Brach Paris hotel review: everything you need, before you need it
A hotel that is at once raw and romantic, modern, minimalist and unconventional
Evok, the hospitality group behind the small but perfect belle epoque inspired Nolinski in Paris’ Opera district, specialises in luxury hotels that resonate with the spirit of their surroundings. The character of each of Evok’s properties is a reflection of the property itself, as well as the neighbourhood in which it sits.
At Brach, design auteur Philippe Starck has crafted a world of effortlessly louche luxe from the grim, unpromising brutalism of a 1970s postal sorting office, bringing hip, high-end, urban chic to the heart of Paris’ (occasionally) staid 16th arrondissement.
At first, Brach’s imposing glass-and-steel frame seems incongruous among its Haussmanien neighbours. But the hotel’s sharp edges are softened by a riot of greenery. Tender ropes of foliage spill over from the hotel’s series of terrace gardens, coiling down towards the bright benches beside the hotel entrance and on street-side patio.
As you walk in, it is obvious that Brach isn’t just in the 16th, it is part of the arrondissement. The lobby and basement below were conceived as public space, open to locals and hotel guests alike. In the short time it’s been open, the hotel has become a hub for the quartier.
The sports centre – free for guests - is cavernous and masculine, styled to pay playful homage to boxing gyms of the 1930s. You can put in real effort if you wish – the gym is state of the art, the 22-metre pool perfect for laps, there’s a full schedule of classes too - but don’t miss the jacuzzi. There’s a wellness bar for post-workout smoothies, as well as a barber’s shop, with a portrait of Folsom Prison Blues-era Johnny Cash casually propped up nearby should you need inspiration. A spa and Himalayan salt cave are due to open shortly, complementing the hammam and sauna already in situ.
Restaurant Brach – the heart of the hotel’s public space – is upstairs, just off the lobby. It’s a large, open, airy room, filled with life and light. Master patissier Yann Brys can often be found behind the 20-metre marble counter running the length of the restaurant, helping locals and guests alike choose their goûter from his decadent array of patisserie. The tarte au citron, featuring Brys’ signature tourbillon swirl on top, is sublime.
The glass-fronted cheese and vegetable fridges, studies for a 21st century Caravaggio still life, are a counterpoint to the energy bursting out of executive chef Adam Bentalha’s open kitchen. Bentalha, who has wielded his knives at the Royal Monceau, Shangri-La and the Ritz, may be young, but he knows how to run a kitchen.
Parisian diners agree. Restaurant Brach is one of the city’s hottest tickets. The restaurant’s staff, clad in Le Coq Sportif and carrying large trays crammed with meze plates, navigate between crowded communal benches and the cosier tables towards the rear. Guest DJs add a top-note to the buzz. A bold, Georges Braque-esque mural (one of two in the hotel painted by Starck’s daughter, Ara) winds around the walls, adding colour and texture to the restaurant’s sleek marble, brass and walnut aesthetic. Despite its size, the restaurant is warm, intimate and relaxed.
But the space alone isn’t why all of Paris is clamouring for a table. Bentalha’s Mediterranean-inspired menu is the real draw. From the theatricality of veal cooked in calzone, the luscious simplicity of aged parmesan risotto with balsamico de Modena or dorado tartare, to the hummus and the freshly-baked challah, Bentalha has not put a foot wrong with the menu. Even the most robust dishes – lamb marinated in zaatar, for example – have a complex and subtle delicacy. Bentalha has encouraged his team to be deft and bold. The cooking has strength, inventiveness and some delightfully unexpected touches.
Upstairs, Brach’s elegant modernity becomes more personal. Guests check in on the first floor, where the hotel itself begins and Starck’s design – and precise attention to detail - comes into sharper focus.
While the hotel’s 59 rooms and suites are individually designed, each space is informed by Starck’s casually eclectic vision. On the picture rails, Dadaist photographs jostle with Beninois masks and Art Brut prints. Fresh flowers soften the marble wall vases. Carefully chosen novels, art catalogues and non-fiction lie heaped on beaded African stools for guests to leaf through. For those who want a soundtrack, flick a switch on the discreet brass wall panel, choose from one of five carefully curated playlists and let the in-room audio system do the rest.
Rooms are sleek and chic, sensual and unconventional: walls clad in walnut, mirrored surfaces reflecting the wood’s warmth, playing with light and space. The furnishings are a clever mix of 1970s, mid-century and contemporary pieces.
The bathrooms gleam with smooth brass and Carrera marble (the raw edge of the basin is a beautiful textural touch). As you’d expect from a five-star hotel, the bath tub could comfortably fit two. It is worth asking for a room on the fourth floor for the rainfall shower alone. Thanks to the building’s previous life, there’s a four-metre drop from shower head to floor. Who knew that an architectural quirk could lend itself to such a simple yet indulgent pleasure?
There’s thought behind every detail: from heavy cloth laundry bags, to capacious jute shopping totes available for guests, from the artwork in the wardrobe to the handwritten note left on your bed in the evening advising of the next day’s weather forecast, the Brach team have everything you could possibly need, ready before you need it.
Rather than a minibar, Brach offers guests a mini concept store. There are all the fixings for a range of cocktails (shaker and strainer too, of course), beers, wines, champagnes and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as generous portions of healthy and not-so healthy snacks. If you don’t want to leave your room but you’re a little bored? The mini store has board games.
From the vast – and vastly comfortable - bed, a flick of a button will raise the blackout blinds, giving you a floor-to-ceiling reminder that you’re in Paris. Be sure to enjoy breakfast in bed at least once, drinking in the picture postcard view with your café au lait.
The suites, on the fifth and sixth floors, are the perfect Parisian pied-à-terre. Living rooms have butter-soft leather sofas to sink into once you’ve had your fill of the shopping on offer on the Rue de Passy, just a five-minute walk away. Each suite has a terrace with wraparound views of Paris – if you don’t make it to the Trocadero, you can at least catch a glimpse of it. You’ll also find a barbeque and hot tub on the terrace.
The roof garden is Brach’s most delicious surprise. There’s a jacuzzi and barbeque for parties, but most of the roof’s 300 square metres is gardener Alexandre Phelip’s domain. The roof is fringed with apple and pear trees, planted as palisades to provide shelter for raised beds filled with berries, vegetables, herbs and wildflowers. Three chickens – Eglantine, Berenice and Susie - rule the roost from their hen house with a view.
Stepping into the world Evok has created at Brach could not be easier. Start with a cocktail at the newly-opened bar in the lounge at St Pancras, then hop on one of the 19 daily Eurostar departures for Gare du Nord. It’s just a short taxi ride from there to Brach.
Starck’s collaboration with Evok at Brach is a triumph. It is at once raw and romantic, modern, minimalist and unconventional. Evok, which is due to open two new hotels in the Marais next year, has created a hotel which is not just a home for guests, it is a retreat and an adventure too. The devil may well be in the detail, but what pleasure those details hold.
How to book: Classic rooms from €430 per night; Suites from €2,600 per night. brachparis.com
- Eurostar operates up to 19 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with one-way fares starting from £29 (based on a return journey)
- Fastest London-Paris journey time is 2hr 15 minutes
- Tickets are available from www.eurostar.com or 03432 186 186
Eurostar offers seamless and convenient city centre to city centre travel, as well as fast check-in (30 minutes before departure for standard class, 10 minutes for Business Premier).