Didier Le Clavez on Paris

Famed hotelier, Didier Le Clavez, tells us more about recently renovated Hotel Le Bristol – the quintessence of French luxury and refinement….

Luxury seems an understatement when it comes to describing Hotel Le Bristol. This beautifully elegant offering represents the quintessence of French style and refinery. Even its namesake, the Count of Bristol, was relentless when it came to the best pleasures known to man – his hedonistic demands were notorious. So it’s only right such standards should be passed through titles. Located in the historically fashionable area of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in Paris, Le Bristol opened to popular acclaim back in the Roaring ‘20s and has done nothing but grow in stature ever since. The 2007 World Travel Awards prized it with ‘Europe’s Leading Hotel’ moniker; it was awarded its 5th star in June 2010 and, more recently, it became the first French hotel to be officially granted ‘Palace’ status – led, on the whole, by Didier Le Clavez.

This famed hotelier has been in the international hotel industry for 35 years, 18 of which were with the prestigious Four Seasons group, for whom he was Vice-President. He’s transformed the Pierre in New York and the Four Seasons George V in Paris and has won numerous awards for his efforts. Under his recent direction, Le Bristol launched a large-scale renovation that started in 2009 and has just about finished, with a new ‘Palace’ banner for its efforts.

Dider Le Calvez, Chief Executive Officer of Hotel le Bristol, Paris…

Le Bristol underwent extensive expansion and renovation in the last decade. What changes does the hotel plan in the next five years?

The question should not be what we’re going to do but what we’ve done. The hotel has been completely renovated with over 110 million Euros spent in the last few years. There’s a new La Prairie spa, an Epicure restaurant. And this year we’re reinvigorating another 28 rooms. Then, around July time, we’ll start work on a new bar – a brand new one in a new area, run as part of Le Bristol. It’s not totally finalised but we’re working with Pierre-Yves Rochon on the designs.

Last year, Le Bristol was granted a ‘Palace’ rating by the French Ministry. How do you achieve such honour?

We were the first of eight to get the award. You have to be a 5* hotel to start with, then you apply and that gets commented on by a third party – it’s a complete process.

Le Bristol’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Epicure, stands as of the one the World’s finest. Where else do you advise guests to try when they visit Paris?

It all depends on what you want. For seafood I like Marius et Janette. For classical – Alain Ducasse  and Pierre Gagnaire. I also like the eclectic style of Hotel Costes.

With a hospitality career well into its fourth decade, you must have travelled much of the world. Which city do you most look forward to visiting and why?

Everywhere you can find something to enjoy. It’s the diversity of all the major cities that makes it interesting. Moscow is fascinating. St. Petersburg in the winter takes you to a totally different world that many westerners will never have seen. It’s like the city hasn’t changed for the last couple of hundred years. It’s been amazing to watch the growth of Shanghai too. I went there 30 years ago and the growth is mind-boggling.

I’m not saying they’re my favourite cities – I’m merely observing.

You spent many years in New York running first the Plaza, then the Pierre. When you return to the city where do you choose to eat, sleep and play?

I always try to go back to the Pierre. Then, for hotels – Mondrian, Carlyle, St. Regis.

Restaurants – Jean-Georges and Daniel Boulud. They’re both very creative chefs with a variety of restaurants.

I do not party. The bar in The Four Seasons   is still a very good spot in New York though.

Mondrian Soho, one of the best hotels in New York

What has been the greatest challenge of your career thus far?

I think every job is a challenge. The first time working in Korea was especially challenging because many of the employees were non-English speaking. But I have no specificity.

What are you looking forward to in 2012?

I’m looking forward to a very very good year for Le Bristol. We’ve been fully renovating it since 2009. So 2012 is the first year that we can open the hotel without any construction. A couple of other hotels are now closing for renovation too – The Ritz, for example, will be closed this summer – so, naturally, we’re looking forward to the customers coming from there.

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