Cheval Blanc Opens in Paris

La rentrée always brings a special energy to Paris. After a lengthy summer vacation, urbanites return to the city with renewed gusto — and an enormous appetite for the autumn’s packed cultural calendar and restaurant openings. But there’s a unique excitement this year as a dramatic COVID recovery coincides with great hope for the hospitality sector decimated by the pandemic. A symbol of this optimism is the hotly anticipated launch of the Cheval Blanc Paris on the Seine. Years in the making, the first Paris hotel for LVMH represents the rebirth of an entire neighborhood right in the heart of the city.

The legendary department store complex known as La Samaritaine, originally founded in 1870, had been closed in 2005 for safety concerns, effectively shuttering a swath of prime Paris real estate. After a no-holds-barred restoration, the newly reborn Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf was unveiled in June, with the Cheval Blanc following on September 7.

The setting couldn’t be more central. From this first arrondissement perch overlooking Pont Neuf, the city’s oldest bridge, all of Paris is at your doorstep — from the nearby Louvre museum and gourmet delights of the revitalized Les Halles district to the chic boutique shopping of the Marais and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Cheval Blanc Paris Restaurant Le Tout, Paris
Le Tout-Paris is a contemporary brasserie on
the terrace. 
(Alexandre Tabaste)

The week of the opening brought warm summer temperatures to Paris. The hotel’s enormous glass windows reflected the blue skies; two Cheval Blanc flags on the rooftop fluttered in the breeze. Fully booked, the hotel also drew a fashionable crowd to its four restaurants to savor the Seine views along with the cuisine. 

Inside the lobby, the luminosity is striking. Instead of standing at a reception desk, guests are seated and greeted as if in a connoisseur’s living room. Monumental artwork, like the blue canvas by artist Georges Mathieu, stands out against a warm gold and white palette. Beneath the painting, a bookcase showcases coffee-table books wrapped in colorful African prints.

This was the first hotel project for Peter Marino, arguably fashion’s favorite interior architect, and a partner of LVMH for decades. He approached the design in the scrupulous style of haute couture, selecting art, prized vintage décor alongside bespoke furniture and exquisite materials like Sophie Mallebranche’s finely woven metal fabric that decorates the grand staircase leading to the spa. This painstaking approach was also employed by architect Edouard François, who renovated the Art Deco building that’s classified a historic monument; he even reopened a closed quarry in order to source the exact stone used by architect Henri Sauvage in the original construction.  

The Cheval Blanc Paris is a showcase of the LVMH universe down to the smallest details: The white horse sculpture by Frank Gehry in the lobby, the custom fragrance by perfume “nose” François Demachy diffused throughout the hotel, the staff uniforms by Patou’s artistic director Guillaume Henry, and the iconic Dior 999 lipstick, engraved with Paris images and sold as a limited edition item in the Dior spa. 

Cheval Blanc Paris Balcony Deluxe Room

A Balcony Deluxe Room (Photo by Alexandre Tabaste)

With just 72 rooms, it’s a small hotel…but one with a big wow factor. Case in point: The elevator leading to the seventh floor restaurants. Completely dark as the doors close, suddenly a cinematic scene is illuminated as the elevator ascends, immersing you in a moving tableau of Paris in all its enigmatic beauty.

Step outside and into Le Tout-Paris, the contemporary brasserie, and the real Paris panorama stretches out below you. Not just on the terrace, but even the seats farthest from the windows have knock-out views (these booth-like alcoves are raised to a higher elevation). Here in this bright aerie, the colorful décor matches the energy of the crowd. Also situated on the seventh floor, Langosteria is the first international outpost for the popular Milan seafood restaurant. Top Tip: Request a seat on the west-facing terrace to watch the sunset (keeping in mind that sunset time changes dramatically throughout the year’s seasons). Note: There’s also a landscaped terrace on the seventh floor, called the “garden,” where you can sit and sip. 

In a city celebrated for its Michelin stars, Cheval Blanc Paris is adding to the galaxy by tapping the talented Arnaud Donckele to oversee the gastronomic restaurant called Plénitude. The chef holds three Michelin stars at La Vague d’Or, the restaurant at Cheval Blanc St-Tropez, which he will continue to manage in season. (Insiders tell us that he even brings special produce with him from the south when he makes the commute.) Named “Chef of the Year” by Gault & Millau in 2020, Donckele prides himself on direct sourcing the finest ingredients from local producers in a network he’s taken years to develop. At Plénitude, he has concocted a menu based on fine sauces — infused, aged and perfected like a perfume over many months. Note: The restaurant is situated on the first floor, not the rooftop, because food is the focus here, not the views. Tip: Don’t miss the artistic wine vault featuring precious bottles like a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1945.

Cheval Blanc Paris

Cheval Blanc Paris has 72 rooms, some of which come with balconies with views of the Parisian skyline. (Photo by Alexandre Tabaste)

Pastry chef Maxime Frédéric has the reins at Limbar, the stylish ground-floor café that takes its name from the exotic wood lining its walls. The ambiance changes as the menu evolves throughout the day starting with fine baked goods at breakfast, continuing through lunch and the afternoon goûter (French-style teatime), where you can try one of the herbal infusions created from potted herbs on the bar, and concluding with after-dark soirées enhanced by cocktails by Florian Thireau.

Another feature that wows? The 100-foot spa swimming pool, decorated with a swirling mosaic by Michael Mayer that required a year of work. On the wall, photos by the artist Oyoram depict images of the Paris cityscape outside, the monuments and bridges placed in their exact geographic position. Even emerging from the spa, robe-wrapped clients — fully relaxed after treatments like the six-hand Couture Dream massage — can’t help but whip out their phones to snap a photo of this chef-d’œuvre. Speaking of the spa, the menu is so vast (43 treatments), reach out to Spa Director Sophie Levy Kraemer to help make your choice.

Margaux Médeau leads the concierge team; a member of clefs d’or, she is one of the rare women to hold this position in France. Her goal is to provide guests with exclusive access to parts of Paris that are off the beaten path, like the Sorbonne observatory, master artisans’ workshops and untouristed corners of Montmartre. She can also arrange private shopping with a stylist at Samaritaine and a trip to Champagne country by helicopter.

Cheval Blanc Paris Limbar Le Pollen

Cocktails by Florian Thireau are served at Limbar at night. (Photo by Franck Hamel)

Booking Tips: Even the smallest guestroom is generously sized at 485 square feet, filled with light from large bay windows and equipped with a separate dressing room and marble bathroom with both tub and walk-in hammam shower. Note that some rooms have balconies, others overlook the Louvre or Notre-Dame, and for families or friends traveling together, a number of rooms interconnect. 

The best room in the house is known as “L’appartement,” comprised of two penthouse duplexes on the eighth and ninth floors that can be combined into one massive suite measuring 10,780 square feet. Accessed by private entrance, L’appartement offers seven bedrooms, several lounges, a private pool, a wellness area, a projection room and a terrace with panoramic vistas. For VIP bookings, reach out to Director of Sales Céline Thillaye ([email protected]). Christian Boyens, formerly the general manager at the Ritz Paris, is the head of operations, Urban Hotels for LVMH Hotel Management. Note that Cheval Blanc Paris is the first city hotel for the group known for its ultra-luxe resorts in St. Barth’s, St. Tropez, Courchevel and the Maldives.

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