The only way to spend the night any closer to the mesmerizing Paris Opera House would be to actually sleep on stage. From my room’s balcony at the 470-room Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, it’s possible to see ballerinas dancing as they rehearse. Part of the view of the stage was blocked by bright yellow scaffolding advertising a gorgeous Parisian woman in haute couture. That’s quite a contrast to the extravagant facade built in 1875, with its golden statues and steps leading up to the grand entrance.
Opulent, breathtaking, unbelievably mesmerizing—I literally gasped when I turned the corner and walked into The Grand Foyer of the Opera House after ascending the magnificently decorated marble and onyx staircase. Imagine the faces of your guests when they arrive at a private dinner held in grandiose Neo-Baroque setting. Elegantly dressed kings, queens, sultans and more from the last two centuries have sipped French champagnes, danced to waltzes—the perfect venue for your elite group. Book receptions in the Grand Foyer for up to 400. Max seating capacity for private shows is 2,150.
And not to worry, the chandeliers are secure! (The Paris Opera House is the setting for The Phantom of the Opera.)
The InterContinental Paris Le Grand is the grand dame hotel with one of the most famous restaurants in the world. Built in 1862 and renovated in 2003, Le Grand offers a total of 24,300 sf of meeting space, including the 4,800 sf Salon Opéra—an official historic landmark. The elegance of the ballroom with its 46-ft gilted dome ceiling and statues surrounding the dome’s circumference, each holding a different instrument, is on par with the finest halls of Versailles.
La Verrière is an equally famous central interior public space, typical of “winter gardens” in classic European hotels, with a towering glass ceiling overhead resembling I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid at Le Louvre, about 10 minutes away. It’s a popular place to enjoy light meals in the afternoon with sunlight basking in from above, and a private section available for groups.
One of the four Presidential Suites, which are more like luxury apartments, have a balcony with a view of the Opera House and Sacre Coeur high atop Montmarte. Walk around the corner and there’s the Eiffel Tower.
Be sure to include Club InterContinental when booking your group. There are two levels of comfort to relax and enjoy deftly prepared bites and wine/cocktails during the day and evening. The entrance is on the 5th floor of the Opera wing with a grand view of the Opera House. There’s also concierge service and a private meeting room for up to 10.
And we can’t say enough about this. Napolean, Charles de Gaulle, Hollywood celebs, world dignitaries and every chapeau-wearing artist/writer of note has extolled the virtues in vivid detail of the legendary Cafe de la Paix restaurant.
Really, the beauty of Le Grand in general is that your group can truly enjoy Paris as Parisians. But nowhere speaks more to the city’s classic “cafe society” experience than relaxing here and feasting on savory delicacies and drinking strong French coffee while watching people pass by l’opera.
For offsite group dinners, check out the two restaurants housed inside the Eiffel tower, operated by wonder chef, Alain Ducasse. The more casual 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant on the first level seats 200. We dined on the second level at Jules Verne, and while Ducasse is renowned for his Michelin 3-star menus, this 120-seat eatery is priced more nominally.
Try the saumon mi-fume aux agrumes et gaufre de pomme de terre—the salmon is like butter! And the entire experience will feel like a dream as you dine over the City of Lights.
The first night after we arrived at the modern 387-room/60-suite InterContinental London Park Lane, we sat in soft supple leather recliners while eating, drinking and thoroughly enjoying ourselves watching Bridget Jones’s Diary in the plush 1,206-sf Cinema Suite. It was a very civilized way to spend a quiet evening with new friends. The very personable Executive Chef Paul Bates served up a scrumptious assortment of heavy hors d’oeuvres: new lamb from his home in Kent, roasted ratatouille and sinfully delicious dark chocolate brownies!
Chef Bates has also created a fab seasonal sustainable menu at the hotel’s Cookbook Café. The morning “Market Table” is picture perfect with freshly baked muffins, croissants, breads and the best homemade granola I’ve every tasted, which Bates says takes eight hours to chop, grind and season.
Within eyesight of Buckingham Palace, the InterCon Park Lane epitomizes modern elegance and urban chic. The interior design is residential in tone with English neo-classical motifs melding with elements of glass, steel and wood. Colors are subtle beiges, burgundies and burnt oranges, and the expansive suites with pretty views of the Royal Parks come with 24-hr butler service. Total group space is 24,700 sf.
Theo Randall’s, the hotel’s destination restaurant, is reason enough to visit No. 1 Park Lane. Chef Randall has a passion for preparing seasonal rustic fare using only the freshest ingredients. The mozzarella di Fufala with marinated artichokes, red and yellow peppers, swiss chard and Taggiasche olives bring tears to my eyes as I recall the first morsel. The insalata di granchio, fresh Devon crab with samphire and Amalfi lemon mayonnaise was a favorite of the table.
A short walk from Buckingham Palace is Belgravia, the posh and prestigious section of London where everyone from Mozart to Sean Connery have called home. We’re greeted by a very dapper Chef Anton Mosimann OBE (Order of the British Empire), the owner of the world renowned private club, Mosimann’s. There are seven private dining rooms—the largest seating up to 50—for exclusive meals, board meetings and elegant receptions. One space is the world’s smallest private dining room for hire: The Mont Blanc, seats 2!
Chef Mosimann prides himself for his “cuisine naturalle,” using local foodstuffs, herbs and marinades. For references, he has catered events, by special invitation, for the Royal family.
Nearby, the casually cool and airy ambience of Daylesford Organic Farmshop & Café is a fantastic venue for private hire. Each meal is prepared from super fresh and delicious organic ingredients sent directly daily from the Daylesford farm in Gloucestershire. The farm has won over 80 international awards for such items as cheddar and baywell cheese, lamb and rosemary casserole, beetroot and bacon soup, Aberdeen Angus beef, pumpernickel bread… Everything in the shop and café looks delectable and so very fresh you can almost smell the farm!