In an era of £1,000-a-night hotels, this new London opening surprised me

Grand Hotel Bellevue, London
Grand Hotel Bellevue is a French-owned hotel with a French name and mostly French staff

All good hotels should take their guests on a “journey” and if the hotel has a theme, it should seamlessly unfold. At the Grand Hotel Bellevue, I found the theme confusing, but this new London hotel is très agréable nonetheless.

Let me explain. I’m in a French-owned hotel, with a French name, mostly French staff, a bar stocked with wines from the owners’ Loire Valley château and a classic continental breakfast served in the very French basement café. The illustrious designer of the hotel, Fabrizio Casiraghi (currently working on Four Seasons Vatican City) has imagined, I’m told, a backstory for the look he has created: the private home of an English aristocrat married to an eccentric globetrotting wife. But that’s altogether too confusing, because the story bears little relation to the name of the hotel, which, to me, conjures something very different.

Grand Hotel Bellevue, London
The designer has imagined a theme based on the private home of an English aristocrat

Here, at the Grand Hotel Bellevue, with its dark, sober furniture, its Persian-style rugs and flower-strewn carpets, I feel I’m somewhere in the 19th century, in crinolines, in a prominent hotel in a large provincial French town that might be described in the pages of Flaubert, Balzac or Maupassant.

Except, of course, I’m not in France at all. In fact I’m extremely close to Paddington Station, in a garden square packed with two-star dives. See what I mean by confusing? But if you do decide to try out this new London address, I hope you won’t regret it – I didn’t. For a start, it’s actually affordable, plus it’s beautifully designed and refreshingly different. And Paddington is rapidly improving: Renzo Piano’s dazzling cube-shaped Paddington Square retail and restaurant development next to the station is now almost complete, and the area is most definitely on the up.

Grand Hotel Bellevue, London
The hotel is located close to London's Paddington Station

There are some lovely touches in the two adjoining townhouses that make up the hotel. The handsome burnt orange reception room has black lacquered fittings, including shelves adorned with glass jars filled with jewel-like sweets. The adorable bar has a beautiful fabric wallcovering created in collaboration with American fashion designer Emily Bode, and illustrated with hand-sewn India-inspired motifs (a tiger; a Mughal emperor on horseback). That flower-strewn carpet on stairs and in corridors takes its inspiration from Botticelli; the fitness room, with its mahogany-trimmed machines, is the first one I have ever considered using in a hotel (most resemble, to me, torture chambers).

The Grand Hotel Bellevue has 60 bedrooms and some are tiny, but so cleverly done that I almost wished I were sleeping in one of the double Cabins, where my fantasy about being in a 19th-century French provincial hotel melted away, to be replaced by the feeling of being on a vintage passenger ship. The high, deep bed tucked under the muslin-curtained window looked so inviting, and underneath there was space for suitcases as well as a carefully stocked minibar. On the wall, there were drop-down rails for hanging clothes, a rack for shoes and a shelf. The bathrooms throughout the hotel are beautifully tiled, with elegant basins and wood-framed oval mirrors above.

Grand Hotel Bellevue, London
The Grand Hotel Bellevue has 60 bedrooms

If you want more space, opt for the first-floor Norfolk Suite, which is not only large, but the only room with a (copper) bath as well as a shower, with fine views over the neat communal garden. With a medieval-style tapestry wall hanging, a still life in an elaborate frame and a stretch of glass-fronted, net-curtained wardrobes in the entrance hall, I remained pleasantly transported to another, more dignified age.

I did expect a restaurant. Call a hotel Grand Bellevue, and visions of white linen tablecloths and a menu du jour spring to mind. But there’s just the café and bar. French manager Yannis Badakian and his team need to know where to direct guests for dinner in the neighbourhood; luckily, they do.

Grand Hotel Bellevue, London
The hotel is home to a café and bar

End of French fantasy: in contrast to the Grand Hotel Bellevue, the Victoria, a nearby historic 19th-century Fuller’s pub, is resolutely British. “The best fish and chips I’ve ever had,” declared my friend Bob, as we contentedly noshed in the ornate panelled first-floor dining room, a Victorian treasure.

Next morning, at breakfast, I was back in La Belle France. A perfect Gallic spread was laid out before me: a basket of croissants, crusty bread and pastries, including home-made madeleines; yogurt with berries and granola; hazelnuts, cranberries, raisins; a selection of cheeses; cold meats; rich, velvety coffee. Eggs, bacon and sausage are available to order for those who must.

See what I mean about the Grand Hotel Bellevue? Très perturbant, but I did like being there.


Doubles at Grand Hotel Bellevue (020 3089 2527; ares from £224; breakfast £24pp.