We zipped across to Paris to check out the closest hotel to the Eiffel Tower, following its recent €50m makeover
Our journey begins, as it always should, with a glass of something sparkling. We – that’s several other journalists, event organisers and I – are at St Pancras International, one hour before we’re due to depart for Paris. More specifically, in Searcys Champagne Bar (020 7101 0220), munching on platters of cheese and quaffing fizz.
Our Eurostar train departs London at 1.29pm prompt. Just over two hours later, we’re at Gare du Nord. That was seriously quick – I can see why people ‘just pop over’ to Paris for a business lunch.
A drive through the city centre gives me a taste for exploration. It also offers an experience of Parisian traffic. Forty-five minutes on and we arrive at Pullman Paris Eiffel Tower
(+33 144 385 600). From the outside, I see a huge brutalist building – not to everyone’s taste, but I’m a fan – but we’re here to check out the result of a €50m refurbishment within.
We’ve got 15 minutes before our show round begins, so I settle into my suite, which looks out directly onto The Eiffel Tower itself. I snap a quick photo – one that later gets the most likes I’ve ever had on Facebook – as I sit on my balcony with one of the mini bottles of champagne that’s been put on ice.
Back in the lobby, we’re joined by GM Rene Angoujard and chef Alain Losbar. They lead us to the garden, where the hotel grows all its veg, including a variety of leaves, tomatoes and courgettes for salads. It also keeps chickens for eggs and bees for homemade honey.
Back inside, we’re given a tour of the meeting spaces. Biggest of all is Ballroom Orsay, which can hold up to 350 people for a standing event. Here, there are high ceilings and a partition wall that alters the size of the room. On the lower floor, a range of smaller meeting spaces come with their own iPads so organisers can control slideshows, lighting and temperature themselves.
Creative technology is also found in the kitchen’s tasting room, where you can alter the hue and brightness of the lighting to match what you had in mind for your event. It’ll give you the chance to see which dishes look appealing under what light. A dish with a lot of green or orange ingredients will look muddy in a purple-lit room. Clever stuff.
The two knockout spaces are on the top floor. First up, the Business Playground. A 14-seater boardroom, this space is so named because of its potential for work and play: the table can be flipped from a work station to a poker table. There are also curiosity boxes, which display a variety of weird and wonderful objects designed to inspire creativity. I spend a while checking out the coffee machine, which slightly resembles a Dalek.
Further along the corridor is the hotel’s top event space: Trocadéro. A massive glass room – including the ceiling – the panoramic views reinforce the venue’s claim of being the closest hotel to that famous tower. Although it’s a popular space for conferences (350 seated delegates max), we’re shown how it can work for standing dos with a cocktail reception, while gazing over Paris at sunset. It’s quite the spectacle.
A couple of drinks later, we head downstairs to explore the hotel’s new restaurant, Frame Brasserie. We might be in France, but tonight we’re getting a slice of California. Dinner in the private dining room is four courses of North and South American food, with a French twist. Yes, I’m eating a quesadilla, but it’s made with brie and emmental, not monterey jack.
This is followed up by delicate but spicy ceviche tacos – my standout dish – and then surf ‘n’ turf in the form of fillet steak and lobster. Things are rounded off with a wasabi cheesecake – way better than it sounds, trust me.
As it creeps closer to midnight, half the group decides that a stroll beneath the Tower is in order. Silly not to, given how close we are. As the clock strikes 12am, we stand directly under the structure while the nightly light show begins. It’s rather special.
We’re up early to check out the nearby Musée du quai Branly, a new museum that focuses on cultures from around the world. We get a private tour of its current tiki exhibition and, one the way out, observe Patrick Blanc’s famous ‘living wall’ on the museum’s exterior.
And then, before I know it, we’re on the Eurostar again. I’m back at my desk by 2.30pm. My boss might be pleased, but I’m still daydreaming of the City of Light.
Pullman Paris Eiffel Tower, 18 Avenue de Suffren, 75015 Paris, France.