back to London and set up my own studio four years ago.” Tala’s projects include The Mandrake Hotel in Fitzrovia and a 26 metre bespoke barge.
A lavish setting for a lavish gala. It’s a high octane international evening of accolades and industry recognition, of competition and celebration, of flowing wine and fine cuisine. A reception of award winning Tenuta Montemagno Relais and Wines precedes a cocktail party courtesy of “intricately realised” Silent Pool Gin (which turns out to be blackberry and damson gin liquors). Laura Scampini, proprietor of Tenuta Montemagno Resort, comments, “It’s a very nice occasion to be here this evening. Our resort is quiet, calm, very comfortable. We produce our own wine there.” The suspense gains momentum during the three course dinner (globe artichoke of course) before the ceremony truly gets underway.
It’s a serious global operation. Director Schlomo Gabbai explains more: “There are many awards in the world of hospitality. But remarkably the World Boutique Hotel Awards is the only one of its kind that takes the time, care, and in all honesty, pure joy, to visit each and every prospective winner. We don’t judge from afar. We feel the full experience – the rooms, the grounds, the lobbies, the private islands, wilderness tents and castles. We see the attention to detail in every stitch of fabric and every crumb of food. Most importantly, our judges are always moved by the extraordinary people behind each establishment, by the people who pour their hearts and souls into creating timeless memories.” This year there are 300 nominees from 80 countries.
On a rainswept late Friday evening, The Black Douglas along Deal’s esplanade is an atmospheric hive of joyful activity. “My name’s pronounced ‘DL’,” says owner Lady Dalziel Douglas. There are a few visual giveaways. One is the sepia soaked photographs of distinguished aristos in court dress – lots of ermine on display. Another couple of clues are Dalziel’s cheekbones to slice Manchego with and her piercing blue eyes. She is of course the great great niece of Lord Alfred Douglas, the dashing poet better known as ‘Bosie’, Oscar Wilde’s amour. “My great great great uncle, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, invented the Queensberry Rules of Boxing!” smiles Dalziel, pointing to one of the photographs. The Douglas clan motto is Jamais Arrière which means ‘Never Behind’. True to form, Dalziel confirms, “We were one of the first places to open in Deal of this nature. We’ve been here for 14 years and it’s given other people confidence to open up similar businesses.”
Just as The Rose and The Black Douglas have weekend dinners down to a tea tee, Deal Pier Kitchen upholds the great British breakfast tradition with a twist or rather lots of vegan twists. Eating the first meal of Saturday to the rhythm and splash of lapping waves is a must. Suspended over the sea at the end of a 1950s concrete pier, the café is in a timber and glass pavilion designed by Níall McLaughlin in 2008. The architect has continued Deal’s centuries old dedication to romantic maritime architecture.