“Chic chateau in the city: 8 extravagant rooms hidden inside an 18th-century hôtel particulier in Montpellier's underrated centre”
There are 8 individually decorated rooms spread across the building, some of which can be booked in pairs to create the Apartment. Reached via a sweeping central stairwell, there are keypads on the entry doors
Most impressive are the 2 Large Deluxe rooms. One is a palatial affair with 2 floor-to-ceiling windows flooding light over pale cream walls; a trail of circular ruglets lead from the double bed, over smooth flag stone floors, to the bathroom (huge bathtub) and the separate dressing room. The other - and our favourite - shares the same 4-metre ceilings and plasterwork, but is decked out in subdued beiges offset by splashes of warm red in the carefully chosen Cole & Son wallpaper. The shower is housed in a gleaming glass booth behind the bedhead wall, with a transparent wardrobe alongside; it feels wonderfully futuristic in such an ancient room.
If you want more seclusion, or if you come with child in tow, ask for one of the Suites. The first has butterfly themed wallpaper and groovy white-molded bucket chairs, while the second has a blood red and black colour scheme (perfect for a romantic escape as there are no immediate neighbours). Both of these rooms have a small sitting room, a shower room and storage shelves cleverly squeezed into the rear, and there are plenty of cool touches (white flatscreen TV, designer easy chair, Voss mineral water) but don't expect the grandeur and scale of the Large Deluxe rooms: these are cosy and intimate.
The 2 Suites can be combined, along with an all-white kitchen down the corridor, to create the Apartment. It has cooking facilities (hob, oven), equipment for simple meals (pans, kettle, toaster, cafetiere), a dishwasher and a washing machine making it well suited to a long stay.
The Superior and Deluxe rooms suffer by comparison, but they’re still comfortable and we particularly liked the Superior room with the pretty pink and silver flamingo wallpaper.
In terms of equipment, this is more B&B than hotel, so no minibar and no room service. But there is free WiFi, in-room phones and iPod docks have been installed since our visit.
In the magnificent reception room, alongside 2 sumptuous crescent red-silk sofas and huge panels of swirling gold fabric, individual breakfast tables are laid with a glorified continental spread, which includes delicious custard-filled pastries, fresh cut fruit salad, fromage frais and a clutch of upmarket mini-jams. A heavy silver teapot weighs down a copy of The Times, and teas are presented with typically Gallic flair in a classy casket. It's a suitably genteel start to the day (but not before 8am); the only question is whether it's worth the (not insignificant) extra cost - you might prefer to nip out to a café, especially in summer when many of the squares are lined with tables and parasols.
Alain can now arrange private dinners with a chef (given advance notice) as well as table d'hotes meals at weekends (for a minimum of 6). But most of us will head out for lunch and dinner. Which is no hardship: besides the Michelin-starred and consistently superb Jardin des Sens, there are several excellent eateries within a short walk. We enjoyed the light, trendy fare at Insensé, attached to the Musée de Fabre, and a very reasonably priced dinner on the leafy Place de la Chapelle Neuve, at Le Grillardin. Boris on rue de l'Aiguillerie also comes recommended, as does Régis Brasserie for seafood and Welcomedia on Place Comédie for people-watching; if that's not enough, Alain has compiled an up-to-the-minute shortlist of recommendations based on his own and guests' feedback.
Children are welcome. To keep young ones amused in Montpellier, try the Amazonian Hothouse (tropical ferns, palms and wildlife - including anteaters, giant spiders and a bat cave); or the Mare Nostrum aquarium, showcasing 300 species of fish and marine life. Both are a short tram, bus or taxi ride away.
The Suites and the Deluxe rooms have space for extra beds, and the Suites also have access to a shared kitchen with a microwave and hob for heating baby food etc. Larger families should book the Apartment which has a private kitchen and space for 6 people plus a baby.