By John O’Ceallaigh
The Collection portfolio of exclusive-use villas, residences and hotels in France, the UK, US and St Barts is not, as yet, widely known, but its latest launch in Paris, Masion Villeroy (known before the pandemic made exclusivity even more attractive as Hotel Particulier Villeroy), stands out so clearly among all the city’s recent arrivals that this nascent brand is one I’ll be watching with interest. The last property I stayed in before Covid-19 swept through Europe, this tiny hotel does a lot of things differently – and for the most part impressively.
Just off Avenue George V, a five-minute walk from the Seine and with the Eiffel Tower visible from some of its higher-level bedrooms, the property can legitimately claim to be the most exclusive hotel in Paris. Its inventory extends to just 11 keys, B&B rates start at €900 per night and the hotel is completely inaccessible to members of the general public. Only guests and the very limited number of largely local patrons who will be permitted to join the hotel’s members’ club will have access to its bar, restaurant, spa and gym.
The hotel’s focal point, Trente-Trois is an exceptionally handsome oak-panelled restaurant overseen by Michelin-starred chef Sebastien Sanjou. His French-European menu is unusually limited – whether for lunch or dinner I was restricted to the same four starters, four main courses and three desserts throughout my stay – but beautifully executed. To begin, blue lobster from Brittany was served with seasonal vegetables and tarragon jus; coming in at about €57 apiece, mains included a decent line-caught sea bass with shellfish stock, Jerusalem artichoke and cabbage.
Beside it, the truly elegant, flatteringly lit salon-style bar Jean Goujon specialises in rare Japanese whiskeys and serves the “perfect” Old Fashioned, according to a friend who joined me for a cocktail and considers himself a connoisseur on that matter. We wished, however, that we weren’t the only guests propping up the bar on Saturday night.
Though a sense of exclusivity sounds alluring in theory, it was clear that it didn’t always work in practice at Masion Villeroy. I wished as well for more vibrancy in the restaurant, where I was often the only diner and felt somewhat self-conscious as a result (and where without the distraction of a companion I fixated on wait times for meal delivery that were far too long). It was recognition of that occasional paucity of atmosphere that prompted The Collection CEO Jacques Oudinot to introduce the membership club, an initiative that was just being introduced when I visited in early March but which should hopefully reap dividends when normality returns to Paris.
More generally, however, Oudinot seems sincerely keen that word of Masion Villeroy doesn’t spread too broadly and plans on capping the membership list at 100 people. Similarly, the idea of chasing ‘palace’ status, the better-than-five-stars categorisation awarded to the most lavish French hotels, doesn’t appeal: “it can be more of a headache than it’s worth,” he told me. Don’t expect an equivalent to Jeff Leatham’s crowd-drawing floral displays at the nearby Four Seasons George V to appear here any time soon.
In any case, when travel again opens up it shouldn’t take too much for the property to reach 100 percent occupancy. Rooms, standard suites and two signature ‘apartments’ are beautifully finished and feel exceptionally lavish – it’s clear no expense has been spared here. All different and some with oversized fireplaces made from single slabs of Calacatta marble, rooms feature Vispring beds and bespoke furniture by Italian brand Promemoria. Butler service comes as standard for all. Toiletries are by brilliant French brand Buly – the only other hotel in the world that stocks their wares is Rosewood Hotels’ nearby Crillon. (Buly-branded treatments are also available in the subterranean spa, which features a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi alongside its two treatment rooms.)
That relatively small scale also gives the property real legitimacy as an exclusive-use venue. Dating from 1908, the building was constructed as a private mansion and is perfectly proportioned and equipped to serve as a standout venue for a special birthday, wedding party or landmark anniversary. With no more than four bedrooms on each storey, there’s also the option of smaller groups reserving a floor in its entirety. Whatever guests choose to do, discretion is assured.
B&B rates at Masion Villeroy start from €900 per night.