Par Margaret Kemp
«They lived and laughed and loved and left» James Joyce
You no doubt stayed, and marvelled, at the privately owned boutique hotels, Pavillon de la Reine, place des Vosges, Pavillon des Lettres near rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré or the Hôtel du Petit Moulin in the heart of the Marais ‘hood. Now the Chevalier family
have added Pavillon Faubourg Saint Germain
, at the angle of rue de l'Université and rue du Pré-aux-Clercs, to their portfolio. Open since April 1st, it’s Paris’s best kept secret. «The hotel is elegant and discreet but right next to the buzzing «Deux Magots» atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Prés», says owner Jérôme Chevalier
This handsome 5-star style Haussmann style Pavillon covers three buildings, all former hotels. Take a left off boulevard Saint Germain and you’re in the 19th century where the spirits of James Joyce, TS Eliot, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Picasso, Gertrude Stein and Léo Ferré linger. Fast forward to century 21, discover, with intrigue, the hotel, spa and glass domed orangerie style sitting room at No 5.
Le Bar James Joyce, at No.3, houses the Pavilion’s unique library where 1,500 white covered books, by neighbourhood publishing house Gallimard, await readers. And, by now you’re hungry, Les Parisiens, brasserie chic, is at No.1
In a quirky homage to James Joyce’s The Dubliners, the elegant 55- seater Pavillon brasserie is baptized Les Parisiens. Helmed by Thibault Sombardier
, the 30 something Lyon born super chef who honed his craft chez Marc Meneau, Bernard Constantin, Alain Dutournier and Yannick Alléno.
"The decor respects the history of this historic literary left bank quartier, obeys neo-brasserie codes, the key word, «conviviality», explains Thibault. We worked for eight months on this project, installed traditional banquettes and the white china plates are inscribed with the house logo», he adds.
«If James Joyce comes to dinner what will he order «en aperitif» and what’s on the menu», I enquire.
The Coconut Dandy apero because, like James Joyce it is elegant, refined and daring, the Dandy takes care of his looks and sports a unique style of his own». «But», grins Thibault, «appearances are sometimes deceptive, as evidenced by this cocktail which may surprise you - just like the work of James Joyce.
For the menu I’ll suggest my favourite starter: Grilled mackerel fillets with vegetable pickles, the fresh mackerel is lightly marinated then grilled and served with a mustard, cream and curry sauce. Simple and very fragrant. Then a golden Vol au Vent Paris-Deauville, brimming with shrimps, mussels, monkfish, mushrooms and topped with Normandy sauce, a much loved revisited classic of French cuisine! To accompany the vol au vent: Côtes du Jura “Les Sarres” (Chardonnay 2019) with citrus fruit and floral notes, from the emblematic Burgundy Rijckaert Estate, mantra, «glorify the grapes». And to finish, L’île Flottante - to share - with Madagascar vanilla custard and caramelized hazelnuts.
(Average spend is about €64 + wine. The lunch menu formula - €32 for two courses €38 - for three).
Of the 47 rooms and suites you need to know about the James Joyce Suite. It was here that the Irish writer (1882-1941) finished Ulysees, his epic novel. 100 years later it’s 70m² of ultra luxurious boho vision: exposed beams, attic vibes, two bathrooms, rows of fluffy towels and views over the Paris rooftops that will definitely bring out your inner essayist. (from €1480-€2,260 including buffet breakfast).
«Paris gave James Joyce a lens through which to see his native city as a modern urban environment», writes Catherine Flynn in James Joyce and the Matter of Paris.
And at Pavilion they celebrated Bloomsday, 16th June, with a jazz concert in the James Joyce Bar, and mixologist Clément Lepage created a significant cocktail.
As for the décor, architect Vincent Bastie worked in collaboration with interior designer Didier Benderli, of Kerylos Interieurs. On arrival note the brilliant perspectve created by Benderli, drilling an opening along the three facades, so the lobby, library, bar and restaurant are visible from the handsome rosewood reception desk.
Below stairs the white stone cellars are now a minimalist Codage spa, fitness room, plunge pool, with water jets, and yoga room. The spa menu includes «The Couture Facial» and «The Shopping Break Treatment» which «combines stimulating massage with foot reflexology to eliminate fatigue”. This space once housed Quod Libet («whatever you wish») the iconic left bank cabaret where newspapers covered the walls, and, on the makeshift stage the poet-singer-songwriter Léo Ferré’s career began (Avec Le Temps).
As I leave I ask Thibault Sombardier, «Have you read any books by James Joyce? «Not yet - but I’ve added The Dubliners to my list for this summer!»
Pavillon Faubourg Saint Germain
5 rue du Pré au Clercs, 7th - T: + 33 1 43 54 41 73
Rooms from €350 + breakfast