An alluring Asian escapade to Paris – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Let me take you to an unusual hotel located in a trendy district of Paris, the Faubourg Saint Honoré on the left bank of the Seine and from which you will be at walking distance from two sexy Asiatic art exhibitions in the “Pinacotheque” on Place de la Madeleine.
The 5 star Buddha-Bar Hotel opened in 2013 and is quite unique in Paris. It is located in a mansion-house built in 1734 by Augustin Blondel de Gagny who was the Great Master of the “Menus Plaisirs du Roi” (the King’s Small Pleasures). He actually was in charge of all ephemeral decorations for all celebrations at the court of Louis XV. But he is best known for being a connoisseur of the arts and for his collections: pieces of furniture, paintings, bronzes, lacquered Chinese wardrobes or Asian porcelains… After he died his collections were dispersed and many of the world’s greatest museums such as the Louvre or the Tate Gallery, bought and still own these “objets d’art”. It only looks as natural that a hotel set in such a predestined mansion should mix luxury and art!
Turning an 18th century building into an Asiatic-Parisian hotel without altering it was challenging but turned out to be a complete success! The decorators have used the Imperial colour-code of ancient China everywhere: red is a symbol of good fortune, black means righteousness and yellow was the colour strictly reserved for the Imperial family. Scattered through the hotel a few sculptures by Hiro Ando add a modern touch to it. When entering the hotel you will feel like a mandarin of the 18th century under the 120 red lanterns hung under the porch and the feeling will continue during all your stay. Follow the dragon printed on the yellow wall-to-wall carpet of the corridors to get to the black lacquered door of your room and enter a warm and luxurious cocoon. Golden-brown walls, purple curtains, oiled oak parquet floor, huge silky lamps and scarlet lacquered cupboards create a relaxing atmosphere. The bathrooms have been awarded “Best Parisian hotels bathrooms” in 2013 and truly are outstanding with their shiny red and gold mosaic walls, the big round bath engraved with a dragon, the large rain-like showerhead and the multifunction Japanese toilets! Whether your room overlooks the quiet Rue d’Anjou or the beautiful inner yard of the hotel be sure that you will enjoy a restful and silent night even though being at the heart of a trendy and lively part of Paris.
Five rooms in a row separated by big round openings closed with mirrors form the “Vraymonde”, the stylish restaurant of the hotel giving you a feeling of privacy. Rougui Dia is one of the few female chefs in France and was awarded the “Trofemina 2014” prize in recognition of her talent and innovative work in the art of gastronomy. After 10 years spent at Petrossianthe famous Parisian shop and restaurant dedicated to caviar, she was given “carte blanche” by the Buddha Bar managers to create a sensitive and subtle cooking mixing French recipes and produce with a touch of exoticism.
A new menu is made every 3 months using seasonal produce and the unusual associations of ingredients will delight your taste buds! The semi-cooked tuna served with a mango coleslaw, the Thai style prawns with coconut milk, peanut cream and coriander, the lobster ravioli, the rack of lamb and its “weeping tiger sauce” are a few examples of the imaginative flavours blends. Trust the maitre d’hôtel to guide you through the wide wine list, and wines by the glass will give you the opportunity to try new ones. Guy Darcel is head pastry chef and concocts mouth watering desserts: his Vanilla and Tonka broad bean Millefeuille is as light as a feather and his Manjori warm chocolate cake served with a Gianduja ice cream is so hard to resist to! Even if you’re not staying at the hotel it’s worth having dinner or Sunday brunch at the “Vraymonde”.
At the “Qu4tre” the hotel lounge bar, have one of their surprising cocktail. Remy Rodriguez and his team have created new cocktails with or without alcohol inspired by the “Four Elements”: Earth, Water, Air and Fire used by the ancient alchemists to make strange concoctions! Fortunately enough your drinks won’t be poisonous but will put you in the mood for the live music played every night from 8pm till late… Why not trying the “Green Zebra Bloody Mary “ served with a home made green tomato and basil compote with farmhouse bread toasts and one of the best French butter from the Bordier dairy in Saint Malo? It comes as no surprise that the “Qu4tre”was recently awarded Best Hotel Bar in Europe!
To stay in an exotic atmosphere you can go to the “Pinacothéque” museum located on Madeleine Square on the way from the hotel to Printemps and Galeries Lafayette the two main department stores of Haussmann Boulevard. At the Pinacothéque the two exhibitions will introduce you to the Asian art of love in ancient Japan and India.
The first exhibition called “Forbidden masterpieces of Japanese art at the time of the Geishas” shows us some of the most beautiful Japanese coloured prints made during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. They were only discovered by Europeans in late 19th century and were secretly collected by aesthetes and artists such as Klimt, Zola, Monet, Van Gogh… These erotic prints called “Shungas”, meaning Spring Images, were not cheap publications and most of them were produced by very famous artists of the time. Prints by Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige those 3 brilliant painters are on display at the Pinacotheque.
The second exhibition is called “Kama Sutra: Spirituality and Erotism in Indian Art” and shows us paintings, sculptures and other artefacts from the 7th to the 19th centuries. The Kama Sutra was written in Sanskrit, the sacred language, around the 4th century by a Brahman and is commonly misinterpreted as a pornographic book. It’s true that watching these artefacts a Western mind can hardly believe that this book actually was a guide for men and women throughout their lives to attain salvation. It isn’t the art of debauchery but it means to transform the act of love into a ritual meant to reach knowledge. Hard to understand for a sceptical European mind… However I wouldn’t recommend this exhibition for a young public.
Whether for a shopping city break in this busy and fashionable part of Paris or for a very special occasion with your loved one, many couples come for their honeymoon or to renew their vows, the Buddha Bar Hotel certainly is a smart choice!
Buddha Bar Hotel, 4 rue d’Anjou Paris
Pinacotheque, 28 place de la Madeleine Paris
The Japanese exhibition ends by February the 15th 2015
The Indian exhibition will end on January the 11th 2015
Text © Annick Dournes