Champs-Elysees Splurge: A BlackBook Weekend at Hôtel Barrière Le Fouquet’s Paris

There just isn’t another hotel in Paris more beautiful or better situated than the perpetually glamorous Hôtel Barrière Le Fouquet’s Paris, which unveiled a splashy makeover in 2021. And arriving on a spring day at its iconic location on the Champs-Elysees, a short stroll from both the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, we checked into this dazzling five-star property for a whirlwind few days to immerse ourselves in its exquisitely-curated luxury and plush refinement.

It was April 25, to be specific, the day after Emmanuel Macron’s sort of decisive reelection, and the city was buzzing with congratulatory relief; but we felt as though we were entering an entirely other, enchanted world-within-a-world. Moving through the automatic glass front doors and onto the softest carpeting we can ever remember having under our feet, there was a decidedly exclusive, clubby vibe to the lobby interior, done in shades of deep red and gold, with some seriously flattering lighting.

Of the 101 rooms upstairs, we checked into one of the 19 newly reimagined by exalted interior designer Jacques Garcia (he of Hotel Costes fame). Lavishly done up in his signature neo-Empire style, the view from our suite’s balcony also gave us direct line of sight to the Arch, perfect for filling up the Instagram page with enviable images.

To experience Le Fouquet’s continuing celebration of “the French art of living” means first paying one’s libation-ready respects to Fouquet’s brasserie, which was founded all the way back in 1899. The original, outdoor terraces straddle the Champs-Elysses and Avenue George V, with a distinctive red awning that has been beckoning lovers of joie de vivre for decades now. Credited with inventing what has become a wonderful cliche in Paris – sidewalk sitting, sipping and gossiping – Fouquet’s Paris is still very much a place to see and be seen in the posh 8th arrondissement, and its carefully considered menus still feature many of its beloved classic dishes. (N.B. – There is an excellent Formule dejeuner – prix fixe, offered between 12 – 2pm which we highly recommend, leaving the gastronomic decision-making to the chef.)

We kicked off an early dinner with one of the house signature cocktails, and the 99 Avenue was a tantalizing concoction of Cointreau, violet syrup, cranberry juice and the namesake/delectable Fouquet’s champagne. But the juicy Royal Foquet (an elixir of Peach cream, lychee, Fouquet’s Champagne, and lime zest) also made it past our very satisfied lips at one lunch during our stay.

Restaurant Fouquet’s also elevates the bar on sweets – and leaving room for the cheese plate and dessert is always a must for us when visiting the French capital. We strenuously recommend the crepes suzette, profiteroles drizzled with dark chocolate sauce, or any of Fouquet’s house-made pastries (think chocolate eclairs, fruit tarts and millefeuille, also known as a Napoleon, with vanilla cream stuffed between its light flaky layers). As for le fromage, we simply couldn’t resist the Camembert de Normandie on bits of crusty baguette.

Over dinner we had a delicious glass (or two) of Minuty Prestige, which quickly became our new favorite Provence-grown rosé. And after Fouquet’s trademark caviar appetizer, with a traditional garnish of blinis, heavy cream, and shallots, we tucked into the exceptional sole meunière and Burgundy snails. Sitting pretty in the street-level interior dining room, which strikes a distinct bistro-chic chord, we delighted in identifying the black-and-white celebrity portraits by legendary lensman Harcourt. Hanging on the warm, wood-paneled walls, we imagined all of the luminaries of the Golden Age and contemporary cinema who have sat in these very same seats – though we confess as fans to being partial to our proximity to a stunning image of Marion Cotillard.

Usually in such a rush back home, we allowed ourselves to actually enjoy a casual breakfast in the courtyard of the hotel’s more casual Le Joy the next morning. This fun, frolicky venue was yet another unexpected, discreet feature of Le Fouquet’s, with its lush garden opening up to those uniquely Parisian blue skies. (Tip: A second courtyard features a giant mirror wall, perfect for selfie-junkies.)

The hotel has also long been a haunt of the late night set, with the zinc-bar-boasting L’Escadrille offering a superb mix of taste (the head barman is a genius, ask him to make whatever is on his mind that day) and sound, the house DJ keeping the grooves going long into the night. There’s also the “secret” Le Bar Marta, only accessed through a hidden door in the bookshelves on the hotel’s second floor, as well as Le Rooftop Marta, the happening summer spot, with both buzzing until 3am nearly every night.

When kindly given a sneak peak of the Harcourt Paris Suite, we learned that the price of entry (ahem, 20,000 euros a night) gets you your own personal portrait session. This stunning suite’s lounge, decorated in elegant grey and gold tones, converts into a real photography studio, and comes complete with a separate make-up room. Sitting below the rooftop, there’s a terrace with sweeping views to the Arch – and even a private gym should one feel like working off all that French butter. Its dining room walls were adorned with celebrity guests like Cate Blanchett, Susan Sarandon, Keanu Reeves and Ewan McGregor, so you’ll be in excellent company should you have the dosh to check in.

Of course, all the indulgences led us to the inevitable rejuvenating session at Spa Diane Barriere. With the feel of a secluded grotto, the lagoon-blue swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms are all available free to those in the suites – while a selection of facial and massage services are easily reserved by any guest. An oasis of relaxation, the spa has recently introduced water therapies, which employ ‘hydrojet’ waterbeds to gently massage away your cares without actually getting wet. We recommend saving that for a spell in the ‘aqua circuit’ – much like a jacuzzi – just off the pool area. 

Showcasing itself as a “temple of beauty,” the spa is actually the exclusive carrier of  Odacité, clean beauty products formed from a deep study of ancestral plant knowledge. Founded by Valerie Grandury, a French woman influenced by healthy California lifestyles, she’s created an eco-friendly line of 18 serums, personalized by a spa ambassador for each guest. Using only 100% natural ingredients, based on essential oils and Gua Sha, Le Fouquet’s guests have apparently been going gaga for it. And after trying it ourselves, we can confirm that we were positively glowing.

In addition to the famous monuments, we hit up some of the best shopping in the city along the rarefied Avenue Montaigne, which now boasts the new La Galerie Dior at No. 30. There was also the Musee Yves Saint Laurent, Palais Galliera (we caught the current exhibition, Love Brings Love, a tribute to the late, lamented designer Albert Elbaz), and Palais de Tokyo (be sure to try Bambini, the latest and best incarnation of this museum’s terrace restaurant) all within walking distance. But on our last night we happily played tourist at the nearby Crazy Horse, taking in all risqué merriment that is the legendary burlesque show.

Still and all, it was Hôtel Barrière Le Fouquet’s Paris‘ attention to detail that struck us most on our stay, perfectly evidenced by the signature scent perfuming the property. Make sure to pick up a gorgeous bottle at the hotel’s gift shop before checking out – as scent stimulates the memory, and memories are surely the best souvenirs of travel that one could possibly take home.

French Bee

We love French Bee! Founded in 2016, from its fresh, fun branding to what we found to be a smooth and friendly in-flight experience, it’s a low-cost, long haul option that flies directly to Paris Orly from the New York area (the international hub in Newark) and Los Angeles. Parent company Groupe Dubreuil has ingeniously taken a more cheerful approach to the usual dreariness of budget travel.

Boarding our tidy Airbus A350, we were pleasantly surprised by the in-flight entertainment options at our seat, showing a slew of new American movies – though we excitedly caught up on a few French films that haven’t even been released in the states yet. There are also plenty of good food options on board for a fee, and if you’re after a full meal you’ll need to book that in advance with your ticket purchase. We certainly appreciated little details like a pat of good salty French butter and roll that came with our tasty chicken and pasta dinner.

Notably French Bee also partners with the SNCF (French National Railway Operator), so if it is a plane and train jaunt you’re after, this package will connect you with 15 destinations in France. And not to worry, all tickets are 100% flexible (meaning changeable), if you have to postpone your trip for pandemic or other reasons.

“Bee” fabulous!

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