Top 20 hotels in France and Monaco: Readers’ Choice Awards 2021
Set the scene. Bird watching becomes a fun game here. The frescoed dome by artist Matthieu Cossé in the treetops against a sky blue background splashes the circular reception, in the public locker rooms there is an audio loop of cuckoo songs and the walls of the bar are adorned with avian works of art. It’s clear that the hand of designer Yovanovitch is everywhere, from his exclusively crafted furniture and rugs to the displays of vintage Alpine jugs he personally bought at Paris flea markets. There is the work of an eclectic range of contemporary artists and sculptors, including Ugo Rondinone and Alexander Calder, highlighted by strong, matte wall colors (rich greens, taupes, blues and deep reds).
What is the backstory? The hotel was opened in December 2019 by Maisons Pariente, a small family business run by French owner Patrick Pariente (founder in the 1970s of the ready-to-wear brand Naf Naf) and his daughters Leslie Kouhana and Kimberley Cohen . Their portfolio of three properties includes the Crillon le Brave hotel in Provence, reopened after renovation in May 2019, and the Lou Pinet hotel in Saint Tropez, newly opened in June 2019. Next year, 2021, a fourth property will open in the Marais district in Paris. From planning to completion, the Pariente family worked closely with Pierre Yovanovitch, who started his career at Pierre Cardin in men’s tailoring before launching an interior design agency in 2001. Specializing mainly in private commissions from its offices in Paris and New York, Le Coucou is Yovanovitch’s first hotel project.
What can we expect in our room? Quirky humor is present: light colors resembling ice cubes, chair backs carved with cuckoo beaks, coat hooks in the shape of an owl, furniture legs in the shape of ski poles, polka-dot rugs. The tactile velvet and wool fabrics combine with the warm colors of the salmon-pink and mustard-yellow walls, and the bedrooms are also very practical: plenty of space for ski equipment in light-wood closets and in-room bathrooms. generous dimensions with deep tubs and Le Labo goodies.
What about food and drink? The Beef Bar is open for lunch and dinner and focuses on, yes, the beef, cooked in all kinds of exceptionally delicious ways: oven-roasted, teppanyaki, wok-fried, grilled, tartare, and beef bourguignon served with mash. silky signature flavored with truffle, lemon, caviar or jalapeño pepper. Italian restaurant Bianca Neve’s star dish is risotto al tartufo, and it’s where breakfasts are prepared with fresh bread, cakes and pastries alongside fruit, cheese and yogurt. Plates of cooked eggs are at your fingertips.
How is the crowd? Serious off-piste and first-piste fans who want a ski-in ski-out location (few properties offer it here), millennial groups from Lyon, as well as many Brits who flock to Méribel (the resort was founded by a British skier in 1938). Families love the children’s playrooms, and non-skiers love the spa treatments, poolside reading and the sun terrace.
Something to say about the service? Some staff are still finding their feet, but there is a sense of tight teamwork and attention to detail.
How is the neighborhood scene? Not good for late night clubbers who hope to retreat from the center of Méribel in a few minutes. The hotel is a 10- to 15-minute zigzag drive up the hill, through the clusters of chalets that stretch up the steep slopes of Méribel, but is close to Le Rond Pont bar (affectionately known as named “The Ronnie” with his afternoon rocking scene).
Anything else to add? Groups of family or friends wishing more privacy and the possibility of preparing their own meals can rent one of the hotel’s two “chalets”. These are not autonomous, but discreetly integrated into the hotel building. Named Eleonore and Eglantine after characters from childhood stories invented by Patrick Pariente for his daughters, they can accommodate up to eight people and have a kitchen, a small swimming pool, a mini-spa and a ski room with direct access to the slopes.
Something you would change? Opening glitches that need to be corrected include lighting in restaurants, which lack ambiance, especially at night.
Is it worth it? Yes, it is worth it, if only for its exceptionally good ski-in / ski-out location, right in the center of one of the biggest and best ski areas in the world.