The Ritz reopens: an exclusive visit to the legendary Paris hotel
Following four years of building work at a budget of 400 million euros, the Ritz has finally discreetly re-opened its doors. Owned by Egyptian billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed, the property reveals its brand new interiors to clients. Report.
“The Ritz will always be the Ritz.” A phrase that Ritz president, Frank Klein, has been hammering home for almost 40 years. Since the turn of the 20th century, the life of the Parisian palatial hotel, whose famous adventures are the stuff of legends – from Marcel Proust and his lovers to Gabrielle Chanel who spent more of her life in a charming suite there than her own apartment, and of course the secret liaisons of Lady Diana – practically nothing had changed. The closure announced in 2012 was all about gently awakening a palace that had started to doze, and stop its competitors in their tracks.
Restored from top to bottom, the lobby opens onto a resplendent gallery now bathed in light and shimmering in gilt. The furniture is the same, just reupholstered in midnight blue, and a new salon dedicated to Marcel Proust has become a tea room to enjoy sweet delicacies like madeleines, boudoirs and meringues. After that comes two vast terraces topped with removable roofs, the first is the Vendôme bar and the second the Espadon gastronomic restaurant, the stamping ground of Chef Nicolas Sale.
To the east, on the rue Cambon side, a second arcade conceived like a Parisian passage, is composed of more than 80 window displays of luxury fashion and accessories. A vast array of choices from a little black dress by Alexis Mabille to the collections of Dolce & Gabbana, a Jérôme Dreyfuss handbag or the latest Rolex watch are available there. A concept store dedicated to travel, beautiful books and Ritz branded products completes the souvenirs department. The spectacular Grand Jardin à la française comes with lime trees manicured to resemble those at Versailles and secret alcoves to remain hidden from view, while five suites created from scratch with roof terraces overlook it all. The Hemingway bar has been given a new lease of life with a new cocktail bar, mirrored walls and lacquered woods ready to host raucous nights at the Ritz.
While the 71 suites and the 71 rooms seem to have conserved their kitsch, with bed canopies in almond candy shades of powder pink, pistachio and golden yellow, the Coco Chanel suite has completely metamorphosed, preferring the house codes of black, cream and fabrics in Alcantara beige over the excessive décor of before. In the bathrooms gold plated swans heads and imitation rubies (to avoid any temptation for thievery, explains the direction) and gold tissue boxes all nail the bling factor and will no doubt satisfy the Middle Eastern clients and Russian billionaires. Televisions are housed within the mirrors and telephones are remote controls for the air conditioning, blinds and lights, keeping the old notion of hand held TV controls alive with pretty much the same effect.
A Ritz in short that’s not so different but with its handful of insanely grand gestures – from the tunnel beneath the Place Vendôme allowing direct access to the hotel without being seen to the first Chanel spa and restored swimming pool, from the gym club with its 7000 euro subscription and the Imperial suite at 28,000 euros a night – will continue to fire the fantasies of the entire world.
By Alexis Chenu