A key landmark in Paris’ legendary Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, Hôtel Pont Royal, has been a space for Epicurian discovery since its founding in 1923.
Once a residential space, the hotel now hosts 75 luxurious rooms and suites, with extraordinary views of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré Cœur and musing walks to the Seine River and Musée d’Orsay.
Hôtel Pont Royal is steeped in literary, musical, and artistic history. The Signature Bar comes by its Jazz Age-era speakeasy ambience honestly, being the preferred refuge for some of the greatest creative minds of the 20th Century, including Simone De Beauvoir, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Radclyffe Hall, Simone de Beauvoir, Truman Capote, and Ernest Hemingway.
We spoke with Frédéric Le Gallois, the General Manager of Hôtel Pont Royal, about the Hotel’s place in history and what guests can come to expect today.
What experiences and influences guided you to hospitality management, and how has your opinion about the profession changed over time?
I was born into the hospitality business and represent the third generation following that path. So I was for sure influenced by my parents and grandparents trying their best to please their guests.
My view on this profession has always been about [providing] excellence, whether you are cooking a simple dish or waiting on a Head of State gala dinner. No matter what you do, do it well. What has changed is my approach to excellence and rigour. I realized, climbing up the ladder and working in different countries, that technicity is useful in providing the best service; you also need passion, sincerity, and engagement.
What makes me effective is my capacity to listen and to adapt, especially in this strange staff shortage crisis. I define myself as a generalist surrounded by specialists. All my team members are better than me in their fields.
Please describe Hôtel Pont Royal’s history and how it has evolved.
Hôtel Pont Royal was built between the two World Wars, where everything was possible. We are talking here about Art Deco design, the publishing booming, and writers mingling in every café; the area was boiling [with innovation]. Then after WWII, Saint-Germain-des-Prés become the epicentre of literature, philosophy, and of course, jazz. Since then, we carry this legacy and are humble passers of this slice of Parisian history. Hôtel Pont Royal is still the place to be in terms of literature and jazz.
What elements of being the GM of Hôtel Pont Royal bring you passion and enjoyment?
There is no day like the previous one; that’s what makes my job so rich and interesting. After twenty-five years in this industry, my passion remains intact as I keep on learning, meeting new people, and being creative.
Please describe Hôtel Pont Royal’s aesthetic concept, architecture, and interior design and how these elements have been influenced by the surrounding culture, environment, and people.
Hôtel Pont Royal really owns a literary atmosphere on every floor with multiple references, quotes, and sayings from famous writers who stayed or just sipped a drink at the hotel. Light is also predominant in the rooms, enhanced by tremendous views over Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré Cœur.
In a few words, Hôtel Pont Royal concentrates on the quintessence of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, globally known for its literature emulsion, its jazz scene, and being an inspiration of fashion.
What makes your management style unique, and what experiences and events have shaped your management approach and decisions?
I have the willingness to recruit passionate and iconic profiles, giving them the ability to empower themselves to deliver their best in both technical and creative aspects. The team is the source of almost every success, so I would tend to see myself more as a leader than a manager.
What do you think makes Hôtel Pont Royal special?
Hôtel Pont Royal is unique first for its location. At the corner of Rue du Bac and Rue Montalembert, it offers a priceless spot for anyone wanting to walk down Saint-Germain-des-Prés to reach the Musée d’Orsay or even the Louvre.
How does Hôtel Pont Royal remain consistent in meeting its high hospitality and service standards?
One of the keys to consistency is always to question what you are doing. Not challenging yourself can be dangerous, and you can quickly see a decrease in your quality. Wondering how to improve things or how to be more efficient not only allows creativity but keeps you and the team on your toes.
How would you describe Hôtel Pont Royal? What would make people want to visit Hôtel Pont Royal?
Entering the Pont Royal is like travelling in time and having the feeling you could enjoy a cocktail with Hemingway and Camus or staying in an apartment and being Parisian for a few days.
What do you think guests look for in their accommodation, and what features make them return?
One of the main requests is the view. We are fortunate to embrace three-thirds of the city from our balconies, so our guests can really enjoy the perspective. What does make them return is the team. Having great features is no longer enough. The Covid-crisis showed how important human relation [and interaction] is, and this is where we are at our best.
Have you seen a difference in guest needs over the years?
As mentioned, genuine human relation is the new luxury. Of course, young generations will be avid [seekers] of new technology, so we have to deal with it, but we are working hard to entertain human relations and direct contact.
How does Hôtel Pont Royal draw from and incorporate local culture and work with local artisans, craftsmen, and components?
Luxury hospitality can no longer believe that sustainability is for others. We all have an impact on global warming, and at Hôtel Pont Royal, we want to think that way.
For example, our food products are mainly sourced locally, and guests’ gifts are locally handmade.
What can guests expect from a stay at the hotel?
Guests can expect 5-star service, attention to detail, empathy, and discovering Paris like a true Parisian (by getting the best bistro spot, enjoying the Musée d’Orsay with a VIP pass or running in the Jardin des Tuileries, for example).
What hospitality industry changes would you like to see in future?
This is a very vast question. Hospitality was a pioneer in many domains a century ago (hot water, lifts, bathtub…), so what innovation can hospitality bring today to the world? I would tend to think that it is to match luxury service and ecology, but I don’t have the answer yet.
Please describe your favourite highlights of the hotel, including accommodation, facilities, and amenities.
After roaming in the bar, I really like our Signature Junior Suite. Located just on top of the canopy, its art déco window provides an amazing perspective on the Rue du Bac and gives you the feeling you could touch the Louvre from your bed.
Please describe your favourite dish/es on Hôtel Pont Royal’s menu.
I will remain very traditional, but the Club Sandwich is, for me, a must-have.
Please describe your favourite cocktail/s or drinks on Hôtel Pont Royal’s menu.
I really like The Duke cocktail. This homage to Duke Ellington is the perfect combination of Cognac, Amaretto, Mango, lemon, and ginger ale. It gives a powerful but very refined taste.
Are there upcoming developments or events that visitors can look forward to?
In addition to our successful Jazz Night every other Monday, we also have our weekend Pont Royal “Goûter” in partnership with Pastry Chef Carl Marletti. We will also launch Hôtel Pont Royal Rendez-Vous, where a famous writer will come to lecture and talk about their book. This monthly event will definitely fit into the Saint-Germain-des-Prés way of living; mixing art, music, and Epicurean culture.