A star was born when the thick, red-velvet curtains at No 42 Avenue Gabriel parted and the doors to La Reserve opened. Instant classic. Two years on, the instant has passed but the classic remains. La Reserve may well be the most thrillingly sensuous hotel in Paris – a city not unacquainted with such pleasures. It occupies a former hotel particulier, built in 1854 by Baron Haussmann as a present from Napoleon III to his half-brother, the Duc de Morny. One wonders what category of dwelling the baron might have been called upon to assemble had the emperor and the duke shared identical parentage.
The location does the place no harm – a macaron’s throw from the Place de la Concorde, with airy views across treetops towards the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower. However, as they say about all kinds of raving beauties, it’s what’s inside that counts. Credit for La Reserve’s inner loveliness goes to design panjandrum Jacques Garcia. He sweetly insists that he took his cues from the building itself and from the art of the period – in particular, a painting by James Tissot entitled Le Cerde de la me Royale. This is not wholly convincing. There’s nothing in Tissot’s insipid tableau to prepare anyone for the rampant sexiness of La Reserve. Happily, Garcia’s respect for the past appears to have been quite overwhelmed by his lust for saturated colours and strokeable textures. The opulence is shameless, and irresistible.