Travel review - Hotel Pont Royal, Paris
PUBLISHED: 13:56 11 December 2013 | UPDATED: 13:56 11 December 2013
Michelle Lewis visits the evocative Parisian hotel the American literati of the early 20th century flocked to
The expat American literati of the 1920s loved Paris – and they particularly loved bars. The mahogany-lined haunt at the Hotel du Pont Royal in Paris’ Saint Germain-des-pres district was a favourite of such writers as F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller. And nearly a century later, this intimate hotel bar, with its leather club chairs and wooden parquet floors, is still a great place to wax lyrical over a cocktail or a glass of champagne.
The hotel, which is four blocks from the Seine and just around the corner from the Musee D’Orsay, features mixed drinks named after the famous expat writers (for example, a rum mixture for Hemingway, and champagne and Chambord for Miller). The Pont Royal is also offering a Gatsby in Paris package until December 31, which includes a stay in the panoramic suite, breakfast, chocolates and cocktails, and a private walking literary tour that explores the writers’ favourite haunts.
My husband and I went for a Saturday night stay at this intimate 19th century hotel on the Left Bank. The neighbourhood is one of my favourites in Paris – we enjoy peering through the shop windows at everything from modern sculpture to 17th century antiques to rainbows of cashmere jumpers. We also spent a very relaxed Sunday morning browsing the Orsay’s outstanding Impressionist and Art Nouveau collections well before the crowds arrived.
The Pont Royal enjoys the distinction of being adjacent to the swanky, two-Michelin-starred l’Atelier Joël Robuchon. Having previously had the privilege of dining at Robuchon’s London venue, I would have gladly enjoyed it again, but unfortunately we didn’t plan well enough: it’s booked up months in advance. If you’re not in a position to book ahead but determined to have a taste of Robuchon’s outstanding small-plate cuisine, never fear: Pont Royal guests are able to order a portion of the menu as room service.
The cuisine is known as casual fine, and that’s how one could describe the Pont Royal’s rooms, so indeed, it’s an appropriate space to enjoy extra-special room service. Rooms are understated, tasteful and comfortable, with fluffy bathrobes and fine toiletries. We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel lobby to walk round the corner in the pouring rain for filet mignon and lemon tart at Le Bistrot de Paris on Rue de Lille, and afterwards, happily settled into our room’s big, comfortable bed for a great night’s sleep.
Breakfast, for me, is the true test of a hotel’s quality, and the Pont Royal did not disappoint. In their breakfast room, which overlooks the small but charming Japanese garden, their fruits and juices were fresh (not the dreaded canned fruit), the pastries were freshly baked, eggs were made perfectly to order, and coffee was served with a smile. The true test of our French breakfast staff came when a large table of boisterous Americans asked them in English for ‘to-go’ cups for their complimentary coffees. (Disclosure: I’m American.) I watched this scene unfold with great interest: Would the French waiters dismiss this request with disdain? Nope. They cheerfully brought the Americans takeaway cups, and sent them on their way with a wave and a ‘have a good day’. Whether guests are literati or not, thePont Royal still knows how to make Americans – and everyone else – feel welcome.