There is a loud scratching on the door.
In normal circumstances in a hotel, not a reassuring noise.
But here at hotel Airelles Chateau de Versailles – Le Grand Controle, it’s nothing alarming – merely our butler starting the royal 7am wake-up ritual. Next, he enters our two-bedroom suite with a small sound system from which emanates soothing harpsichord music and pronounces that ‘it is time for the king and the queen to get up’.
Le Grand Controle opened last yr by renowned hotel group Airelles. The constructing that houses it’s within the palace grounds. Pictured above is the breathtaking lounge
Pictured above is Le Grand Controle’s ‘outrageously opulent’ subterranean swimming pool
The constructing that houses Le Grand Controle (above right) was once a functioning a part of the palace and was in-built 1681 by former resident King Louis XIV’s favourite architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart
From Louis XV to Louis XVI’s reign Le Grand Controle was the equivalent of today’s Ministry of Finance
The shutters are flung open and glasses of sugared almond milk placed on our bedside tables.
‘I shall now get up the young princess!’ he declares, picking up the sound system and marching off towards her bedroom.
Ah… Our daughter is just five and we’re not certain of her response to a person dressed like a Louis XVI courtier, complete with wig, appearing at the top of her bed and telling her to exit the land of nod.
But all is well. There aren’t any blood-curdling screams. In actual fact, she finds it quite amusing.
As will we.
The ‘royal wake-up’ is obtainable to offer us a taste of life as a king and queen within the Palace of Versailles in 18th-century France (for those who’re wondering concerning the almond milk – apparently, French royals drank it first-thing).
To be frank, we feel like royals within the Palace of Versailles from the moment we step across the brink.
Not least because Le Grand Controle, opened last yr by renowned hotel group Airelles, is within the palace grounds – and the constructing that houses it was once a functioning a part of the palace, in-built 1681 by former resident King Louis XIV’s favourite architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and used from Louis XV to Louis XVI’s reign because the equivalent of today’s Ministry of Finance, playing host to the European cultural elite.
Ted and his family stay within the ‘exquisitely composed’ Rose Bertin Suite (above), named after the dressmaker to Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and the ultimate Queen of France before the revolution
Ted says of his quarters: ‘It is a spacious attic chamber – as big as our London flat – that will please any of the palace’s former royal residents’
Ted and his family are given a ‘royal wake-up’ of their suite (above)
Then there’s the hotel’s impeccably authentic furniture and décor, the pitch-perfect service from devoted staff, the luxurious bedrooms, the outrageously opulent pool and the incredible Michelin-starred dining experience – The Feast – by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, which takes us back to the time of Louis XIV’s reign, with dishes inspired by meals he ate and wonderful theatrics by staff in flowery period outfits.
INSIDE THE KINGS’ CHAMBERS IN THE PALACE
And we will almost imagine the way it feels to be a French royal during a complimentary after-hours VIP tour of the palace – one in every of the perks of a stay at Le Grand Controle.
We’re in a gaggle of just 12 or so hotel guests – so it is simple to detach and stand alone within the remarkable corridors and rooms, to immerse fully within the majesty of all of it, the skin world seeming a world away.
The palace began life as a modest hunting lodge, built by Louise XIII in 1623. Over greater than a century, the constructing was enlarged and embellished to deal with the courts of Louis XIV, XV and XVI.
Today it’s considered one in every of the best achievements of French architecture, an impressive palace-city covering 8.15 square kilometres (3.1 square miles) with 2,300 rooms and ornate gardens with 200,000 trees and 210,000 flowers.
The Baron de Stael-Holstein Room (above) occupies an area that was once home to Baron de Stael-Holstein, Chamberlain of Queen Sophia Magdalena and Swedish ambassador to France
The Necker Suite (above) is the previous private apartment of Jacques Necker, the finance minister and statesman who became a major figure within the French Revolution. Serving under Louis XVI, he was arguably the most well-liked minister of the era
Above is the Necker Suite bathroom
On our exclusive exploration, we soak up a few of the palace’s most intriguing – and breathtaking, rooms – from the Hall of Mirrors to non-public chambers where Louis XIV and Louis XVI slept.
There are hidden doors, a writing desk with secret compartments, colossal OTT beds and stunning paintings.
The group is visibly awestruck.
To succeed in the primary palace we simply walk out of a hotel side door that leads into the gardens and walk, via the monumental Hundred Steps staircase (there are actually 100 steps, there is no artistic licence within the title).
And that is one other perk – Le Grand Controle guests have 24-hour access to the world-famous gardens through this door. Fancy a walk through them under the moonlight? Aucun problème.
Before the ‘Feast’, we savour preparing in our exquisitely composed Rose Bertin Suite, named after the dressmaker to Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and the ultimate Queen of France before the revolution (all of the rooms are named after figures from Le Grand Controle’s history).
It is a spacious attic chamber – as big as our London flat – that will please any of the palace’s former royal residents, with sumptuous king-sized beds, fantastic furniture, terracotta flooring, exposed wood beams, twin en-suites in separate rooms with rain showers, cupboards cleverly hidden behind beautifully embroidered panelling – and two mannequins wearing period clothing in honour of Rose and her sewing skills.
We fall in love with it.
The hotel’s lovely terrace, where Ted and his family enjoy a day tea and a lunch
The hotel sits right next to the monumental Hundred Steps staircase (there are actually 100 steps, there is no artistic licence within the title)
The room, one in every of just 14 at this ultra-exclusive haven, exemplifies what Airelles, using the abilities of architect and interior designer Christophe Tollemer and palace historians, has achieved with the hotel as an entire – to faithfully reproduce the lavish interiors of Le Grand Controle as it might have been in 1788, the yr of its last inventory.
Airelles said that Tollemer ‘spent many hours rigorously consulting the chateau archives to make sure Le Grand Controle’s past was delivered to life in probably the most authentic way possible’.
Unique antiques and art were sourced and where possible original items restored.
But Airelles goes further – all of the staff wear outfits harking back to the period, not only the wake-up butlers and waiters and waitresses within the Ducasse feast.
And the gardens and terraces ‘pay homage to the grand past of Versailles’.
A FEAST FIT FOR A KING – ANY KING
Within the dining room (above) – ‘seductively smothered in gold paint, thick drapery and twinkling chandeliers’ – Ted enjoys a Michelin-starred feast inspired by the meals King Louis XIV ate
We enjoy an outstanding afternoon tea and a lunch on the terrace, however the ‘Feast’ is the jewel within the crown of Grand Controle’s food offering.
It takes place within the primary dining room, accessed via the hotel’s gorgeous lounge, resplendent with plush red and green sofas.
Once seated – in an area seductively smothered in gold paint, thick drapery and twinkling chandeliers, and with spectacular views of the Orangerie Gardens – we’re treated to a flamboyant five-course gourmet banquet, with theatrics that begin almost immediately.
As soon as we state our preference to one in every of the waiters for sparkling water, he claps his hands with gusto and shouts to a colleague ‘water for the king and the queen!’
(Nando’s this ain’t.)
The Palace of Versailles began life as a modest hunting lodge, built by Louise XIII in 1623. Pictured above is Le Grand Controle’s bar
Ted describes the lounge (above) as ‘gorgeous’
Following this, we’re served glasses of house Champagne and a loaf of rustic Crunch Me bread accompanied by two varieties of homemade butter – salted and calmly seasoned with Espelette pepper.
Following amuse bouche presented on a silver platter – which incorporates a pleasant mini souffle with a dollop of lemon cream on top – we’re presented with entrees: summer vegetable croustade topped with basil; langoustine with a broth of langoustine infused with ginger, red chilli and mint; and my favourite – a type of egg blancmange (produced from whisked egg whites and injected with Noilly vermouth) in a ‘lettuce sauce’, with a generous sprinkling of caviar sitting on the candied egg yolk in the center. Plus edible gold leaf to match the paintwork.
Thus far, so splendidly decadent.
Turbot with clams and green beans is delivered next; then pigeon filled with pigeon liver; duck foie gras tartine; fluffy potato crisps; figs with spice (entremets – small dishes historically served between courses); and desserts – fresh herb sorbet on a block of ice, strawberry Fontainebleau and ‘The King Cake’, vanilla sponge topped with ‘Anais’ strawberries.
The food is great, beautifully prepared and presented. The wine adequate for any royal soft palate (we particularly benefit from the 2020 white Chateauneuf-du-Pape by Chateau de Vaudieu).
Le Grand Controle has just 14 suites – which makes it an ultra-exclusive haven
This image shows the primary entrance to Le Grand Controle, which has been furnished using the abilities of architect and interior designer Christophe Tollemer
Ted’s daughter descends the Hundred Steps staircase en-route to the hotel after a VIP tour of the palace
A chair on display that is believed to be an original from 18th-century Le Grand Controle
And the theatrics are the icing on the cake, the highlight being when a bewigged waiter appears to announce the courses, strutting between the tables with an enormous staff as he describes the treats after which banging the staff on the ground with a cry of ‘aux gourmandises du roi!’ – roughly translated as ‘to the king’s delicacies’.
We return to the dining room within the morning for a five-star breakfast, then enjoy one other VIP guided tour, this time across the mesmerising Grand Trianon, a highly refined single-storey constructing that Louis XIV had in-built 1670 as a more private retreat away from the Court.
The Grand Trianon hosted the G7 summit in 1982 – and put up the delegates. We’re shown the large suites where Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher slept.
We finish our stick with a lingering splash about in the fantastic subterranean 15m pool on the hotel, which must be seen to be believed – it’s finished in marble and stone, decorated with busts inspired by the courtyard of the palace, and there are luxurious antique sofas, loungers and chairs on the poolside.
If this wasn’t Le Grand Controle, I’d be convinced I’d been warped into Lara Croft’s mansion.
Testing is agony, for all three of us had quickly grown accustomed to the regal life.
Because the taxi for Gare du Nord and the Eurostar home sets off, I look wistfully back on the grand edifices I called home for an evening, then seek for harpsichord music for my phone alarm clock…
Ted and his family are hosted by Airelles Chateau de Versailles – Le Grand Controle, where rooms start from around £1,600 (1,820 euros/$1,775) an evening.
The ‘Feast’ menu is 280 euros (£250/$270). Wine pairing is 160 euros (£144/$155), ‘exceptional’ wine pairing is 500 euros (£450/$485).
PROS: It is a hotel that is exquisitely decorated and furnished – in places breathtakingly so. Splendidly authentic. One among the best hotel pools within the hospitality industry. Delightful and truly memorable dining. Impeccable service (though it will not surprises guests who’ve stayed at other Airelles properties). VIP Versailles Palace tours and garden access are incredible perks.
CONS: None (for those who can afford it).
Eurostar: Visit Eurostar.com for information on its high-speed services between London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord.