A popular hangout with modern foodies, the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa offers an effervescent base from which to discover France’s iconic winemakers
Lashings of vintage Maison bubbles, cutting edge treatments and swoony-worthy interiors. What’s not to like? Well, nothing, actually…
Why not? ‘There are no new hotels like this round here,’ my driver tells me while snaking our way through sun-dappled ribbons of green en route from Epernay station, located a scenic 20 minutes away. ‘The space, the light, the views, the spa – they’re all in a different league to anything else….’ His heavily accented English drifts off wistfully as we pull up outside the butterscotch building – a towering vision of overlooking the historic valleys of vineyards that stripe the hills of France’s iconic Champagne region.
Masterfully renovated in 2018, the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, with its expert blend of contemporary architecture and heritage nods, has successfully elevated the traditional wine-country retreat into something far more modern and refined. In fact, now boasting 1,500 dedicated square-metres of cutting-edge spa facilities, you could be forgiven for forgoing the wine tours entirely. However, that would be something of a shame – because if there’s one thing this region does well, it’s wine.
A former coaching inn (once the final stop for Kings-to-be to rest before their coronation), previous prominent guests include Kate Moss, Natalie Portman and (bear with us) Napoleon – whose rumoured stay in the 19th century is now stylishly memorialised in the hotel’s design details, which showcase his love letters on the exclusive Chef’s Table and his portrait among the aristo paintings lining the halls.
These days, Royal Champagne is still used as something of a pitstop but the clientele is mostly European foodies, who stop for long weekends before zipping their way through the French countryside and heading back to Paris, Belgium or London. Broad sweeps of cream concrete have replaced crumbling relics of the past and guests today can expect a haze of blond wood to greet them from the lobby, golden tints of Champagne to glint at them from the elegantly-appointed upstairs restaurant, and sweeping views of rolling vineyards to wave at them from every vantage point. In short, it’s a sophisticated set-up and, as you climb the curved staircase and enter out onto the enormous alfresco balcony for sundowners come dusk, you have to wonder why servicing Champagne’s cosmopolitan crowds has taken quite so long.
There are 47 in total, all with magical views and Insta interiors. Think custom-crafted bathrooms, artisan furnishings, light-flooded lounges and Hermès-stocked freestanding tubs. We’ll be rebooking the Royal Junior Suite though, which at 474 square-feet isn’t the largest in the collection, but is just the right side of boujee, with an enormous wardrobe, king-size bed and chic sofa to sink into with a glass of bubbles. Come morning, there’s nothing quite like waking up to the vines and heading out onto the blond-decked balcony with a freshly brewed coffee, either. Want to upgrade? Try the Josephine Suite, which sleeps two, plus one child, but offers a next-level lounge area, dressing room, and vast outdoor terrace.
Featuring 1,000 crystal pendants reflecting Champagne’s halcyon light from floor to ceiling, Le Bellevue is the hotel’s signature restaurant and a must-book for get-away gourmands. Starters comprise dishes of reims ham, mixed greens and pickles; organic egg with chorizo, creamy Chaource and crushed zucchini; and Carpaccio of heritage tomato and smoked burratina. Meanwhile, the mains menu is a culinary celebration of sea life, starring cod and local lentils; roasted octopus à la plancha, chickpeas, eggplant and poultry jus; and hake with chorizo and honey-glazed carrots alongside Champagne chicken supreme, herb crust and Nominette pasta and Beef tenderloin, roasted new potatoes, plus beef jus with thyme. The matured cheeses are, as you’d expect, exceptional but it’s the Guanaja chocolate chou pastry, milk and tonka bean cream dessert that had us dreaming of just one more night.
As for the drinks, well, considering the place is sistered with Champagne Leclerc Briant – a 150-year-old Champagne house in Epernay – you can rest assured that the house Brut is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. To up your gastronomic game, though, book a table at the hotel’s Michelin-star restaurant, Le Royal, Etape Gastronomique, or head straight to the heart of the action for an immersive experience at the Chef’s Table. Headed up by Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland, you’ll love being seated in the buzz of the kitchen as much as the expertly assembled plates. And fill your feed with food afterwards – the food here is art.
With a shimmering outdoor infinity pool, heated indoor lanes and a bubbling hot tub overlooking the vines, you can quite easily bring a book and be done for the day. But if you’re in the market for a little premium pampering, there’s a wealth of indulgent treatments to choose from too. We love the custom-made facials, designed using the science-led Biologique Recherche Methodology to rejuvenate, restore and illuminate skin. In the mood for a massage, too? Try the KOS Paris-based Discovery Treatment, which promises the full 360: a deeply relaxing body scrub and massage, plus radiance-boosting facial and regenerating hair care. Now, that sounds like a worthwhile 90 minutes to us.
What to do
Hit the world-famous Champagne trail. From tastings at big-name maisons on Avenue de Champagne, such as Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot, to personalised tours of boutique indie outfits, including Leclerc Briant – a pioneer of organic chardonnay, you can easily make a day of it delving into the science behind the craft, descending into the sunken bellies of ancient wine cellars, and sipping magnums of cuvée premier cru. If you’ve a head for heights, hop aboard the Epernay Ballon Captif – a static air balloon offering panoramic views over the undulating countryside. Or, if you’re keen to get out to the region’s quieter Chamenois villages, zip along to Hautvillers, where you’ll find the church in which Dom Pérignon – the monk who discovered the magic of Champagne, declaring it akin to ‘tasting the stars’ – is still buried.
Garden Junior Suites cost from approximately £365 per night on a B&B basis, including taxes and fees. A return journey from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord with Eurostar costs from £58; from Paris Gare du Nord, make the 10-minute walk to Gare de l’Est to catch a connecting train to Epernay, costing approximately £10, where the hotel can arrange for you to be collected.