L’Hôtel Banke, Paris

Back in April, I spent a night at L’Hôtel Banke, a flamboyant boutique hotel in the Opéra quarter of Paris that occupies the former headquarters of the CCF bank. Photographer Vincent Bourdon joined me for a few hours of shooting and exploring in order to create a story, and, finally I am able to share this unique place with you…

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

The doorman takes my luggage and ushers me in with a smile. Swathes of crumpled red taffeta are draped dramatically above, lit by a spectacular contemporary chandelier. Rushing to arrive, and with my mind elsewhere, I am suddenly brought into the moment and taken by surprise. It’s a theatrical entrance, almost like walking into the foyer of an opera house, setting the mood for what is to come.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

The imposing building dates to the early 20th century and was designed by talented architects Cassien-Bernard and Paul Friesé. From the street, it’s classic and stately, jutting out like the bow of a cruise liner at the junction of Rue La Fayette and Rue Pillet Will, home to headquarters of the Figaro newspaper.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

Once inside, the space opens up to a jaw-dropping rotunda crowned with a soaring glass ceiling, a grand lobby indeed, where Vincent is waiting. Marble pillars, imposing archways, a beautiful mosaic floor and the original wooden bank counters rub shoulders with 21st century red leather sofas, gold banquettes and perspex bar stools; an opulent blend of Neo-Baroque and modern design. It’s a unique, striking space filled with burgundy, gold and beaucoup de bling. Refurbished as a four-star hotel in 2009, the building is classified as an historic monument.

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The doorman accompanies me up to my suite on the sixth floor. It’s inviting and serene with hardwood floors and 60 square metres of space.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

Stylish pendant lights flank the leather headboard, and the king-size bed is made up with luxurious burgundy taffeta and crisp linen. Beyond is a bathroom of black marble.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

The afternoon sun plays on the sheer maroon curtains, dropping away before flooding the room with light; a double exposition.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014Located in the 9th arrondissement, the hotel is conveniently close to a cornucopia of delights. A dash to the end of the street will take you to Boulevard Haussmann and les grands magasins for a shopping spree at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. An added bonus is that it’s not far to carry those shoeboxes back to your hotel! Also just a short stroll away is Opéra Garnier, for a special evening out, and a little further, Place Vendôme and the Tuileries Gardens. To the north lies rue des Martrys, a lively merchant street that leads up to Montmartre, while a meander east will take you to a labyrinth of nineteenth-century covered passageways, dusted with old-world charm.

A tour of the hotel by the lovely Emilie takes us down to the diamond vault in the basement. Originally used by the bank there are around 400 safes here  – some inconceivably large. The metro rumbles above us. It’s a movie moment. Today the room is dark and shadowy, leather sofas empty, but the room can be booked for photo shoots, film, and private events such as cocktail parties.

Back in the lobby, we peer up the iron spiral stairwell, an allegory of the snake. It also has something of the Eiffel Tower about it. Emelie tells us that one of the architects who designed the bank was in fact from the Eiffel School.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

We sweep up to the first floor, originally bank offices, and walk along the balcony that runs around the walls, offering a dramatic view of the lobby below. Peeking into a room or two we discover an exuberant mix of golden age spirit and crisp contemporary design, with plaited leather rugs, marble bathrooms and designer furniture. There are 94 rooms and 16 lavish suites in all, dressed in hues of cream, chocolate and cassis.

Number 106 is the former office of the president of the bank, and one of the best suites. It’s dripping with glamour, red and gold. The romantic circular room has a bay window, marble fireplace and gilded moldings, not to mention a white leather bed and chairs from Bretz, the German manufacturer of luxuriously designed furniture and cult sofas. On the way out we pass a collection of Chinese artefacts. Each floor of the hotel showcases an impressive collection of art – it’s almost a boutique museum.

The Banke is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and part of the Derby Hotels Collection, a small group of eclectic hotels run by the Spanish ‘Clos family’, with addresses in Barcelona, Madrid, London and Paris. CEO Jordi Clos is an Egyptian archeologist and his wife is the artistic director of the hotels. Señor Clos owns and runs the only Egyptian museum in Barcelona, and each address features part of his private art collection of historically priceless jewellery, sculptures and artwork from different continents and civilizations. ‘At the Banke we have remarkable jewellery collections originating from Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas,’ says Emilie.

She explains that the hotel’s inspiration comes from the wife of the CEO – and her flamboyant style, flair for design and eccentric touches are everywhere. The lobby, for example, features an assortment of intriguing treasures preserved under glass domes: shells and starfish, old pharmacy bottles, a vintage globe of the world.

Jane Paech in Paris , April 2014

Next, we climb up to the rooftop (not open to guests) for a breathtaking view of the city. Sacré Cœur with its giant meringue dome sits across the rooftops. One of the suites boasts a dress circle view of the magnificent basilica.

Afterwards, we head back to the lobby for an apéro at the LolaBar, which serves cocktails and traditional tapas, before dining at the hotel’s Josefin gastronomic restaurant on the opposite side of the lobby. In such a cavernous space, the bar is not such a cosy place for a drink, and personally, I find the seating rather uncomfortable.

The black leather chairs and glam gold banquettes of the Josefin make up for it, a comfortable designer setting with mood lighting and sheer black curtains. Spanish and French cuisine are served, with Mediterranean specialities. We start with a plate of delicious Iberian bellota ham & pan con tomate. The staff is friendly and the service excellent and there’s a small selection of Spanish wines to choose from. Mains include pluma of Ibérique pork with black pudding spring rolls, and beef tartare with gaufrette potatoes. Vincent opts for the succulent lamb with a tajine of legumes confits, while I choose the delicate sea bream, with a flavoursome piperade of jambon de bellota. The Millefeuilles Josefin with caramel & pear sorbet for dessert tastes as good as it looks!

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And then I say goodbye, enter my soundproof room, close my blackout curtains and, on a very comfortable bed, fall straight to sleep. Here at the Banke, you can bank on a good night’s rest.

 Photos by Vincent Bourdon ©

Accommodation courtesy of L’Hôtel Banke

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A Morning in Time: Memories and Milking

Last weekend I drove down to Hynam and spent a couple of days with my brother and sister-in-law at Langkyne, the property I grew up on. Just three-and-a-half hours south of Adelaide, it’s always nostalgic going back and I am thankful that I am still able to revisit my childhood home, which is full of happy memories.

At first light on Sunday morning I crept out of the house, pulled on my rubber boots and went for a long walk around the vineyards and across the paddocks, as I always do when I visit. There is something incredibly special about being under a big morning sky, the air crisp and clean, not another human-being within cooee*. The only sound is warbling magpies.

On this cold winter morning, I greet Lily the deer,

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then head out into the paddocks where the sun is just rising above the gums.

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I trudge on – up the hillside and past the caves my brothers and I used to play in – spotting a fox that slinks back into his den the moment he spies me.

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On to the limestone quarry…another playground that is now much deeper and steeper than I remember, where the ochre light dances and I hear the echo of ‘laughter past’.

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At the top of the hill, I pause to look over this precious land, where magnificent red gums throw long morning shadows.

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On the other side of the hill, beyond the vines, a mob of kangaroos jumps away as I approach.

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At the shearing shed I climb the stairs as I have so many times before, bringing smoko in a basket to the shearers as a child; tea, jubilee cake and sandwiches. The smell of lanolin hangs in the air. This morning the shears are still and silent but it’s easy to conjure in my mind their constant drone, the shed a hive of activity.

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The sun shines brighter as I meander through rows of vines,

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and head back towards the house paddock.

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It was on this very lawn, left of the white wooden fence, that I celebrated my wedding reception in a big white marquee – many moons ago. Oh, how the trees have grown and life has changed…

I throw off my boots and open the door to the smell of bacon. My brother is cooking breakfast with eggs collected this morning. Suddenly I’m famished.

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As I walked through the paddocks I had a  flashback to a ‘Winter Morning in Time’, circa 1970…

My breath curls into the crisp morning air as I dig my hands deeper into my parka pockets. I am perched on a wooden railing of the milking shed, swinging my legs in my rubber boots as I watch the warm milk squirt noisily against the cold, steel bucket. It is rhythmical and comforting. The only sound apart from the milk hitting the steel is Clarabelle, a jersey cow the colour of milky espresso, munching on her half bucket of oats.

My father sits on a stump of wood, its seat worn smooth with use, hand milking with a deft proficiency that comes from years of practice. Depending on the amount of feed in the paddock, the house cow produces about a gallon and a half of milk in the morning and a gallon at night … more with the new spring grasses. The sound of milk grows duller and deeper as the bucket fills with frothy warm milk. By the time the soft morning sun caresses my hair and the last drop of milk is shaken into the bucket, I am almost in a trance-like state, hypnotised by the sound of the ritual.

The cats that live in the haystack on the mice they catch are lurking about. My father pours a little milk into their tins near the shed. They lap it up. We walk up the gentle slope of the orchard together, towards the house, milk sloshing precariously close to the rim of the bucket. Jack Frost is still lying on the grass and the winter light throws magic into the morning. We kick off our boots and enter into the warm kitchen where my Scottish grandmother is slowly stirring oatmeal over the fire with her spurtle (porridge stick). Another morning ritual.

A large bowl sits ready on the table and a strong river of milk quickly fills it, foaming and swirling. This bowl has a permanent home on the top shelf of the fridge where it sits and forms a layer of cream that begs to be skimmed off with a spoon. My father likes to eat it on bread with homemade jam. A jug is filled with the remaining milk: raw, real, full-cream milk straight from a happy, coffee-coloured cow. The cereal is on the table. It’s time for breakfast.

*Cooee! is a shout used in Australia, usually in the bush, to attract attention, find missing people, or indicate one’s own location. When done correctly – loudly and shrilly – a call of “cooee” can carry over a considerable distance. The distance one’s cooee call travels can be a matter of competitive pride. It is also known as a call of help.

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A Family in Paris in Paperback

Wonderful news! Penguin Books Australia is planning a paperback edition of A Family in Paris, perfect to tuck in your suitcase and take with you on your travels. I’ll post more information closer to the February 2015 publication date, including where to pre-order.

A Family in Paris Cover

If you would like to purchase a copy of the original hardback, please note that there is limited quantity remaining, so drop into your local bookshop soon. Alternatively, head to www.amazon.com, www.fishpond.com.au or www.booktopia.com.au.

Included this week in Ten Best Memoirs for Summer Reading by Kay Sanger.

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Bon Appétit

Thanks to Southern Life, a magazine that showcases SW Victoria and the Limestone Coast (where I grew up), for the glossy five page spread in their winter 2014 issue. The closest I’ll ever come to being a cover girl!

Unless you have amazingly good eyesight, pick up a copy to read the full article.

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Cook’n with Class

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Australian today to read about my Morning Market Cooking Class at a super little cooking school for English speakers on the butte of Montmartre.

To read more about Cook’n with Class go to http://www.cooknwithclass.com

Cook'n with Class; a boutique cooking school nestled in the backstreets of Montmartre. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Cook’n with Class; a boutique cooking school nestled in the backstreets of Montmartre. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Scallops in orange butter sauce with candied citrus zest and white asparagus. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Scallops in orange butter sauce with candied citrus zest and white asparagus. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

A warm chocolate fondant with a molten stream of striped chocolate lava. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

A warm chocolate fondant with a molten stream of striped chocolate lava. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

 

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The Pleasures of Apartment Living in Paris

‘We love hearing our guests tell us about their favourite part of staying in a vacation rental in Paris. Jane Paech, author of Delicious Days in Paris, shares just what creates that magical experience of living like a Parisian for her.’

Living the Dream. Photo Vincent Bourdon

Living the Dream. Photo Vincent Bourdon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read my guest blog for Paris Perfect on my stay in their beautiful rental apartments in the heart of Paris, and the pleasures of apartment living, click here.

 

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A Dip into the 12th Arrondissement

The Aligre quarter of Paris is full of colour and life.  To read an extract from Delicious Days in Paris on SBS FOOD, click here.

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Metro Bakery & Café

A few weeks ago I was down in ‘The Mount’ on the Limestone Coast for a book event and stayed overnight with good friends. Mount Gambier is in the neck of the woods I grew up in – just a short drive from the family farm at Naracoorte, the Coonawarra wine region and the picturesque seaside town of Robe, where I spent childhood summer holidays. The region is filled with world heritage natural sites and the Mount is described as ‘a city of craters, lakes and caves’. If you’re planning a road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne via the spectacular Great Ocean Road, it’s worth a stop to view its greatest attraction, the Blue Lake, which fills the crater of an extinct volcano. The water mysteriously changes colour with the seasons, turning an intense, deep turquoise blue in November and back to steely grey in March.

As we chat into the night, my friend Kathy tells me about Metro Bakery & Café, her favourite café in this small regional city that has tongues wagging for all the right reasons.

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The next morning we arrive early for breakfast. The Mount is renowned for its cold, frosty mornings but we soon push open a door to a room that is warm and inviting: rustic timber floors, dark wood, jazz playing. We could almost be in Melbourne. And, like Melbourne, the coffee is great.

Metro, derived from the Greek word Metrio, means ‘in the middle’ or ‘meeting place’. It’s the idea of community coming together and it certainly seems true to its name as I watch a loyal band of locals stream through the door, stopping to snatch a quick morning coffee & pastry and to read the morning paper. 

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On the counter is a basket of buttery croissants au beurre, made and baked on the premises from a century-old traditional French recipe, and a tray of croissants aux amandes. There seems to be a focus on traditional French baking as well as Greek and Italian and as we wait for our breakfasts I chat to Toni Vorenas – who owns the café with her husband Theo – and find out why.

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

‘A French trained pastry chef literally knocked on our door and asked for a job. He had tried every bakery in Mount Gambier. At that time we did not make anything in-house and had no equipment,’ says Toni. ‘He started the bakery with us from the ground up. He brought over another pastry chef, also French trained, to work with him and he is still with us today. We have since hired three local boys who are all learning the skills.’

What began as a simple coffee and sandwich shop has evolved into a thriving European style bakery, café and bar and among the pastries now made in-house you will find pithiviers, mont blancs, opera cakes, escargots, and little lemon and raspberry tartlets.

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

‘I am Sicilian and my husband is Greek so our café food is also heavily influenced by our cultures,’ says Toni. ‘Our focus is on tradition – as well as using traditional methods of baking we also make our own sugo (passata) once a year. We use a lot of produce from my father’s garden and we have our own substantial herb garden out the back.’

The croissants aux almonds tempt but I decide on something more substantial and my Metro Big Breakfast arrives. Roasted tomatoes, smoked bacon, Spanish chorizo, sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella and herb potato rosti, basil pesto, and poached eggs with sourdough. Enough to keep me going for the entire day!

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Artisan loaves and baguettes are made on the premises, with gluten-free options, and there is traditional baklava, cannoli and tiramisu.

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Metro also does interesting light lunches from soups and salads to pasta. There’s a range of gourmet baguette sandwiches served all day, or you may prefer Chickpea & Haloumi fritters, Braised Pork Belly or a Terra Rossa Beef Burger.

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Two years ago Metro started opening in the evenings as a dessert bar with plated desserts from the kitchen. ‘We still run the dessert bar but we have also added cafe style dinners,’ says Toni.

Oh, and that croissant aux amandes. I took one to go. It was très bon!

 

*For more information on the Limestone Coast click here.

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A Delicious Interview with Paris Perfect

To see my full interview with Paris Perfect, a company that offers hand-picked, luxury holiday rentals with dazzling Paris views, click here.

Jane Paech, Alsace apartment, Paris Perfect 2014. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Jane Paech, Alsace apartment, Paris Perfect 2014. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

To read a review of Delicious Days by Paris Perfect, click here.

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Jamface by Poh

You just know when you’ve stumbled upon something good.

Early last Sunday morning, rain falling, I was moseying about the market when across the way from the muddy potatoes and tangled roots of horseradish I spied Jamface out of the corner of my eye. Here at the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market, among the lemon bergamot pears and earthy winter vegetables, this bespoke stall is so gorgeously presented that a magazine stylist may well have waved a wand over it. 

Artfully arranged with a hefty dose of panache and a cheeky, fun logo, I should have known that Poh had something to do with it!

Newcomer Jamface is the latest venture of the enthusiastic and multi-talented Poh Ling Yeow, who finished runner-up in the first season of MasterChef Australia (remember those cake decorating skills!) and went on to have her own cooking show, Poh’s Kitchen. She is also an author and a professional artist, which shows in the creative detail here.

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Iced with style, the whimsical counter is laden with delicious cakes and pastries – at once rustic French provincial and bountiful country-Australian spread. There are glazed madeleines, apricot crumble tartlets and voluptuous clouds of fluffy meringue, the smooth mixture swirled with chocolate. The pastry layers in the Milly Fillys look so crisp that these vanilla mille-feuilles could have been ‘made to order’ in a Paris pâtisserie! Oh, and there are orange melting moments sandwiched with cream cheese and Grand Marnier, chewy Anzac biscuits and gluten-free chocolate hazelnut cake. Homemade with love and local, organic ingredients, it all feels so generous, wholesome and accessible, with a touch of CWA

Looking closer, there is a plum tart, and cheddar crusted apple pies with brandy anglaise, best eaten with the hot custard poured into those dainty little holes. And dark chocolate beetroot cake sandwiched with orange cream cheese frosting and covered in dark chocolate ganache. Shall I go on?

Launched a few weeks ago with Poh’s partners, the delightful stand also sells a range of homemade jams and pasta sauces, pot-set natural yoghurts and pan-fried pizzettas. A quirky sign announces ‘Pizza Fritta, Neapolitan pan-fried pizza with our two timing tomato sauce’. I found myself ogling the golden chaussons, simply named Paris Pasties. These turnovers of cheddar-crusted pastry are filled with savoury delights such as caramelised onion & thyme, potato & parsley, and roasted sweet potato & rosemary – warming parcels of pleasure to tuck into on this cold July morning. 

On Sundays, you’ll find Jamface at both The Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market and The Market Shed on Holland, the newest food market in Adelaide with an emphasis on organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free fare.

So tuck in with gusto and get some jam on your face!

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