The Newly Renovated Hôtel de Crillon, Paris


I have long considered the Hôtel de Crillon to be the incarnation of Gallic elegance — more assuredly so than any other hotel in Paris. Why? First, this magnificent mid-18th-century limestone mansion overlooking the Place de la Concorde is a masterpiece of design both inside and out, from the beauty of its colonnaded façade to the exquisite frescoes of cherubim in the space that was, until recently, Les Ambassadeurs restaurant. I have eaten many a spectacular meal in this gastronomic temple, which was a showcase for some of the best chefs in France, notably Christian Constant and, more recently, Jean-François Piège. They also made a mean martini at L’Obélisque, a hotel bar the way I like them: carefully lit, casual, friendly and low-key. Then there was the authentically aristocratic service, with its graciousness, charm and occasional wry good humor.

Colonnaded facade of the Hôtel de Crillon
Colonnaded facade of the Hôtel de Crillon - Hôtel de Crillon

So it was with great expectations that I revisited this old friend when it opened at the beginning of July, following a four-year, $200 million renovation. (The Crillon is owned by Saudi prince Mitab bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and run by Hong Kong-based Rosewood Hotels.) I’d been traveling in France during the first weeks of the hotel’s relaunch, and so I’d seen the lavish coverage of the debut in the French press, with the two new interior courtyard spaces winning high praise from almost everyone, along with accolades for the new spa, which includes an indoor swimming pool with a clerestory roof, a fitness room, a hairdresser and a barber.

The Lobby

The distinctive black-and-white-marble harlequin floor of the lobby, long a visual emblem of the property - Raoul Dobremel
The beige-on-beige design of the new lobby after a four-year $200 million renovation - Hôtel de Crillon

On arrival, I immediately regretted the absence of the black-and-white-marble harlequin floor in the lobby that had long been a visual emblem of the property; in its place now is a vast expanse of beige stone. Overall I felt a bit lost. Eventually a bemused concierge directed me back to the front entrance, where reception now occupies a paneled space that once housed the hotel’s boutique. There the welcoming staff seated at large desks were attired in chic dresses and well-cut jackets by the young Parisian designer Hugo Matha. Prompt and efficient with check-in, they chatted amiably while we waited for our butler. When I mentioned I was sorry Les Ambassadeurs restaurant had become the hotel bar (with the same name attached), I was informed that this was part of the management’s plan to make the hotel popular as a rendezvous for Parisians themselves.

<em>Les Ambassadeurs</em> bar at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, France
Les Ambassadeurs bar at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, France - Hôtel de Crillon

On the way to our room, we were shown the courtyard gardens, with white wrought-iron furniture by the well-known garden designer Louis Benech. As we walked, our butler advised us that it would be a good idea to book a table in the hotel bar should we be planning a drink before or after dinner. When I asked her what would happen if we just wandered in on the spur of the moment, she replied that open seating is available only at the bar counter itself; I found this a rather dispiriting piece of information.

The Suite

Our Deluxe Suite overlooking one of the interior courtyards was glorious if rather snug at 550 square feet. The small cream-colored salon with oak parquet floors came with wall moldings, an impressionistic contemporary oil painting, a dove-gray two-seat sofa and a round black-lacquered side table stacked high with books and paired with an ivory leather armchair. A high ceiling made the space seem more spacious. The bedroom was dominated by a large Simmons bed made up with handkerchief-weight sheets and piles of pillows from Drouault, a traditional French luxury bedding manufacturer. The lighting was impeccable. The only thing lacking was a pocket door between the bedroom and the salon.

A Deluxe Room at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, France
A Deluxe Room at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, France - Hôtel de Crillon

The adjacent bath came with a white-marble double vanity and heaps of soft white towels with chic gray borders that, labels informed us, had been woven exclusively for the Crillon by the well-known Parisian firm VIS-A-VIS. Both the tub and marble-lined rainfall shower provided amenities — shampoo, soap, bath foam, conditioner and body lotion — from Buly 1803, the wonderful Left Bank store that makes all its products by hand from natural ingredients.

(It is worth noting that Paris fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has decorated two new suites at the Crillon, while the famous Suite Bernstein, named for the late composer, with its piano, private terrace and spectacular views over the Place de la Concorde, has been handsomely redecorated.)

The pool at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, France
The pool at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, France - Hôtel de Crillon

The Restaurant

After a swim in the hotel’s narrow new pool, we spent a languorous afternoon in our suite before heading downstairs for dinner at Brasserie d’Aumont, the hotel’s second restaurant. (I’d read unenthusiastic reviews of L’Ecrin, the hotel’s gastronomic table, and had decided that young chef Christopher Hache probably needed more time to settle in before I spent upward of €600 [$700] on dinner.) Alas, our meal in the brasserie was very unsatisfactory. Oysters ordered to accompany flutes of Champagne arrived long after the wine had been consumed, and we were given the terse and unacceptable explanation that “the kitchen had received several large orders for oysters all at once.” First courses of pâté en croûte and smoked salmon were disappointing too. The pâté was bland, and the salmon was served as two small, ungenerous canapés. A 40-minute wait then ensued before the arrival of our lackluster main courses of tepid sole meunière and pan-roasted chicken with mushrooms and a suprême sauce. Despite a large staff, the service was disorganized and offhand throughout our meal.

The young staff have clearly not had the training necessary to deliver the service expected at a hotel where the starting price of a room is $1,400 a night

Things did not improve: The table we’d booked in the bar for an after-dinner drink wasn’t ready when we arrived, the room’s cocoa-colored velvet armchairs were out of scale, the chandeliers were unattractive and all the magic of what had once been one of the most beautiful rooms in Paris had vanished. Ordering two Alsatian eau de vies, we also asked for a bottle of water. The drinks came promptly, but the water took 20 minutes to appear. We’d nudged the waiter several times, and his only reply had been “I’m very busy!”

Despite some minor caveats, the physical renovation of the Hôtel de Crillon is impressive. But the young staff have clearly not had the training necessary to deliver the service expected at a hotel where the starting price of a room is €1,200 ($1,400) a night. I expect Rosewood, which is clearly hoping this new property will appeal to affluent millennials as well as the hotel’s traditional clientele, will solve these problems eventually. However, for the time being, the flawless aristocratic hospitality of the old Crillon is conspicuous chiefly by its absence.

- Hotel at a Glance -

Hôtel de Crillon    94Andrew Harper Bird


Exceptionally comfortable and appealing rooms; attractive indoor pool and spa; overwhelming sense of French history.


The transformation of the once-magnificent Les Ambassadeurs into a bar; extremely poor service in the hotel’s brasserie.

Good to Know

The adjacent Rue Boissy d’Anglas has a heavy security presence guarding the American Embassy; opposite the front entrance, the Tuileries Garden is one of the most beautiful places in the world for a morning run.

Rates: Deluxe Room, $1,450; Deluxe Suite, $2,350.
Address: 10 Place de la Concorde.
Telephone: (33) 1-44-71-15-00.

View Hôtel de Crillon Hotel Listing

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