The 16th arrondissement is to Paris what Chelsea is to London — an elegant hub of streets awash with lavish homes and countless museums and galleries. Despite being just a short walk from the Eiffel Tower and the banks of the beautiful River Seine, this well-heeled area is refreshingly free of tourists.
Standing proud on a street corner is the ironically named Hotel Square. Designed by renowned architect Roger Taillibert, the boutique hotel’s striking exterior is a fusion of swirling grey-green Indian granite, sliced horizontally by dramatic mirrored windows. It packs a punch in this very traditional area, with guests who enter the quirky hotel immediately confronted with an impressive contemporary art exhibition across a four-storey exhibition wall in the lobby.
We began our culinary adventure at the hotel’s Zebra Café, where we devoured an array of feathery light brioches and fresh fruit. The charming waiter came armed with an extensive artisan tea menu, which tempted us to switch our regular coffee for a Pink Raspberry number (although the ‘Purple Emotion’ blend also sounded rather intriguing). Open all day, the café serves a simple selection of classic French dishes. In balmier months guests can dine alfresco on the popular foliage-fringed terrace.
We also headed to the Four Seasons George V’s acclaimed Le Cinq restaurant, where we were delighted by a duet of white and green Provencal asparagus with lemon gnocci, deep-fried ewe’s milk cheese and an intriguing liquorice foam – it was the most succulent asparagus I have ever eaten.
My main course was just as impressive; a perfectly cooked chop of milk-fed veal, with lemon-preserved Noirmoutier potatoes and wild fennel, all washed down with a rich Chateau Cantenac Brown 2006, which complimented the meal perfectly. For dessert, we shamelessly scraped our dessert bowls clean of a fragrant chocolate, Earl Grey and caramel concoction.
Hotel Square is small and undeniably stylish, with just 22 rooms, including Classic and Deluxe rooms and six suites. We stayed in a Deluxe twin room, with wonderfully comfortable beds, if rather too well-camouflaged light switches. When we finally struck gold, the very subdued lighting was still a little too dark for a girls’ weekend away, though if I had been escaping to Paris for a lovers’ rendezvous I might have felt differently.
The marble-clad bathroom was drenched in light and boasted a generous bath and an inviting collection of Sloom toiletries. Despite Square Hotel being on the corner of two busy roads, the hotel’s excellent soundproofing means the rooms are surprisingly quiet.
The transformation of what was originally an underground nightclub into the compact, peaceful and appealingly candlelit NUXE spa also helped make this hotel a tranquil and welcome haven.
Who Goes There?
During our visit, the hotel was a magnet for chic young couples taking advantage of the spa and location, while the restaurant was scattered with young professionals and media types on client lunches and after-work drinks. The Zebra Restaurant and DJ bar are also frequented by the odd celebrity thanks to it being located just a stone’s throw from Radio France.
Out & About:
Wander across the nearby Bir Hakeim Bridge and you will be rewarded with a great view of the Eiffel Tower — minus the crowds! En route you will also pass the Statue of Liberty (or at least a replica — a gift to the French from the USA).
The new luxury Beaugrenelle shopping centre offers retail therapy par excellence, while art fans can head to the Marmottan Monet Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings.
We boarded a Seine cruise near the Eiffel Tower. The Batobus also stops there, which is great for getting on and off at different places along the river, such as Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Best Thing:
This location is hard to beat, close to diverse museums from the Musée Guimet (Asian art) and the Palais de Tokyo (modern art) to the Musée Marmottan (impressionist art).
The Worst Thing:
Hotel Square deserves to be seen in all its glory and the low lighting in the rooms and lifts left us struggling to find… Well, anything.