At Number 10 Place de la Concorde, a Parisian legend is preparing to make its big comeback. At long last, the Hôtel de Crillon is opening its doors after four years of renovation work. We slipped behind the scenes a few days before it opened, and met with some of the people behind this renaissance.
Time for the dress rehearsal. Here, a stairway’s decorative bannister. There, we tried cocktails so that everyone can find their perfect drink. Throughout, we counted the days, hours, and minutes that remained before we could at last throw wide open the doors of the new Crillon.
The Director, Marc Raffray, welcomed us in the Salon des Batailles, where he presented his vision of a palace for the 21st century.
“The palace needed brought up to date! Anyway, here we see it as much more of a home than a palace. We will be helping all of our guests to feel just a little bit Parisian for the duration of their stay with us, to feel like they belong to the city. That’s what our concierge staff are here to do, and it’s also helped along by some of the details, like the employee dress code. It isn’t a uniform and means that all of my staff feel comfortable and embody a certain French way of life.”
The Chef, Christopher Hache, showed us around his new restaurant: L’Ecrin. He told us what he’s been up to for the last four years.
“I took advantage of the Crillon’s closure to travel. Our guests travel so much, so it’s interesting to see what they experience elsewhere. The best chefs in the world invited me into their kitchens, in New York, Chile, Peru, Singapore, and Japan... When I got back, I was able to invent the restaurant that I wanted, with a touch of creativity applied everywhere, and not just on your plate. What I wanted was to have a really tiny restaurant, where I could pamper my 24 covers and make every night a real experience for them.”
Estelle Lamotte, Director of Catering, joined us in the refurbished space of the old restaurant. Transformed into a magnificent bar, it has held on to its name: Les Ambassadeurs.
“Just before it opens, we start putting theory into practice so that the choreographed routine that is each shift becomes fluid and effortless. My challenge is to enable each of my staff to spontaneously interact with our customers with enthusiasm and sincerity. Because nowadays, luxury is the time we gift ourselves, and the time granted to us by others. The interaction that takes place in a service context is of fundamental importance.”
Tristan Auer, Designer, unveils the new, and pleasingly masculine Barber Shop, Shoe Shine, and Smoking Lounge.
“It all comes down to the millimetre-precision placement of the seats, the accuracy of the lighting. It’s about the pacing that we create in the customer experience, so that they always feel that they are being looked after. The style doesn’t matter. We could have done something neo-punk and it would have worked just as well! You don’t come back to the Crillon because it looks good, you come back because it makes you feel good.”
Our tour conclude on the first-floor, in the Salon Marie-Antoinette with Richard Martinet, the architect. He fills us in on the excitement of the past four years.
“We had an army working for us. 5 interior designers. 147 artisan companies. Up to 800 people working on the site at the same time... Our job was to coordinate it all, so that we were all on the same page. And the result of this unified vision, is the Crillon. A hotel that is as opulent as it is unassuming. An almost intimate space. It’s the scale that makes the difference, because originally it was a private residence.”
The next chapter in the story of the Crillon begins at 10 Place de la Concorde on 5 July…