The Hemingway Bar may be at the Ritz, but in his day, the writer and a whole cohort of bohèmes spent more of their time at the brasserie in the Lutetia. Today, after a massive four-year renovation, she’ll swing open her 108-year-old glass doors again.
The only grande dame on the more artistic Left Bank of Paris, its brasseries and bars were always a sort of “living room” through the decades for the whole Saint-Germain-des-Près hood. “We respect her DNA,” says Jean-Luc Cousty, the long-time general manager. “The Lutetia has always had that paradoxical status of being accessible to all, but with a level of luxury that feels traditionally French.” In other words, it has the necessary edge of the Left Bank, with the polish and sparkle you’d expect of the Right.
A newly added Jazz Bar and courtyard lounge nod to the boho spirit of the place, while chef Gérald Passédat, of Marsellie’s three Michelin star Le Petit Nice, will lead that brasserie Hemingway loved so much. Returning guests, however, may notice a big change to the layout: Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who also did the Mandarin Oriental across the Seine, scaled back the original 233 room count to 184, with 47 suites among them. They’re all done in navy blue or mouse-gray, with views onto Parisian streets you actually want to pause and gape at (bakeries, cobblestones, any assortment of Parisian sartorial tastes on passers-by) and all-marble baths with big windows and deep tubs carved from solid blocks.
There’s a bit of Right Bank here, though, in the form of a built-from-scratch spa with a hammam, sauna, a sun-lit swimming pool—a serious rarity in Paris—plus a gym that non-guests can pop into with a membership or day pass. (It’s a wonderful reprieve from Le Bon Marche, whose owners opened the Lutetia back in 1910.) Something else we love? The original Romanesque frescos from the year the hotel opened were found beneath layers upon layers of later work. It took restorers 17,000 hours with tiny brushes and scalpels to get them back, but because of it the hotel’s Bar Joséphine—named after Baker, a regular—may rival the nearby Brasserie Lipp, an establishment beloved as much for its prettily painted walls as its moules-frites.