The Grand Pigalle, Paris

The first hotel project from cocktail experts Experimental Group is a haven for those comfortable with the city

The risktaking French team of Rome de Goriainoff, Pierre-Charles Cros, and Olivier Bon made the craft cocktail desirable to young Parisians via the Experimental Cocktail Club bar, which opened in 2007. The Experimental Group has now become a household name, growing their small empire of bars and restaurants across London, New York and Ibiza without watering down their qualityor flair. This past spring, they created their first-ever hotel project, the Grand Pigalle. And based on our stay, the boutique hotel successfully does what others have the most difficult time in doing: making guests feel like a Parisian local. Its location in South Pigalle is everything, but Experimental Group’s background in food and beverage also makes things feel refreshing instead of cookie cutter. This includes miniature bottled handmade cocktails crafted by ECC in every room.

“Opening a hotel was a natural next step after opening bars and restaurants,” Bon tells CH. “A hotel houses all of our conceptswine, cocktails, foodunder one roof, with the added bonus of a chic place to sleep. Also, as big travelers and spending a fair amount of time in hotels, we wanted to bring our own ideas and finds into this industry.”

The Grand Pigalle’s modern interiors were dreamt by French designer (and regular Experimental Group collaborator) Dorothe Meilichzon, who’s had a busy year with boutique hotel openings beyond the Grand Pigalleyou can spot her fabric headboards, gold touches and love of patterns at Hotel Bachaumont in the 2nd arrondissement and the soon-to-be opened Hotel Panache.

“Dorothe Meilichzon had a vision to create a space that references classic French design,” says Bon. “The elements of our interior are from all over France. Boasting large bathtubs and warm reflections of brass and mahogany, the romantic spirit of Pigalle can be read in the smallest details.” We love the ways in which Experimental Group and Meilichzon are unafraid to sprinkle personality within the stylish, modern ambience, like the metallic wallpaper and gold pineapple bedroom door knockers to the (surprisingly not gaudy) blue leopard-print carpet. (Rome de Goriainoff tells us it was inspired by the bold and eclectic 20th century interior designer Madeleine Castaing.)

The views from the upper floors are picturesque, as you can see the tip of the Sacr-Cur behind quaint apartment rooftops. “The rooms are an ideal pied–terre for immersing oneself in the capital or isolating oneself in the pure enjoyment of the hotels many services,” continues Bon. “The connection with the food and beverage part is a huge plus too. We always wanted to create a boutique hotel with a small but great room service.”

Downstairs, there’s really no lobbyjust a desk that guards the antique-style door keys that’s manned by a friendly young staffer. It directly opens up into the cozy ground floor bar and restaurant. A beautiful hand-built Synesso espresso machine offers top quality morning coffee, and one of the talented baristas offered us one of his new inventions: an iced cappuccino made from no ice, just cold milk. The bar offers creative cocktails (of course) but also specializes in choice Italian wineshence its casual name, “Wine and Dine.” The restaurant has just hired chef Giovanni Passerini and debuting a new menu starting 23 November 2015. “Giovanni is one of the most talented chefs in Paris, and his former restaurant, Rino, was our personal favorite along with Greg Marchands Frenchie,” says Bon.

The surrounding neighborhood of South Pigalle is very, very givingin the midst of a dynamic transformation from seedy hostess bars to something hip enough to garner a nickname, SoPi. If you’re thinking about pulling a tourist move and picnicking on Montmartre’s grassy hill (which offers one of the most spectacular views of the city), we recommend walking down Rue des Martyrs to gather the materials. It’s a foodie’s paradise: traiteurs, picerie fines, boulangeries, cheese and charcuterie shops all of the finest qualityplus specialty shops offering imported goods from Spain, Belgium, Corsica and more. Our favorite, Les Papilles Gourmandes, features local products like fresh duck rillette by the pound; we also took home a few cans to pack in our suitcase.

And when night falls, there’s a plethora of cozy choices for a guaranteed good drink. Just across the street from Le Grand Pigalle is the seductive multi-level bar and restaurant lEntre des Artistes; further up the road is the absinthe-focused cocktail bar Lulu White, complete with discreet entrance. Around the corner, there’s also Buvette, whose original location in NYC’s West Village did so well the American chef Jody Williams decided her second would be in Parisand the locals don’t mind at all. The beauty of it all is if you’re feeling tired, a meal at Le Grand Pigalle isn’t a last resort but in fact a pretty tempting option.

“It’s a perfect match,” says Bon of the location. “SoPi was simply the neighborhood to open for us: chic, trendy, lots of things are happening. It is an area for people who already know Paris and want to explore it further.”

After opening Restaurant Bachaumont in the 2eme at the end of this summer, and currently working on the reopening of the iconic Le Mathis bar and restaurant, Experimental Group charges full steam ahead with an 18-room townhouse boutique hotel in London, set to open in spring 2016 with a restaurant and two bars. They’re also working on a larger hotel project in Paris for 2017: 53 rooms, a bar and restaurant with terrace.

Book a room online at Grand Pigalle’s website; room rates start at 150.

Images by Nara Shin