Renowned for its fastidious approach to tradition and service, Le Bristol has been a bastion of charm on Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré for nearly 100 years. Afternoon tea doesn’t come more refined than in the marble surrounds of Café Antonia or if it’s sunny, in the Jardin Français, shaded by rhododendrons and white parasols.
The petit fours are the highlight, showing the kitchen’s expertise in a riot of gold-leaf-covered decadence. The chocolate macarons combine a wafer-thin shell with a fudgy, brownie-like interior unlike any we’ve tasted before. The choux buns are also unmissable, the cream generously flecked with vanilla. Scones, served with pots of jam and clotted cream are less exciting, while the lemon madeleines have an airiness that belies their size (trust us, you can definitely make room for at least one).
Dainty club sandwiches are filled with inventive ingredients: tender veal with rocket, or a vegetarian combo with avocado, aubergine and sun-dried tomato. A bite-sized mouthful even Anna Wintour (one of the hotel’s many illustrious guests) would approve of. Salmon and poppy seed croissants, a delightful experiment in miniature patisserie, round off a triumph of savoury offerings.
To drink, there are twenty different teas, poured from a pretty English-style tea service decorated with leaves, birds and butterflies – a nice touch where showier porcelain would have been overkill. Staff are charming but surprisingly hands-off. On the plus side this means little pressure to rush, but refills may take some time mid-service. The hotel’s family friendly reputation rings true: kids are welcomed with an enthusiasm rarely seen in old-school five-stars. Whether you have little ones in tow or not, be sure to meet the hotel’s cat, Fa-raon, who you’re likely to spot snoozing behind the concierge’s desk as you leave.