First Impressions of Anantara Plaza, Nice

First Impressions of Anantara Plaza, Nice
Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

Rich Report discovers a stylish spot on the French Riviera that is attracting European sun worshippers.

The hotel ticks all the boxes that Nice's tired hotel scene has been missing for decades. An uber-stylish rooftop dining terrace and bar are located on the top floor of this centrally located luxury urban oasis. A unique Asian-Niçois fusion of flavours and traditional recipes is served in the restaurant, as does a spa with a long list of treatments using organic seaweed and essential oils from small, homegrown companies instead of the usual brands you'll find elsewhere. This Anantara Plaza Nice – the group's first French property – is located just behind municipal gardens and the palm-fringed seafront in the city's thriving upscale shopping district, but it offers much more tranquillity than you'd expect; the upper floor suites and sun-drenched rooftop dining area are protected (by some acoustic miracle) from street noise and traffic during the day.

Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

Upon first glance, this landmark hotel's 140-metre Belle Époque façade looks decidedly grand. However, once you're whisked inside the discreet entrance and greeted by the staff, you'll feel more relaxed. There's nothing ostentatious or stiff about this city sophisticate vibe. On the other hand, once guests have checked in, they sit on pistachio-hued velvet circular banquettes and sip Earl Gray or flavored espresso on the ground floor's lavish tea room, les Colonnades, decked out with pastel shades of contemporary abstract art (solely for check-in). It transforms into a Champagne bar, oyster bar, and caviar bar in the evening when the lights go down. As impressive as the decor is - tall marble columns and natural light streaming through the golden dome - the whimsical nibbles are also out of this world. Their “Delici Carnival”, presented on a small brass Ferris Wheel – is a stunning array of delicate finger food à la Niçoise: flaky miniature squares of pichade and pissaladiere (tomato and onion tarts) or focaccia toast with foie gras and a slip of fig. Among the sweets offered are mini-macaroons filled with local fruit jam and cream-filled gray sea pebbles, a tribute to Nice's famous beach stones that torture unsuspecting barefoot tourists.

What happened in the past

Luxury Thailand-based hotel group Anantara began renovating one of Nice's oldest jewel box hotels four years ago. There wasn't much time to enjoy the euphoria. When Nice was awarded the prestigious World Heritage Site label in July 1921, it meant a surge in international tourism and jump-started budgets. Timing is everything. As Nice promotes its 300 days of sunshine and officialised cuisine nissarde label, the Anantara Plaza basks in its first-of-a-kind meticulously restored status (several future four and five-star hotels are in the planning stages). Originally constructed in 1848, Hotel de France (later Plaza) was once among the most luxurious Riviera winter palaces for French, British and Russian aristocrats, as well as government figures like Raymond Poincare, who served as French president in 1910. Despite the hotel's monumental golden façade being back on the market, it has changed the cityscape as well.

Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

Rooms of the guests

Apart from the curvy lines and elegant interiors, the rooms and suites feature a medley of cream, beige sand fabrics, gray and dark teal furnishings, jazzed up with vintage Riviera photographs. In the most spacious suites, you can switch between a sitting area (complete with a fully stocked bar) and a dining area with velvety chairs around a black marble table. Aside from the eye-catching panoramic views from the bay windows, nothing seems out of place - discreet patterned beige rugs, parquet flooring, and green marble bathrooms can't possibly compete with those eye-catching rugs. It was a riotous display in full technicolour on our south-facing terrace - to the left were blue-grey foothills and Vieux Nice's ocher glow; to the right was the Promenade des Anglais, black silhouettes of palms, and candy floss clouds against an orange sky. 

Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

Food and drink

Two years after immersing himself in Nissarde cuisine, Denis Gamard (The Peninsula, Paris) now creates menus that are unlike anything else on the market. The chef combines Vietnamese roots and Asian ingredients with local family-style traditions to create Niçois dishes. A copious fixed-price buffet features whatever is fresh at the market that day, along with oysters, shrimp, smoked salmon and a choice of mixed salads and puddings. The classics are available for lunch, such as beef stew, blanquette of veal or grilled local fish. In the airy rooftop restaurant (shaded by pergolas from the dazzling sun), breakfast is also served. In SEEN by Olivier, helmed by Portuguese chef Olivier da Costa, the same space serves supper, including octopus carpaccio, elaborate sushi and lobster rolls, and main dishes such as beef ravioli with candied kumquats, artichokes, and mushrooms, or lamb shoulder simmered for hours. Dessert includes a light Dulce de Leche souffle. This unique wine is a blend of Grenache grapes and the city's pride and joy - folle noire grapes - grown and bottled in Bellet, the western heights of Nice. The mood and the menu transform into a Mediterranean extravaganza after dark. 

From Bangkok to Barletta, the Anantara hotel locations inspire wildly creative crafted cocktails at the bar. There are two favorites: the foamy Espelette-spiked Socca Sour (inspired by Nice's iconic chickpea pancake cooked in a wood-fired oven and sprinkled with pepper) and the creamy egg zabaglione froth and pecorino mousse in the Carbonara Flip based on Roman brandy.  

Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

The Spa

Offering five treatment rooms and an extensive menu, the beguiling offerings complement the originality of the organic cosmetics. An eco-friendly Thalion beauty line using hand-harvested seaweed packed with rejuvenating marine properties combines ginger and mimosa essential oils from CHO Nature and the Brittany-based CHO Nature company. There is a signature 90-minute hot-cold stone and herbal pouch massage designed to drain toxins, as well as an algae-based magnesium boost with a Hydra-Mineral Facial and Body Massage. The rooftop area will be used for yoga classes as well as other outdoor activities in the spring.

Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

The Services They Provide

Upon entering the hotel lobby, you are greeted by young, upbeat staff in navy suits. A golden beach chair pin on a person's lapel is a nod to Nice's iconic blue chairs on the Promenade des Anglais; it's like a concierge's golden key and you can ask anything. Additionally, a 24-hour concierge can arrange bespoke excursions, personal shoppers, or even a mattress on their private beach.

The area around them

The Anantara is located in the heart of town, just steps away from designer boutiques Vuitton, Hermès and Dinh Van, as well as the bustling main square, Place Massena, outdoor markets, and the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Town, all within walking distance. It wouldn't be complete without a dip in the sea. There is an international clientele of all ages, from honeymooners to couples holding hands in their silver hair. Young professionals in Ray-Bans and selfie-taking shoppers crowd the rooftop restaurant at lunchtime; in the evening, groups of friends gather at the bar for an after-work drink.

Family and pet-friendly

Children are most welcome in the nine interconnecting rooms for families. Who would have thought? It is obvious that your well-behaved pooch will be welcome in Nice, which tops the list of dog-friendly French cities. There are even beaches where dogs are allowed, and they are allowed on public transportation.

Courtesy of Anantara Plaza 

A commitment to the environment

Local culinary providers are available for everything from olive oil and wine to fish and meat, including water reducers in bathrooms, led bulbs, plastic-free wood keys, sugar cane straws, and glass filtered water bottles.

Providing accessibility to people with disabilities

A total of five wheelchair-accessible rooms are available on the first, second, and third floors (within a range of three categories).

Other things to note

With the spice and spoons experience, Denis Gamard takes you to the Old Town outdoor market for a trip, then back to the open kitchen, where you put on your apron and cook whatever he chose to serve that day: salade niçoise (the real deal, without lettuce, potatoes, and green beans). As your vegetables roast, fill your pastry shell with swiss chard and orange blossom-infused custard. Afterwards, feast.

Nice Jazz Festival, held in mid-July in the Albert 1er gardens below, may be a plus for privileged listening on your terrace, but be prepared for a high level of decibels until after midnight.

Do you think it's worth it?  Definitely. Besides being a modern urban hideaway near the sea, it's also a deeply comfortable place to rest your head.

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