There’s nowhere quite like Paris. The City of Light lifts the spirits and imbues the soul with a certain je ne sais quoi – you come home after the briefest of stays feeling chic, elegant and channelling the Bridget Bardot of the 50s (you beautiful thing, you).
Naturally though, where to eat is always an important case in point (to be debated and discussed for sure) but for exquisite gastronomy and variety of cuisine in those all-important palatial surroundings, the Shangri-La Paris is arguably the brightest jewel in the Parisian culinary crown. Once the mansion of Prince Roland Bonaparte (Napoleon’s grand nephew), this beautiful building is now home to some of the finest food in the capital and is opening its doors for a decidedly unmissable Festival of Gastronomy – a fine excuse for a visit (let’s face it, not that we needed one).
But come on, come on. You’re famished I know. So I’ll cut to the chase. The luxury hotel’s first restaurant, L’Abeille (meaning The Bee in French, referring to the imperial insignia of the Bonaparte family) specialises in classical French gourmet cuisine. It has two shining Michelin stars to its name and overlooks a stunning garden in the French style (we’re talking theatrical urns positively overflowing with flowers). Dine on pan-seared Queen scallops with lovage and citrus or fresh lobster from Chausey, all beneath a smoked-crystal chandelier. Ambiance? The elegant trill of bird song accompanies the sheer extravagance of it all, and then there’s the plush interiors designed by esteemed decorator, Pierre-Yves Rochon. Dress code: chic (quelle surprise).
For something a little more relaxed – though no less chic – La Bauhinia (named after the five-petalled orchid that graces the flag of Hong Kong) offers contemporary French and South East Asian food. This is the social hub of the hotel, flooded with natural light owing to the domed glass ceiling. As well as the a la carte menu with signature dishes such as roasted saddle of milk-fed lamb, La Bauhinia also offers a superfood charged ‘B-green’ brekkie to detoxify, fill you with energy and get the skin glowing. Drinks include fresh lemon water heated to precisely 37.5°C to reinforce the immune system as well as a powerhouse green juice of apples, cucumber and peppermint. Nibble on buckwheat and quinoa crispbreads smothered with antioxidant-packed spreads, from black olive and spirulina to black bean with carob, as well as avocado carpaccio drizzled with omega 3 rich perilla oil. It’s fine way to start the day.
La Bauhinia is also home to the city of light’s only vegan afternoon tea. Amid the chinking of porcelain cups and saucers, you can opt to feast on the light and delicate Calisson (a mousse made from Sicilian oranges, atop an almond financier biscuit), noble chestnut and blackcurrant Mont-Blanc, and a powerful, pure Peruvian-origin chocolate tart… all to be enjoyed without moderation, naturellement! Numerous other hand-crafted patisseries are also there to be sampled from the generously laden stands, as well as Earl Grey-infused scones and delectable mini sandwiches. Marie Antoinette would definitely approve.
But if you only have one night to fill with gastronomic indulgence make it an inspired cocktail as Le Bar Botaniste (we recommend The Bumble Bee – a concoction of cognac and lavender honey, topped off with a delightful honeycomb wafer), followed by dinner in Shang Palace: France’s only Michelin starred Chinese restaurant. Head chef Samuel Lee creates the most unforgettable Cantonese-inspired food: shimmering gold-leaf shrimp dumplings, tender morsels of sucking pig topped with caviar (you know, as you do) and even fried frogs legs in full-flavored porcini sauce are all on the special tasting menu for the Festival. Dine in the fine surroundings waited on hand and foot, all while a musician plucks away on the guzheng (a sort-of Chinese harp). Magic.
Of course, situated just by the Eiffel Tower and a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysees, this glamorous destination couldn’t be more ideally situated for exploring Paris. Wander past the pavement cafes, gaze at the imposing facade of Notre Dame or while away an afternoon in Louve… Or don’t. After such gastronomic indulgence the most likely thing you’ll want to do is head to your elegantly-toned blue, gold and cream room and flop into your indecently-sized bed, and watch Paris glisten and gleam through the floor to ceiling French windows. If ever there was a room with a view, this is it – the Eiffel Tower is so close you can practically hang your towel on it.
So ditch the long haul flights to wherever and use the money to hop across the channel on the Eurostar (treat yourself to business class and sit back with Le Figaro and champers). With a decadent spa and glorious pool, as well as three superb restaurants, the Shangri-La is the possibly the only location in Paris where the sights might just play second fiddle to the hotel itself…
The festival of gastronomy runs from 25 October – 1 November; you can book tickets here. For more information and to book, see the Shangri-La Paris Hotel’s website or telephone (33) 1 53 67 19 64. Rooms at Shangri-La Paris start from €675 per room per night. Eurostar tickets in Business Premier Class with food designed by Culinary Director Raymond Blanc are £245.