Spring Blooms at the Mandarin Oriental Paris
When I arrived in Paris for my father’s birthday celebration, the lilacs were in full bloom. The sun was peeking out from behind cherubic white clouds in a cerulean-blue sky. Locals lingered at outdoor sidewalk tables, languidly drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes with uncharacteristic smiles on their lips. Everyone loves Paris in the springtime; it is the perfect place for a milestone family celebration.
My family selected the Mandarin Oriental Paris for the festivities because of its enviable Place Vendôme-adjacent location, extraordinary culinary offerings from Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx, and its gold-standard spa. Having previously enjoyed the Mandarin Oriental’s Bangkok, Singapore, and Prague locations, we were delighted to experience this European outpost located just a short stroll from the Louvre and the Jardin de Tuilleries.
Location & Design
The Mandarin Oriental is situated on the elegant Rue Saint-Honoré, alongside venerable haute-couture houses such as Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermes, and Chanel. A gold cave-like entrance cheerily decorated with pastel pink and blue hydrangeas leads to a grand foyer with exquisite modern art pieces, plush plum fabric, and Swarovski crystals embellishments.
At first glimpse, the light-filled lobby is unmistakably Right Bank but at the same time au courant. Nathalie Decoster’s uplifting bronze sculpture “Air” welcomes visitors, framing a floor-to-ceiling view of the central atrium garden and the serene reflecting pool separating the elegant terraces of Camélia Restaurant (to the right) and Bar 8 (to the left).
Designer Sybille de Margerie has created continuity in design that extends throughout the interior spaces of the hotel by using a blend of understated Art Deco opulence and natural finishes—a chic departure from traditional French Baroque architecture.
In each of the spacious 99 rooms and 39 suites, modish fabric interpretations of the legendary fashion and portrait photographer Man Ray’s work welcome the travel-weary. My room is soothingly swathed in soft ivory silks with ecru and burgundy accents.
The dressing area is diplomatically divided into two sides with his and her sinks, each with its own gilded vanity mirrors and selection of diptyque toiletries.
The Mandarin Oriental’s signature hospitality shines in the small in-room details for the discerning guest: a petit gateau (small cake) from the patisserie to start your visit on a sweet note, Bang & Olufsen technology, and a Nespresso machine for that morning shot of espresso over your favorite newspaper.
No stay at the Mandarin Oriental would be complete without a visit to its world-class spa, and I was lucky enough to be invited on assignment to experience this delight for all the senses.
At the spa entrance, beautiful slate gray walls and ethereal, white Origami-style flower sculptures guide you through your transition from travel stress to tranquility. The sweet, sultry smell of candles and fresh flowers wafted through the air. At spa reception, I received a complete treatment evaluation based on Chinese medicine theory, changed into soft slippers, and indulged in some sips of green tea. I felt instantly transported from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the serene relaxation of the Orient.
I was escorted into one of seven private treatment suites—each with its own separate relaxation room with a small chaise, wardrobe, vanity sink, shower, and bathroom. After changing into a plush Frette bathrobe, my massage therapist reviewed my treatment profile and suggested the Revive morning oil made by Aromatherapy Associates, a heavenly blend of pine, mandarin orange, rosemary, and eucalyptus scents.
The soothing sound of Tibetan chimes signaled the start of the spa experience. The first treatment: a 50-minute Oriental Essence massage, designed for the fatigued traveler. After inhaling the intoxicating scent of Revive oil in three deep breaths, I was lulled into a semi-dreamlike state by a combination of long kneading strokes and targeted shiatsu-like pressure point relaxation techniques.
The second treatment: a blissful Revitalizing Eye Treatment, a 30-minute face, scalp, and shoulder massage. Black tea, cranberry, and strawberry herbal extracts were used to improve circulation and reduce dark circles under the eyes. A hydration masque with firming eye serum and triple rose moisturizer was applied, then a scalp massage with warm oil completed the ultimate relaxation. The Tibetan chimes sounded again, signaling the end of the treatment. As I slowly opened my eyes and came back to consciousness, I noticed the tiny, sparkling ceiling lights that looked like stars scattered across a beautiful night sky.
Back in the relaxation room, my massage therapist brought me a small gateau of raspberry and chocolate mouse on a cinnamon graham cracker crust and a cup of refreshing green tea to ease the transition back to the everyday pedestrian world.
Of course, if you aren’t ready to go back to reality, a quick dip in the pool can continue your otherworldly experience at the Mandarin Oriental Paris. A lap-size pool ends in a graceful waterfall streaming down a wall of subtly shimmering tiles. Elegant white-cushioned cabanas are punctuated with brightly colored poufs that encourage feet-up lounging.
Tranquil ambient music plays while a shadow projection of floating leaves and flitting butterflies moves across the wall, forming a hypnotic backdrop. In a small alcove fresh fruit, ice water with lemon, and hibiscus and blueberry ice tea are available for after-swim refreshment.
And don’t forget to enjoy the Hammam, tucked like a hidden grotto behind the waterfall at the end of the pool. Ensconced inside this Turkish bath, inhale eucalyptus-scented steam and gaze at the twinkling lights on the ceiling that change colors every few moments in a soothing pattern.
The Mandarin Oriental gym—modern, sleek, and clean—impresses with energizing cherry wood floors and a full range of fitness equipment that is rare for European hotels. Other amenities include fresh towels and a bottle of Evian at every cardio or weight station, international newspapers and magazines, headphones, and fresh fruit.
Breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental Paris is an international affair. The full continental “Paris Breakfast” buffet includes the traditional mouth-watering patisserie favorites of pain au chocolate, croissants, baguettes, and financiers, along with a selection of smoked meats and cheeses, cereals, and fruits.
If you don’t fancy a traditional Parisian breakfast, take a culinary flight to New York, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. The “New York, New York” features your choice of made-to-order eggs. The “Tokyo” breakfast is a savory mélange with miso soup, a dashimaki omelette, seaweed, and steamed rice. The “Hong Kong” breakfast offers five elegant dim sum pieces in a steamer basket and rice porridge with crispy you tao (a Chinese breakfast pastry).
Each breakfast is accompanied by your choice of freshly squeezed juices. My favorite was the smooth blend of fresh celery, lemon, and ginger juice. A chocolate drop embellished with a gold-insignia Mandarin Oriental fan was a sweet flourish in my morning cup of cappuccino.
For my father’s birthday dinner, the Mandarin Oriental Paris had an abundance of offerings for an evening of celebration. We choose Camélia for its inventive tasting menu and lovely garden terrace. Camélia is perhaps best known as Thierry Marx’s “other” restaurant after his much-lauded two Michelin Star restaurant Sur Mesure, but we found it holds its own.
Sitting in the garden at Camélia Restaurant, we couldn’t help but feel the magic of an enchanting spring evening. Small details set the scene for casual sophistication: the elegance of white flowers, the calm waters of the reflecting pool, the soft glow of lanterns in the trees, and the Christofle flatware sparkling at the table.
We opted for the five-course tasting menu that showcases Thierry Marx’s signature French cuisine infused with Asian influences. His culinary style incorporates elements of spring—such as pea shoots and fresh blossoms—in an overall orchestration that is light, elegant, and fresh.
The asparagus with onion emulsion was paired with a watercress cream. The cream was smooth and sweet like sorbet; it brilliantly contrasted with the salinity of the caviar garnish.
The sea bream tartare was light, delicate, and innovative in the use of kaffir lime, cucumber, and coconut parfait for depth and color. Finely minced red onion created a nice accent.
Calamari risotto with squid ink was creamy without sacrificing structure to the palate. Fresh green onions and sugar snap peas added a burst of spring flavors.
The chicken was slow-cooked to buttery, tender perfection. Pan-seared gnocchi and roasted artichokes completed the offering. It paired well with the 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Galets, Domaine des Hauts Chassis.
The tasting menu concluded with a delectable pastry of choice for dessert. And as the final flourish to the meal, the Camélia staff graciously presented my father with a gift box of Thierry Marx’s Cake Shop signature pastel macarons to enjoy along with petit fours and tea.
A Personal Touch
Since it’s these personal touches that truly distinguish a hotel of this caliber, the pièce de résistance of the weekend was the birthday cake—rich chocolate sprinkled with rice crisps and embellished with gold marzipan—that the Mandarin Oriental sent my father as a special gift. The cake was accompanied by a bottle of Bollinger champagne to help us celebrate; it was a thoughtful surprise and a fabulous way to wrap-up a lovely Paris spring weekend of family festivities.
Special thanks to the Mandarin Oriental Paris for hosting my spa experience.