For 100 years, Lalique has been admired for its exquisite jewellery, perfumes and collections of crystal and glass – the cactus tables, the Bacchantes vases, the colorful cabochon rings – which are still produced by a team of highly skilled craftsmen in the original glass factory in Alsace, France . What is less well known is that Maison Lalique is also adept at a certain kind of jewelry box hospital.
This is most evident in the flagship hotel, Villa René Lalique, which was built in 1920 by the original artist and founder as a sometimes family residence near his factory. (It could also be said to be celebrating its centenary, when you consider that the pandemic years didn’t really count.) After extensive renovation, it opened as a six-suite hotel and was quickly welcomed to Relais & Château and awarded one and then two Michelin stars.
You mustn’t forget that you are at Lalique’s house. The design has been done with absolute dedication – stylized glass and crystal is everywhere: the cactus tables in the living room, the cupboard handles and drawer pulls in the bedrooms, the spirits carafes in the bar, the beautiful chandelier in the dining rooms. In the hands of a less skilled designer, it could have been tacky, too over the top.
But designers Lady Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli made it happen. Each of the suites is different, both in layout and design, taking inspiration from one of Lalique’s signature pieces. The Rose Suite features a pastel palette and several incarnations of the flower. The Dragon Suite is decorated in midnight blue and has a large balcony with views over the park, and the Hirondelles Suite (French for “swallows”) is clad in a ruby red color to match the iconic birds and bunches of grapes on the decorative panels in the bath .
There is enough Lalique to hardly visit the nearby Lalique Museum. But you do. The museum displays pieces from throughout the artist’s career, from nature-inspired Art Nouveau jewelry to recent collaborations with contemporary artists such as Arik Levy and Damien Hirst.
It’s striking to see what 1920s and ’30s home glassware would be like at a 21st century dinner party. It is also worth considering how René Lalique has always worked to make beautiful things accessible to as many people as possible, not just to aristocrats. That’s why he used glass as a primary medium and liked to say, “It’s better to seek beauty than to flaunt luxury.”
That said, the hotel is not shy about being luxurious. The lounge is anchored by an Art Deco bar with signature exotic leather bar stools and a display of carafes developed by Lalique in collaboration with Hardy cognac, Macallan whisky, Beluga vodka and Patrón tequila.
The wine cellar, headed by award-winning sommelier Romain Iltis, is a towering space designed by Mario Botta with over 12,000 bottles on display in artfully lit cabinets. Damien Hirst’s crystal butterflies line the hallway, and the cellar itself is viewed through a life-sized bust of René Lalique, with sugar flowers behind it, created by confectioner Nicolas Multon in collaboration with Josiane Ruez, a lost wax model maker and designer at the factory of Damien Hirst. lalique.
Botta also designed the dining room, where Austrian chef Paul Stradner presents his inventive, colorful tasting menus. Like almost every two-star chef these days, he draws heavily on seasonal vegetables from the kitchen garden – the vibrant freshness of his carrot dish is impressive – for the hotel and very local ingredients from nearby producers.
In the spirit of doing everything with absolute dedication, the nine-course signature menu, named after René Lalique, includes dishes like a “perfect egg” with nut brown butter, caviar and salmon trout with dashim mousse and a tempered carabinero shrimp with cream, pine buds and white turnip. The equally lavish, plant-based Terroir menu, which can be completely vegetarian, is given just as much care – he says he especially enjoys making the dish of chickpeas with lemon, yogurt and curry.
Just as Stradner knows that the robust flavor of a vegetable plucked straight from their soil can be their own luxury, the owners understand that sometimes nature can be the greatest luxury of all. They emphasize the wooded area of the hotel and its location near the Regional Natural Park of the Northern Vosges, with its hiking and cycling trails.
And recently they introduced boss phrology, a sort of souped-up version of forest bathing, which also includes exercises like walking barefoot and blindfolded through the trees, mindful tasting, and outdoor meditation. It is an excellent complement to the precision that comes from the factory and adorns the hotel.