I don’t come to Paris for the tourist sites. To hell with waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower, or the grueling 270-stair climb up to the Sacré Cœur.
I come to eat, to drink and to be seduced by the city. And the sumptuous, eccentric and oh-so-private Saint James Paris was a portal to the Paris of my dreams.
Set on a private estate in the heart of Paris, the Saint James’ neoclassical facade impressed me, almost intimidated. But don’t be fooled – this château is far from pretentious or stuffy. It is brimming with all the vibrance and flare of the Belle Époque.
The Saint James Paris is, quite literally, a château in the 16th arrondissement. With its own private front yard, herb garden and beehives, it feels a bit like an escape to the French countryside, but right in the centre of Paris.
The Saint James is to Paris what the Chateau Marmont is to Hollywood; a sultry hideaway in the middle of it all.
It functions as a private club by day and a boutique hotel, with 49 rooms and suites, by night. With a Michelin star restaurant on site, its culinary footprint is impressive for a property removed from the chaos of more central arrondissements.
In January 2017, Chef Jean-Luc Rocha, Best Craftsman of France (M.O.F.), joined the Saint James Paris bringing refined yet creative haute-cuisine to the hotel. Having grazed on some smaller plates while drinking cocktails one night, I can say it was one of the finest culinary experiences I’ve ever had.
Beyond the to-die-for cuisine, the cocktail bar, set in an old library, delivers the same level of brilliance in the beverage department. Head barman Judicaël Noël breathes the same creative excitement into his cocktail menu.
With mind-blowing food, cocktails and aesthetics, it begs the question – why bother leaving the hotel?
The Saint James Paris’ public spaces ooze colour, tempered flare, and excitement, something no doubt routed in its history. The property once functioned as Paris’ first Montgolfier airfield where hot air balloons would take to the sky. Pride for playing such a part in Paris’ past echos throughout the château – from the colourful hot air balloon staircase to the subtle iron chandeliers that, too, sport that same motif.
These details make you feel as though nothing has been left up to chance.
The stylistic vision of the Saint James Paris is quite deliberate. Designed to embody the flare of the 1890’s, it elegantly transports its guests into a time period when anything was possible. Captivated by this extravagant era in French history, designer Bambi Sloan was so taken with the building’s history that these themes are subtly intertwined it its every corner. It sometimes teeters between Alice and Wonderland and My Fair Lady.
The opulent surroundings of the hotel are complemented by the rich fragrances of Guerlain‘s L’Art et la Matiere collection hanging in the air. The Saint James Paris partnered with the classic Parisian perfumer to feature Guerlain products in their spa, washrooms and even public spaces.
Why not the Mandarin Oriental, or the Four Seasons?
These stylistic nuances are the je ne said quoi that the bigger hotels (ie. Four Seasons George V, Mandarin Oriental) just can’t seem to embrace. Perhaps it is the luxury of being a smaller, family owned hotel that makes it more agile, more apt to pushing the stylistic envelope, something Parisians take great pride in.
No doubt the mounted zebra heads in the lobby are a testament to the benefits of being nimble in the face of bigger luxury brands. It can take such risks, playing with sultry red velvet while the Four Seasons needs to stick to its branding fundamentals.
Beyond all else, the Saint James Paris treated my friends and I like absolute royalty. From the Concierge who secured us a last minute reservation at Le Jules Verne, to the barman who gently coaxed me into practicing my rusty French, to the delectable tray of sweets waiting for me in my room, the service was impeccable. It was intuitive and honest.
No other hotel in City of Light has left such an impression on me as the Saint James Paris. I will be hard pressed to stay anywhere else for fear of disappointment…that is until I try her newly-renovated sister property, Relais Christine, later this year… Sibling rivalry at its finest.
For those like the character of Adriana in Midnight in Paris who long to travel back to the Belle Époque, the Saint James Paris would be an ideal entry point.
Saint James Paris, 43 Avenue Bugeaud 75116 Paris, France
01 44 05 81 81; saint-james-paris.com