As befits its name, former function and setting in Paris’s historic banking district near the Opéra Garnier, the recently opened Banke Hotel has all the grandeur and opulence that financial institutions used to have before small branch offices (not known for their attractive design – or any design at all, for that matter) began to mushroom in big cities. The round two-story lobby of Le Banke is something to behold, with its magnificent glass cupola, gold-trimmed black and red arches, and handsome mosaic floor. The hotel’s decorator, owner Jordi Clos, didn’t have to think twice about preserving all that. He has sparsely furnished the lobby with amusing pieces – “diamond”-studded black armchairs, curvy red sofas and one spectacular, enormous gold Chesterfield sofa – that are witty and up to date without distracting from the magnificence of the space.
The Gilded Age theme is picked up again behind the bank’s former counters, in the bar, with its gold furnishings, and in the restaurant, where diners can rest their posteriors on gold banquettes or burnt-wood chairs by Dutch designer Maarten Baas. Unfortunately, the restaurant also has those crystal chandeliers encased in smoked-glass shades that seem to be in every new spot with “design” credentials these days. The menu reflects the Catalan origins of the Clos family, owners of the Derby Hotels Collection, for which Le Banke is the first Paris hotel, with tapas, jamón Bellota and other Spanish specialties.
The rooms in the Belle Epoque building offer a more restrained style of modern luxury, with touches like woven leather headboards, designer furniture, silver mosaic or marble bathrooms, depending on the type of room (and its price, of course). Restful color schemes play with cream, chocolate-brown and deep purple. The rooms on the first floor (what Americans would call the second floor) benefit from the former bank’s architectural details, with high ceilings, the original molding and parquet floors, and some marble fireplaces. Each floor has its own mini-art museum in display cabinets.Naturally, all the usual amenities are provided, including 24-hour room service, in-room Wi-Fi and LCD television screens. The hotel has a fitness center and plans to open a spa. The former vault will eventually be turned into a nightclub. Three seminar rooms on the mezzanine overlook the lobby.
Banke Hotel: 20, rue Lafayette, 75009 Paris. Métro: Chausée d’Antin-La Fayette or Le Peletier. Tel.: 01 55 33 22 22. Fax: (33) 1 55 33 22 23. 94 rooms and suites: €150-€420 (depending on season and promotional offers). E-mail: email@example.com