French fancy: A review of the Maison Astor Paris, Curio Collection by Hilton
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Paris, the City of Light, has endless hotel options, from predictable mass-produced chains to truly unique boutique properties with beautiful French flair. But what about if you want the best of both worlds? Some character and personalized service combined with the comfort of an international hotel group and status benefits?
Enter Curio Collection by Hilton. This is a carefully curated group of independent hotels Hilton has selected and invited to be part of the Curio brand. Hilton promises that with Curio you can “expect the unexpected.”
So on a recent trip to Paris I decided to check out the Maison Astor Hotel, a member of the Curio Collection. It was founded in 1907 by John Jacob Astor IV, the heir to one of the richest families in the U.S., who disappeared with the Titanic.
The Maison Astor Paris had base Classic rooms selling for around 300 euros (£259) per night. These could also be booked for 64,000 Hilton Honors points per night. Based on TPG U.K.’s current valuation of Honors points (0.4p each), that would have been around £256 in points, so it was relatively even.
The property is in the Eighth Arrondissement near Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré between Boulevard Haussmann and the Champs-Elysées and just a few minutes’ walk to Saint-Augustin Metro station, which Line 9 runs through. It’s a quiet, safe and central area, though it does feel quite corporate — most of the other diners in the hotel restaurant at lunchtime appeared to be professionals who had ducked out of the office to conduct a formal business lunch.
The exterior on Rue d’Astorg didn’t really stand out from the beautiful neighboring buildings on the quite backstreet. I had to check my Google Maps to ensure I was in the right place.
There was a fairly small, circular lobby inside the main entrance. In order to allow guests to lounge about in the lobby, most of the available space was taken up with furniture and check-in and concierge desks.
Though nicely furnished, it was quite a cramped space.
I found the lobby quite disorientating over the course of my stay. There were four doors off the lobby, leading to the bar, the restaurant, the elevators and the street exit. The staff desks were spaced around most of the lobby walls, so the space had no obvious front and back. As the door to the street exit looked just like the doors to the other areas, I took the wrong door numerous times.
I was quickly helped at check-in by the friendly and oh-so-French front-desk agent. She was efficient, courteous and sophisticated — just the sort of style you expect in a luxury French establishment. I have Hilton Honors Gold status as a result of having the Platinum Card® from American Express, and she thanked me for my loyalty and offered a My Way welcome gift of either 1,000 points each night or free breakfast. With TPG’s valuation of Honors points on my mind ($6 per night) I opted for the breakfast. That turned out to be an incredibly smart decision a few days later.
I was assigned a room on the seventh floor, the second-highest floor. Hilton had emailed me the day before offering online check-in and the ability to choose my own room. At that stage, only internally facing rooms were offered, but at check-in I was given a room that was externally facing, so I believe this was a small upgrade of sorts.
With key in hand, I headed up the tight elevator.
I’m used to tiny elevators in Europe, but this one was really tiny, and it was the only one in the entire hotel. It fit two people max with luggage, three without. I imagine at 11 a.m. each day it would be a long wait as a lot of people checked out at once.
First impressions of my room were equally positive and negative. It was beautifully furnished and had a real sense of character and style. This was not some Hampton Inn on the side of a highway — this was Paris.
On the downside, the room was definitely small at only 172 square feet. Having stayed in an enormous room in Times Square in New York the previous weekend, this room felt cozy in comparison.
There was a plush, queen-size bed.
There were tiny nightstands, one of which had a landline phone that took up a good chunk of the limited space. I promptly moved it the floor for the rest of my stay. Power outlets were built into the bedside tables themselves.
Next to the bed was a closet with safe, iron and ironing board.
In the corner of the room was a flat-screen TV, which looked huge in the small room.
There were small windows, which featured a distant view of the famous Sacré-Cœur basilica.
In the corner of the room was a desk with a coffeemaker and a sparsely stocked minibar.
Given the tight size of the bedroom, I surprised to walk into a huge bathroom. There was a lot of wasted space, though this is where I ended up keeping my luggage, as there wasn’t really room to have it next to the bed.
There was a tub/shower combo and Sothys toiletries.
The bathroom sure was nice, but it was a shame it was almost as big as the bedroom. I didn’t need a bathroom that big and would have loved more space to move around the bed instead.
Food and beverage
As a boutique hotel with limited rooms and floor space, it had just one restaurant and one bar in the hotel, and I visited both a couple of times. The first was for drinks at the hotel bar on the first evening, and this was a complete disaster.
There was only one bartender in the room, and after sitting down and waiting a good 10 minutes for menus and service, I went up to the bar to ask for a menu. There were some interesting-sounding bespoke cocktails on the menu at 16 euros each ($18). With no table service in sight, I returned to the bar to order a couple for me and a friend who had joined me for a drink.
When they eventually arrived, I couldn’t help thinking they looked awfully basic for a luxury hotel. One of them didn’t even have ice.
They appeared disappointing, but their flavor was even worse. The orange-colored one tasted like cheap, canned fruit juice. This hotel should rethink both its cocktail list and the people making them.
I returned to the bar for lunch the next day. They had a lighter, cheaper menu than the main restaurant. With fewer customers and a second staff member in the room, service was definitely better.
I tried the steak tartare, which I try and have every time I go anywhere in France. It’s like a club sandwich test, a good way to see if a hotel can deliver a classic dish.
It was a good size and tasted pretty good, although it was heavy on tangy citrus.
Breakfast was served in the main restaurant and was complimentary to me as a Hilton Honors Gold status member. The restaurant itself was gorgeous, complete with artwork (a nice feature of the hotel) and plush booths.
The buffet itself was in a dark room to the side.
There were plenty of high-quality fresh bread and pastries, which I always eat far too much of in Paris!
The hot food wasn’t good. The sausages were cold, and the scrambled eggs were the runniest I have ever encountered in all my travels. They were like a bland sauce with some chunks of egg.
By far, the highlight of the entire stay was when I returned for lunch in the same restaurant the next day. They offered a set menu for 39 euros (about $45), which included three courses and bread.
I started with a seafood risotto, which was beautifully presented and delicious.
For the entree, I had veal with roasted vegetables. The sauce was similar to the risotto sauce, but I enjoyed everything on the plate.
For dessert, I had the blackcurrant Mont Blanc. This carefully constructed work of art wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
The restaurant was only around a third full for lunch, and service was attentive and professional. For 39 euros for three courses of fine dining quality, I thought this was outstanding value in a sophisticated setting. I would highly recommend the restaurant at the Maison Astor Paris for lunch even if you are not staying there. It is equal to some of the best French meals I’ve ever eaten.
Rather than risk cold sausages and runny eggs again, on the last morning I decided to try out the room service menu. I had my complimentary included status breakfast delivered to my room for 7 euros ($8). A friend joined me, as the front desk staff had said my status breakfast benefit could cover two people.
I grinned from ear to ear when a loaded cart was wheeled into my room.
Everything on it was excellent, freshly prepared and tasty. I felt like I was in some romantic French movie enjoying this amazing breakfast in a beautiful boutique hotel room in the center of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I cannot really think of a more perfect way to enjoy breakfast in Paris.
A boutique city hotel is unlikely to have a huge range of activities and services available, and this hotel was no exception.
There was no pool or spa, and I only discovered the gym late on the last night, because it was so hidden in the depths of the ground floor (down several corridors behind the restaurant) that you had to be specifically looking for it.
The gym was almost comically small and contained just a couple of items that looked more style over substance. I doubt a foreign tourist looking to maintain his or her standard daily workout would find enough to keep stay in shape daily, but if you were looking for light exercise to work off all that French cheese, at least there were a couple of options.
There was no swimming pool, rooftop or spa at this hotel.
With the exception of the overwhelmed or lazy bartender shaking up those awful cocktails, service was good across the hotel. Lobby staff members were always cheerful, welcoming and professional and gave me a chance to practice some rudimentary French.
The servers at that amazing lunch were especially good. That really was a high-end meal, and frankly I didn’t expect it at this property.
I liked this property. I’ve stayed at lovely bespoke accommodations in France and was skeptical a Hilton property could deliver the same, but it managed to. The rooms were small, and the wasted space in the bathroom was frustrating, but they were beautifully furnished, as was the rest of the hotel.
The cocktail list as well as the service in the bar needs to be completely rethought, though. I don’t think the bartenders ever tasted the cocktails they made.
Breakfast ranged from poorly cooked in the buffet restaurant to spectacular for room service. I would recommend ordering room service every day if you have breakfast included. Even better was the spectacular lunch I enjoyed in the restaurant: The food, service, setting and ambience were all incredible.
All photos by the author.