123 PARIS – Evening Standard Travel hotel review, 12 Dec 2005

It’s all about looks at Le 123, the boutique hotel that slinked into Paris in June – so much so that on the guest questionnaire, five of the eight sections are concerned with whether or not you approve of the décor.

Having previously transformed the three-star Hotel Lorette, architect-designer Philippe Maidenberg has been given free reign to have his way with this four-star, 41 room affair, part of the 15-strong Astotel chain. Every surface has been designed to the hilt, from the framed fashion illustrations on the walls to the fibe optic lights that gleam through the floor in the lobby.

The reception sets the tone with its chessboard flooring, huge white feather lamp by Mat & Jewski and walls like the most welcoming kind of padded cell. But just when things seem to be becoming too modern and soulless, the lift turns out to be of the reassuringly ancient and slow variety. In the time it takes to creak downwards to meet you, you could scale the spiral staircase to the top floor and back.

In my large room the modern rubbed up against the traditional at every turn. A chaise-longue was right-angled and minimal, and the intricate flock wallpaper in the bathroom was completely black, like an Oreo. A wrought iron radiator, table nest and classic chest of drawers sat beside a pink glass writing desk, flat screen television and wireless internet aerial.

The bed was the size of the Place de la Concorde, ensuring an uninterrupted night’s sleep because your partner is way over on the other side, just over the horizon.

Some touches worked less well, however. It was impossible to prevent the long golden tassles concealing the storage spaces from getting shut in the minibar door, and there was no designing away the disappointingly small bath.

English speaking staff were welcoming and knowledgable when it came to queries about the local area. The immediate vicinity was quiet, but the popular shops and bars of the Champs-Elysees were just a five minute walk away. The 123 does not have a restaurant, but just around the corner is a dining establishment that easily matches its stylishness – the ultra-modern Music Hall (63, Avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 00 33 1 45 61 03 63).

The hotel’s bar, curved and draped in crystal netting, was empty on the evening I was there, but became a reasonably populated breakfast room the next morning. The continental breakfast was tastefully minimal, a basket consisting of a rolls, a croissant and a pain au chocolate, all in miniature, and tiny Bonne Maman preserves.

The difference between the 123 and its former incarnation as the nondescript Hotel Philip Elysees is undeniably impressive, the attention to detail remarkable. Yet, what are these on information folders and the Do Not Disturb signs? Little temporary stickers barely concealing the hotel’s previous name. It is somehow reassuring to know that when you look closely at all this sheen, it still isn’t quite perfect.


Le 123 Hotel

123, rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, Paris 8eme; 00 33 1 53 890 123; hotel.123@astotel.com; Metro St-Philippe du-Roule

Room to book: The one with the modern take on the four poster bed.

Hooray!  Central yet quiet location.

Boo! At least in my room, a tiny bath.

Thing to steal: The Bourgie crystal table lamps from Kartell perfectly fit the hotel’s ancient and modern ethos, but may be difficult to conceal under your jacket.

Rates: Double/twin rooms normal season EURO245-320, high season EURO294-390