From St Moritz to Paris, we meet two aristocrats of travel
s we journey around the world, we see that today’s knowledgeable travellers are rediscovering the exceptional personal service that was once the mark of true hospitality. As travel restrictions are eased, we’re revisiting two hotels that remember why we want to leave home — they’re putting the haute back into ‘hotel’.
The Winter (and Summer) Palace
Badrutt’s is a miracle of efficiency. Nine restaurants, three bars, and 157 guest rooms are tended by a small Swiss army of staff: 280 in summer, growing to a staggering 520 when the snow starts to fall. Almost every window looks onto the beauties of the Engadin Valley, with towering Swiss Alps, quaint rooftops and green meadows that transform into glittering ski runs. Jaws have been dropping here since 1896 but rest assured that there is always a member of staff on hand to stop your jaw from hitting the floor …
Situated in that special corner of Europe that’s German and Italian by geography, French by inclination, and English through the Cresta Run, Badrutt’s does not disappoint palatial palates: three-star chef Andreas Caminada’s 17 Gault-Millau points inspire IGNIV, which won its second Michelin star in 2020; Le Grand Hall serves traditional afternoon tea with world-class patisserie accompanied by piano music.
For haute cuisine, candlelight, white tablecloths, crystal chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows, Le Restaurant flies the flag for France. While La Coupole — helmed by star chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa — serves up an imaginative fusion of Japan and Peru.
What sets Badrutt’s above everywhere else in the Alps is its nothing-is-too-much-trouble service. After all, this is the kind of palace where when a guest wanted an elephant to hand over a birthday gift to his spouse, they quietly and efficiently found an elephant.
From an Alpine palace, we travelled to a palace of haute couture in Paris. The Hotel Plaza Athénée is tailor-made for the connoisseur of classic style on the city’s most chic street. The hotel has had a long love affair with the greatest fashion houses — a passion that is reciprocated.
When Christian Dior opened his first boutique in 1946, it had to be on Avenue Montaigne, as a neighbour of his favourite hotel — the Plaza Athénée. He was so enamoured of the elegant guests who stayed here that he called some of his first collections Plaza and Athénée, and the hotel even inspired the legendary Dior Bar suit.
Today, the Dior connection makes a stay here as unforgettable as its views of the Eiffel Tower. The Dior Institut is decorated with fashion sketches by the great man, as well as photos of his fashion shoots at the hotel. Here you can experience haute couture-inspired facials, microdermabrasion, body treatments and mani-pedi. To paraphrase Dior, this is where beauty and happiness go together.
The epitome of Haute Paris is the Haute Couture Eiffel Suite, dedicated to Dior. Signature grey and pink pay homage to Dior, along with refinements like a vintage mannequin, Dior books, and the maestro’s favourite chocolates.
General Manager Francois Delahaye puts it nicely:
“Palace” is what we are, and “Of tomorrow” is about everything we do. The fact that we respect our heritage but also hire a new chef like Jean Imbert brings a touch of novelty and youthfulness, this touch of modernity. All of our actions pay respect to our heritage but also look to the future.”
Perhaps nothing sums up the Palace of Tomorrow more than a moderne brunch in the audacious dining room, a dripping, crystal forest of chandeliers reflected in space-age steel sofa backs — @camilacoelho is a big fan during #pfw. The effect is stunning and totally haute couture. It’s the best place in the city to admire surreptitiously the skirt and shoes you may have acquired quite recently at Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada — or Dior, of course — just a few steps along the half-kilometre catwalk known as Avenue Montaigne.