There is no elixir of eternal youth in the hotel game; the secret to staying one ahead is learning how to grow old gracefully. That, at least, seems to be the philosophy that keeps Nice's most famous palace hotel, the Negresco, a step ahead of the competition. There is always something new happening here. Not in the hip kind of way that keeps the doors of its boutique rivals opening - let's face it, you won't be seeing this hotel's stately bar on any DJ flyers - but a nip here, a tuck there. Just enough to keep its dignity (and blue-chip guest list) intact.
The latest change, however, has been a big one, bringing a transfusion of young blood into the hotel's kitchens. Award-winning thirtysomething Jean-Denis Rieubland has replaced Bruno Turbot (now departed after two decades) at the command post of the Negresco's famous Chantecler restaurant, clutching a CV that reads like a Who's Who of culinary France. What impact this will have remains to be seen, but the early signs are promising. Rieubland's insistence on high-quality local produce, and his intricate elaborations of regional dishes, are unlikely to alienate the existing troupe of regulars and may even recruit some new ones.
Also new is a trio of suites paying homage to three different epochs of design: Louis XIV; Louis XV; art deco. The construction and furnishing of the suites have been (just like everything else in the hotel) closely overseen by the owner, Mme Augier. Responsible for much of the outstanding art collection, the architectural imports from ruined chateaus and myriad details right down to a washstand once owned by Napoleon, Mme Augier cares for her hotel as if it were her home. Which, in fact, it is. Resident in the hotel and habitual diner in the Chantecler (you'll notice her favourite cushion plumped up on her seat), she adds a touch of high-brow homeliness to the hotel.