We Don’t Have Beef
Hôtel Chateaubriand is the sister of Hôtel Washington in the golden triangle at the very heart of the French capital. Romain Rio Hotels, the best of Paris. They’re located off Champs Élysées. The 4th Edition of the Michelin Guide to Paris (1960) describes that most famous of avenues, “Leaving Clemenceau’s statue to the right in the square of that name, we cross the Avenues des Champs Élysées, and not without turning to enjoy the view towards the Invalides. To the left stands the Marigny Theatre built in the reign of Napoléon III. Close to this is La Bourse aux Timbres – the Stamp Market – where collectors meet on Thursdays and Saturdays.”
The Guide continues, “You pass a number of drinking fountains; these, like many others in Paris were the gift of a generous English philanthropist, Sir Richard Wallace (1818 to 1890), and are named after him. Sir Richard spent a number of years in Paris and gave away a large part of his fortune for charitable purposes. He was a popular respected figure, and received many honours both in France and in England. Turning to the right you follow the Avenue Gabriel opened in 1818. Shaded by magnificent trees, the gardens which you follow lie at the back of the handsome mansions of the Faubourg St Honoré. The first of these on your way is the Élysée. Its fine railings were wrought in 1905. To the right, there is an attempt at a natural garden; the paths meander between undulating lawns with trees rising here and there. To achieve this effect Haussmann cut down many of the fine rows of elms. Turn to the right when reaching the Concorde.”
And now for that heavenward grand tour of Le Chateaubriand, floor by floor, room by room. Deuxième sous sol: archives, bureaux, lingerie, vestiaire du personnel. Premier sous sol: bureau, chambre 10, cuisine, salle à manger. Rez de chaussee: accueil, chambre 20, chambre 30, hall d’entrée, jardinet du premier sous sol, petit salon, grand salon. Premier étage: chambres 101 de 105, jardin. Deuxième étage: chambres 201 de 205. Troisième étage: chambres 301 de 305. Quatrième étage: chambres 401 de 405. Cinquième étage: chambres 501 de 505, terrasse. Sixième étage: chambres 601 et 602.
The interior decoration of this fine Haussmann building isn’t for minimalists. It’s even more spruced up in the festive season. Romain Rio explains, “Like a score, Hôtel Chateaubriand draws harmony from every detail from the imposing chandelier in the patio to the velvet and crocodile lounge chairs in the sitting room… through the powder pink doors coming straight from a Venetian palace to the black fire surround from the palace of Versailles to the bull’s eye window… note the 18th century portraits, the collection of beetles… in this place I reinvent the story of each object, making it timeless yet wildly contemporary.”
The grilled and gated and gilded entrance hall leads into a spacious reception area linked to a basement dining room by a winding staircase overlooking the patio, or glazed courtyard, to the rear. A pair of antique doors opens into the lift: it’s like being encased in a beautiful wardrobe. Clive Staples Lewis would approve. Timber panelled walls and a trio of bowler hat lamps are reflected in a gilt framed hostess mirror. Soothing classical music serenades guests as they ascend – at least in this case – to the penthouse suite.
Ah the penthouse suite! Occupying the lion’s share of the top floor of a Haussmann building: this is what life’s all about. The walls are hung with stretched silk hand painted in places. An enormous gilt picture frame doubles as the bedhead of the equally enormous bed. The en suite bathroom is a pleasure of black marble with an electric shuttered window, not that you’d want to block the view spying on the mansarded neighbours opposite. Everybody in Paris is always saying “C’est la vie.” At Hôtel Chateaubriand it’s, “Vraiment, c’est la vie!”