Review: The Peninsula, Paris

The Peninsula, Paris
Room type: Deluxe suite

Duration: 16th > 19th November
Booked with: Amex FHR

Out of the blue, Paris has become my second city.  In the same way that your step-son will always be a no good, creature of questionable worth, Paris is no match for London.  But after years of disliking it and all things French, this is now my 3rd visit in 14 months and 2nd within the last 2 months.  Having stayed at Le Bristol, La Reserve and now The Peninsula, there are still at least 5 other hotels I would like to stay in before I consider myself even remotely au fait with the Paris hotel scene, but I’m ready to take on this immense challenge during these challenging times.

The Peninsula Paris Entrance
The Peninsula Paris Entrance

Pre-sales

Staying at The Connaught so regularly has saved me a lot of money over the years.  Honestly.  There is logic in here, I promise.  There are so many wonderful people I’ve met there who have moved onto other luxury properties, each always making the visit that somewhat more special.  Just in the last 14 months: Le Bristol Paris, Hotel Cafe RoyalThe Beaumont, The Corinthia and now The Peninsula Paris.  The room is often setup perfectly, the warmth of being greeted by the staff adds an extra buzz to it, and of course, the upgrades are often forthcoming – none rarely more so than dealing with the F&B Director of The Peninsula Paris, who worked some magic and managed to snag me a triple upgrade.  It was still not the smoothest experience, with back and forth between AMEX, The Peninsula reservations team and the F&B Director, but the outcome made everyone English happy, i.e. me.   Contrast to The Mandarin Oriental, who receive all my weekly allocated brownie points for coming back immediately and even then following it up so professionally.  Whilst I did not stay there this time, they have guaranteed my arrival at some point in the near future, those lucky swines.  

Getting there

Sometimes life gives you lemons, so what better way to make lemonade than in a Rolls Royce?  The Peninsula has a long-term relationship with Rolls Royce; one that has lasted a lot longer than any relationship I’ve ever had, unless you count my unbreakable loyalty to Domino’s pizza.  The last time I tried a Rolls was in The Wellesley hotel in London, where all guests can receive a complimentary transfer within 2 miles of the hotel.  I was hoping The Peninsula would extend that to say 35 miles and give it as a freebie, but alas, the French can rather be stuck in their ways.

Upon landing, someone was waiting just minutes from the plane door, ready to take our luggage and whisk us through fast-track immigration and straight to the Rolls.  It’s very slick, but it’s hard to beat the Amanzoe helicopter arrival, where they greet you from the plane door, take you down the ambassador immigration line and then have you out of the airport in about 3 minutes.  The main benefit to the entire experience felt like at the end, where Geoffrey, the head of guest relations, greeted us from the car door and took us straight to the suite. He still stick in my memory far longer than the Rolls Royce, as he was the epitome of professionalism and made the first interactions with this hotel to be as close to perfect as it can be.  I may now love another man who isn’t my father.

If there’s anything I learnt from this experience it is thus: Rolls Royces are expensive and, maybe, just maybe – ok, definitely – , not worth the price.  They could have also improved the experience by offering drinks within the car that were on my stay list.  Now that would have been exceptional service.  Get on it, Geoffrey, I thought you were the one.

Rolls Royce pickup
Rolls Royce pickup

Setting

Just mere minutes from the Arc De Triomphe, or as I see it – and all sensible human beings will do too – minutes from the underground station that takes you 40 minutes to get to Disneyland.

The entrance
The entrance

Stay List

Just as I was being wowed by Geoffrey being the most welcoming Frenchman to a foreigner since 1940, I was further awed by the incredible and almost gratuitous amount of food on offer within the suite on arrival.  This was amongst the most impressive stay lists I’ve ever seen for a city hotel, and one of the most impressive I’ve had at all.  It’s unfair to start comparing a 3 night stay in a city hotel to luxury resorts costing north of £4,000/n, so if you remove those, The Peninsula may well be the best one yet.

Macaroons
Welcome food

Rooms

Let me start off sounding incredibly ungrateful right away: I really did not enjoy the room. See reader(s?), I am that heartless that someone giving me a triple upgrade still offers no bias.  I am truly the last great hope we have in travel journalism.

Having stayed at La Reserve Paris last month, there is no competition between which hotel offers the better suites. The room at La Reserve may have “only” been 75sqm (vs 85sqm at The Peninsula), but it was so well thought out and every inch of space utilised, that it echoed how you would want your house.  It felt perfect; the decor, the layout, the style.   Walk into a hallway with a guest bathroom, then have the living room, walk through that to the bedroom, from that to the bathroom.

The Deluxe Suite was a mess in comparison.  You walk into the hallway, with a guest bathroom to your left, then straight in front of you is the bedroom, or you can turn left down the worlds longest corridor to find the worlds most pointless living room.  It has zero personality to it; it feels like it was designed for a businessman who enjoys ironing and eating the same spinach smoothie for breakfast for the last 40 years.  Its layout is baffling to the extreme.

They have given you this massive wardrobe area, but at the expensive of the living room being practical.  The entire living room feels like it was added on as an after thought, with the sofa being so tiny that your pet hamster would struggle for space, and the lack of a dining room table meaning you’ll have to eat all your meals stood up or from a bowl they presumably throw on the floor.  In the end, we used it once in our entire stay, which was when we checked in and started eating all the amazing cakes.  I live in a 3 storey house, meaning if I’m upstairs and need to go downstairs, it better be for a pretty good reason.  In the Deluxe Suite, going to the living room feels equally arduous.  Oh, how hard life is when the size of your suite bothers you. It’s not quite The Connaught’s Apartment, where it is so large that you have a sofa in the middle of it, but it feels like it could be getting close.

At least they were very generous with what is on offer, including 2 free minibars, constant refill of fruit, free movies and even daily cakes. The bathroom is also faultless and a work of art, but I would not choose a hotel based on how nice my surroundings are when nature calls.

Bedroom
Bedroom

Then we come onto the tech, normally one of my favourite subjects.  Yet not here.  Here they have decided that anything which could be done with one button will instead require a manual.  Or as we found out, an engineer.  Someone, who had probably never stayed in a hotel before, or maybe even met another human being, decided to go overboard on tech.  I love tech in hotels; done properly it makes life easier and can even improve the overall experience.  Here it was really superfluous. Here they have so much tech that they scan your passport in your own room, as you have a built in scanner.  Here they decided that with all this tech, the one thing guests didn’t need was actually a fast Internet connection.

In-room dining menus have started to become the fad to have on a tablet, even if, like here, there are only 3 options viewable at a time and it takes 6 months to work through the menu.  The fact that the tablets also kept crashing wasted another 3 months of my life.

Every room is void of light switches, but instead has a touch screen panel that has all the available controls. On the first night at 2am, all of these were lit up in the bedroom. As the night light controls are right beside the bed, it was like having a torch shining in your face, so we called down for an engineer to come up. He was there within 5 minutes and all he could do was shut the entire system off and said he would come back in the morning to try and fix it properly. When we woke up in the morning it was like being in a horror film, as due to the entire system being shut off, it meant no lights could be turned on and not even the curtains could be opened, as it’s all electronic. It meant using iPhone torches to get dressed and work our way out of the room.

Even with it fixed, going to bed was always a pain, as I would turn off the lights then have to wait for the control panels to turn off. They are controlled by light, so any light and they will turn on. So I would lay there for a few minutes to see them turn off in the bedroom but not dressing area or bathroom, so had to get up and turn those off, then some lights were coming on by the TV so had to close that, then occasionally the tablet screens would just turn on, so had to face them down on the floor.

After finally getting to sleep, I was woken up at 6am every day from the dustbin truck turning up to remove all the waste.  This was loud.  Not like hearing a mouse fart, but seriously loud like they let loose some monkeys into my room that started smashing all the china.

Wardrobes
Bathroom
Living room
Tech overload
More tech
Free minibar
Loooooong hallway

The room is simply not inspiring.  It is not somewhere you would want to spend a long period of time in; some is down to the feeling from the decor, but mostly it’s the lack of light coming in.  It’s far too dark to give the warmth of La Reserve Paris or The Connaught.  It suffers from the same feelings I have of most rooms at The Beaumont.  It doesn’t feel like whoever designed it had actually spent more than an hour in it before signing it off.  Even the TV doesn’t come out fully from the wall, so you’re struggling to watch TV from bed properly.  For a new hotel, some of their decisions are bizarre.

Amenities

  • 3 restaurants in Lili, L’Oiseau Blanc and Le Lobby
  • Le Bar
  • Outdoor terrace
  • Cigar lounge
  • Most disappointingly is the number of shops on the ground floor, which is charmless

Spa

The spa is phenomenal. The service at the spa is just awesome, with omnipresent staff refusing to allow me to do as much as open the door for myself.  The pool even has lifeguards, who were so friendly and handsome that I started to question my sexuality.  If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you will know that my ideal weekend is lounging around in The Connaught down by the pool. The Peninsula’s setting is very similar: a warm environment with the background sound of water. Oh, and in my 6 hours (try not to judge) of being there, not a single person came down.  The hotel was apparently at full capacity, so 200 rooms and not a single other person wanted to go down to the spa? Madness! The room comes with 2 bathrobes, just for being in your room, plus another 2 for going down to the lounge.  It has the most comfortable loungers I’ve ever used, along with such a beautiful setting that contains not one but 2 freaking jacuzzis. Anything that warns me that spending too long in it could be bad for me as it’s too hot is only tempting me to spend more time there.  There’s also separate changing rooms that have a thermal suite of sauna, steam room and rainfall shower, if that’s your thing.  Oh, and a gym, but for me, those things are like holy water to a vampire.

Pool
Pool
Pool and jacuzzi
Pool and jacuzzi
Loungers

Activities

You know my standard line on city hotels by now.

Food

The Connaught’s food offering used to be mediocre at best, but indisputable was that it was overpriced.  Then a new F&B Director joined and completely transformed its offering, turning it from a place to eat if nothing else was available, to a place worth visiting to eat.  Early reviews of The Peninsula Paris’ food were also underwhelming, yet since the new F&B Director joined, it is now one of its highlights.

On the first day, and for the time time in their history, Le Lobby was shut for breakfast due to an event.  Well, they say it was for an event, but deep down I will forever believe they did it just for me.  This meant they moved breakfast to L’Oiseau Blanc, which provided excellent views of the Eiffel Tower all whilst stuffing my face with the nicest French toast ever created (sorry, Amanzoe, your crown is null and void).  The worst thing with finding something so good on my first day is that I will not try anything else, so I can only confirm breakfast is amazing if you like French toast and hot chocolate.  Luckily I had company for this trip, so could tell at least get another view.  That view allowed me to learn that the Wellness Breakfast will not leave you feeling very well.  Maybe, and this is a big maybe, it’s healthy, but it must contain at least 90,000 calories and looks more like what Marie Antoinette had in mind with her most famous quote.  Do also learn from my ignorance that crepes have nothing on them, yet us not-quite-so-sophisticated cultures have bastardised them with all the toppings.

Each morning the breakfast begins with a new, small, refreshing drink.  Then the waiter kindly reminded us that only American breakfast was free, so would we prefer that?  It turned out that all of breakfast was free, but at least the thought was there.

Whilst staying at La Reserve in October, I had a very enjoyable dinner at Lili, so went for lunch this time. It’s basically a version of Hakassan, if Hakassan offered anything even resembling service. The food was once again excellent and I would be surprised if it were not to win a Michelin star. It was impressive to see that every time we sat down our allergies were read back to us and recommendations around them – it’s something I’d see at an Aman, but in a 200 room hotel with so many restaurants, it must be quite tricky.  Dinner in Le Lobby was wonderful as well. The only disappointment I felt was L’Oiseau Blanc, where the only thing worthy of the large price tag (albeit tiny for Paris) was the dessert and the view of the Eiffel Tower.  It offers excellent produce, but bland and boring food. Every other meal was excellent, with great service.

Even with the disappointment of L’Oiseau Blanc, I would rate The Peninsula Paris as amongst food I’ve ever had in a hotel.

L’Oiseau Blanc
Finest French toast known to man
View from L’Oiseau Blanc

Service

The service was a mixture of exceptional and “could do better”.   There were times where it felt rather cold, such as the front desk having no desire to temporarily look after our bugs and sending us off to concierge instead, only for the doorman to realise their mistake and luckily intervene.  Then for dinner in Le Lobby, one of the waitresses was rude when we wanted to order room service menu, which we decided on as there was no way you could realistically order it to the room.  Her response was to tell us that it wasn’t a good idea and treat us with disdain for asking, but she did go check and then confirm that we could. Luckily I know to double check everything anyone ever does, as I also asked the concierge to print Disneyland tickets and they simply printed off the email I sent them, that in big, bold writing said “do not print this email, as it is not a ticket”.

If they did not have the shops in the lobby it could work much better, as too many people are coming and going, all of which must make it difficult for staff to get to know who are customers.

Most of the time it’s so professional, friendly and slick that it feels incomprehensible that they could let some bad apples in.  You then counter the negatives with Geoffrey’s initial excellence, but also his follow-up after our first night to check if we were ok.  All of the staff at the spa; the doormen, all the restaurant staff (excluding that one lady), the room service and nice touches of housekeeping going overboard with even the dental kits being restocked daily. On checkout, I wanted to take some further pictures in L’Oiseau Blanc, so someone from guest relations took me upstairs to do so.  Then on departure they spent 15 minutes talking to me, making sure everything was fine and waving me off.  For a city hotel, the arrival and departure must rank as the best I’ve ever seen, so just some tweaking in the in between bits and they’ll be a-ok.

Worth Knowing

What has surprised me the most over the last 12 months is the willingness of hotels to negotiate.  Paris has frequent offers on with AMEX FHR and Virtuoso, with a lot of 3-for-2 or 4-for-3 night stay offers on, but I would still go further than that and contact the hotel directly to see if you can negotiate anything further.  Don’t ask, don’t get.

The Good

  • Excellent location

The Bad

  • The rooms need an entire rethink

The Luxurious

  • Phenomenal food offering
  • Superb spa

Conclusion

The Peninsula does some things really, really well, and others not so well. Based on having stayed 3 nights at Le Bristol, La Reserve and the Peninsula in the last 14 months, I would stay at La Reserve, but eat at The Peninsula and hope I can sneak into their spa.

It has impressed me, but I have yet to find my Paris home. I think I’ll try the Mandarin Oriental next time and then weep if the spa is not as good.

Hallway to shops, restaurants and lobby

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