La Reserve, Paris
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La Reserve, Paris

Aug 23, 2023

Location, says the old real estate adage, is everything, and in Paris there may be no better location than the neighborhood around the Elysee Paris, the home of the French President. Just off the gardens of the Champs-Elysees, it’s quiet and tree lined but centrally located and close to the city’s most important sights, restaurants and shopping areas. It’s also home to the American Embassy, and just down the street, one of the city’s most prestigious hotels, La Reserve Paris.

The building’s history fits the setting, built in 1854 as the mansion of the Duke of Mornay, Napoleon III’s half-brother. It later became the longtime home of iconic fashion designer Pierre Cardin, and in 2015, after an extensive renovation led by interior designer Jacques Garcia, opened as a hotel and spa. With just 26 suites and 14 rooms, it is the smallest property in the French capital designated as a Palace Hotel, the top rating.

La Reserve has sister hotels in Geneva, Zurich, St Tropez and throughout the Alps, and all of them share owner Michael Reybier’s passion for fine wines, fine spirts and fine cigars. Reybier owns the Bordeaux estate Château Cos d’Estournel as well as his eponymous Champagne label.

With its intimate residential mansion feel, central courtyard and dual curbside garden terraces screened from the sidewalks by high hedges, La Reserve feels like an oasis within the bustling city. It certainly is a smoking oasis, with multiple options for cigar lovers. The main event is the Winter Garden, a dedicated smoking lounge, which in turn has its own large, private walled outdoor garden, separated by sliding glass doors. The lounge functions as a local cigar club, but has less than two dozen members, and otherwise is only open to hotel guests and outsiders enjoying its two-Michelin star fine dining restaurant, Le Gabriel. The cigar room is also a great spot for entertaining, and can be booked for private dinners for up to 20 or so, often done with Cognac or rum pairings. Cuba features prominently on both the rum and cigar list.

The lounge has excellent air filtration, couches, cushioned chairs and a couple of small tables and seats about 20 guests inside, though it is rarely that full. The attached garden is about the same size.

There are few places in Paris where you can smoke and eat or drink, but the Winter Garden gets around France’s strict server protection laws with the clever use of buttons on all the tables, allowing guests to signal the need for drinks and food without a full-time attendant in the room. You can enjoy the menus of the hotel’s two restaurants, including the more casual brasserie and full bar while smoking. The centerpiece of the lounge is a large custom humidor from France’s Pinel et Pinel, done in the style of a vintage steamer trunk, set upright and opened like a book. The selections skew Cuban, with Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Trinidad, Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch, Partagás, Bolivar, Quai d’Orsay, H. Upmann and Montecristo, and it’s no surprise to see the Quai d’Orsay brand, which was created in the 1970s for the French market. There are also some Nicaraguan and Dominican choices, including the Arturo Fuente God’s Whisper 20th Anniversary (90 euros) and a rotating monthly special house pick that gets a custom La Reserve band. Prices range from 35 euros for a petit Montecristo No. 5, Bolivar Petit Corona or Nicaraguan Oliva Serie V Torpedo to 140 euros for a Cohiba Pirámides Extra, with most running in the 50 to 80 euro range.

The cigar selection is impressive, and there’s a breadth of places to enjoy them. All the outdoor spaces are up for grabs, including the main central courtyard with its restaurant seating, so you can enjoy full meal service and a cigar. The main dining room even has its own smaller tabletop humidor that can be brought tableside, with a mini-selection of the lounge’s larger inventory. Both front terraces open directly off the bar and are smoker friendly with waiter service, offering the feeling of being in the city, complete with people watching and misters in warm weather. With the Winter Garden itself, inside or out, La Reserve has a lot of options for smoking, eating, drinking and excellent lodging, and is a perfect urban escape, right between the art of the Louvre and the boutiques of the Champs-Elysees.

Winter GardenLa Reserve Paris Hotel & Spa42 Avenue GabrielParis, France 75008+33 1 58 36 6060 Open with food and drink service:Tuesday to Saturday - Thursday: 12 p.m. to 1 a.m.Sunday - Monday: 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.Cigar service available on demand at other hours.

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