The latest luxury hotel to open this summer in Paris, well behind schedule (comme d’habitude), is the Mandarin Oriental Paris on the chic Rue St-Honoré. Since it’s my job to be on top of these things, I stopped by last week to check out their Bar 8 with some friends. Oddly, I couldn’t find much online about it at all except canned PR and one scathing review by society blogger Petite Brigitte. So I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much.
I do like the glittery entrance to the hotel, it makes it seem like something magical awaits inside. But the lobby has an anonymous “luxury hotel” decor. Not that it’s bad, but there’s nothing remotely “Parisian” about this place at all. Perfect for people who…don’t like Paris?
Lots o’shiny marble in the shiny lobby.
On the left is the entrance to the Bar 8, which is nicely low-lit (it’s already past sunset when I arrived), with the same anonymous contemporary style that could be found anywhere in the world. It’s a “sitting only” kind of bar, so no one actually stands at the bar (there are a few stools on the end). What a shame, since most people won’t even really notice the huge hunk of fancy marble bar, “quarried in Spain and sculpted in Italy” that the press releases go on and on about.
My friend at the bar checking on the ETA of our Champagne.
My friends, who were already seated, certainly didn’t notice it. They were mesmerized by the “Bedazzled” walls behind their booth. These are actually Lalique crystals, but unless you read the press releases or the hotel’s website, you’d have no idea how expensive this place must have cost to decorate. They must have exhausted their budget on the décor, because they certainly didn’t overspend in the HR department.
If they looked like actual Lalique crystals you might catch tipsy patrons trying to pick them off…
One of my friends already had a cocktail (which he would have already finished if it had been good), but the other was still waiting for a bottle of Champagne. Which took a long time to arrive, even by Paris standards. It turns out they didn’t have any cold bottles, so we were waiting for one to chill. A Parisian five-star luxury hotel with no cold Champagne? Are they kidding? We finally got our Champagne when a table on the terrace finally opened up. The terrace is the best part of the bar in my opinion, with lots of greenery between each table so we could keep our snarky conversation private. With the weather in Paris predictable unpredictable, I wouldn’t count on being able to get a table out there, even in summer.
Our flat drinks and the leafy terrace…love the lanterns!
We should have carried our drinks with us outside, as gauche as that would have been in a luxury establishment, because the bubbles were gone by the time the bottle and glasses arrived behind us. The waitress walked as if she’d never worn heels before (and they weren’t even high heels), and twice during the evening we heard the crash of a waitress dropping a full tray of drinks. One of my friends had been there already in July, just after the opening, and said the service was slow and awkward then, too, but she’d hoped they’d have their merde together by now. I’m sorry to say they do not. The waiters at my lowbrow locals’ café display more professionalism (and panache) than the staff at the Mandarin Oriental’s Bar 8.
The most Parisian part of the hotel: little nooks off the lobby with curtains that can be closed for privacy.
I’m being really mean, I know. But these places aren’t cheap, and I’ve been to enough luxury hotel bars in Paris to know the standards of service are much, much higher. The company I had that evening made it enjoyable for me, but mostly because we were united in our mockery. But I would not come here alone; it’s not a place for mixing. I would not come here if I was trying to impress a date; the service is embarrassing. And I would never recommend my tour clients come here; there are far better options in Paris that are also more “Parisian”. Sorry Bar 8, I’m giving you two thumbs down.