Lydia Manch takes a tour of Paris, with the French hospitality group determined to bring their brand of Roaring Twenties to London…
It’s only when our train’s already skimming underneath the Channel that I settle into some research on my hosts for the next 24 hours – and realise the big, sweeping scope of Paris Society International’s ambitions. Not just in the schedule for this trip, which is tbf an also-ambitious sweep of some of the terraces, restaurants, clubs, live music, DJ sets, and invite-only cocktail bars in the Paris Society stable, condensed into a 24 hour whirlwind highlights reel. But also for their wider, international plans, a densely-packed roster of openings across multiple brand concepts and continents.
I knew something about Paris Society already, bien sûr: it’s difficult to spend regular time in Paris without being peripherally aware of the people behind most of the city’s largest and most archetypally-Parisian terraces. Pick a sun-dappled lunch spot or a lantern-lit nighttime cocktail venue above a certain price point, and odds are strong it’ll be the careful hands of PSI behind the scenes. And by the sounds of it their reach is going to be heavily on the rise over the next 5 years through Italy, Spain, the Middle East and Australia.
The hook for me, though, is what that might mean for home turf. London already has Louie. A new concept from PSI; unlike Gigi, Girafe et al – which now have offshoots in other cities, but started life in Paris – Louie’s a London-first, Louisiana-influenced venue near Covent Garden, with a NOLA-slanted restaurant across multiple floors, and a live music bar tucked away on the top floor. Louie’s prices mean the restaurant’s been allocated to my mental list of places that don’t require a lottery win but do require a Special Reason; the menu features enough gumbo and oysters and Creole classics that I can sense it siren-singing its way into Tuesday-counts-as-a-Special-Enough-Reason territory.
The bruit qui court is that Paris Society are also planning on opening a second venue in London later this year, though at the time of writing that’s sitting somewhere between a solid roadmap and a sexy rumour. Some of their international plans are a lot further into being a reality, but the most you can divine about their London intentions from their emerging ventures in Rome/Venice/Milan/Madrid/Dubai, ultimately, is a commitment to story-driven, design-led concepts, in the kind of grand townhouses and courtyards that lend themselves to a narrative spread across myriad alcoves and rooms.
So the next steps for PSI’s London ventures is shrouded in mystery, and they could easily be ready to drop something new and unknown on the city. But hot contenders for a UK transfer from their existing playlist, if I had to guess: Gigi – think the Paris crashpad of an old-world Milanese bachelor-dandy; Girafe, a Joseph Dirand-designed art deco seafood restaurant, and home to the invite-only, celebrity-studded upper level La Suite Girafe, and Le Piaf, a louche, red velvet-scattered, late-night restaurant-bar-club across multiple floors.
And if I had a vote: Maison Russe, one of the most ludicrously lavish, flamboyantly OTT places I know of in Paris, with a menu of traditional Slavic-influenced dishes filtered through a very Parisian prism, interiors like sitting inside a Fabergé egg, and a fiercely high-energy Balkan band roaming the corridors and host of private dining rooms.
Ultimately our spin through some of Paris Society’s French repertoire didn’t give us a lot of answers about their future moves in London – having seen the intense curation that goes into every PSI experience, and the level of bespoking to each new city, town, or stretch of coastline they take on, difficult to guess what next-level immersivity they’re going to throw at their next UK project. But one thing we’d bet on: it’ll be formidable.
The Arbuturian were hosted by Paris Society International, including a stay at Villa M, the Philippe Starck-designed hotel in the 15th arrondissement.
Photos by Romain Ricard