Paris, February 3: Eurostar invited journalists and other guests to discover its new Business Premier Lounge at Paris Gare du Nord.
Spread across a lavish mezzanine (formerly housing French Railways/SNCF offices) overlooking the interior of the C19th station on one side, rue de Dunkerque on the other, this VIP (very important passenger) hideaway features high plastered ceilings, marble fireplaces, cosy nooks, artworks, and to-die-for cocktail station.
Chef Raymond Blanc is very much on board too.
“It combines the best of Paris with touches of London,” said Nicolas Petrovic, managing director, Eurostar.
(Above) Nicolas Petrovic (left), managing director, Eurostar, with Patrick Laval, journalist, La Vie du Rail
Designed by the London-based architectural studio Softroom, highlights include elegant blue-grey Bleu de Savoie marble and an overhead lighting fixture suggesting (to some) the points and switches of rail tracks.
Overall, the feel of the space is Parisian apartment chic meets British cosy quirk – sofas, rugs, cushions, soft lighting, copious mags and papers (albeit sleek and meticulously ordered, French formal garden style, rather than lying around crumpled à la British).
With available seating in all shapes and forms for 160 guests, Softroom founders and directors Christopher Bagot and Oliver Salway talked about “generosity of space that is quite tightly organised.”
The catering, overseen by Mr Blanc in his Business Premier culinary director’s toque, is, as one would expect, world’s apart your typical station fare (depressed jambon-beurre baguettes and desperate coffee).
“Top quality nuts and crisps, and much more besides,” said Mr Petrovic. “The choice of food ranges from very healthy to a lot less healthy.”
Light bites in verrines or more substantial plated delicacies, saucisson, cheeses, enticing fruit and vegetable juices, ‘grown in England’ tea by producer Tregothnan, and four coffee machines to ensure nobody is ever kept waiting.
The circular cocktail station, in gleaming black and gold with velvet stools, is a real eye-catcher. Sunken below floor level, it certainly gives drinkers the upper hand as they scrutinise every move of the staff below concocting their tipples. However the aim, it seems, was more to avoid the bar dominating the lounge and ensure an unbroken vista of the space as a whole.
Move over Tom Cruise, mixologist Florent, 27 (above) is on top of his game. He’ll shake you up a Lady Marmalade, but Sex on the Beach is a big no no.
The menu, lovingly crafted by the London Cocktail Club and Mr Blanc, not only features ingredients such as the humble marmalade, but also the chef’s beloved angelica, Eurostar’s signature Toujours 21 gin, coffee, and even Tregothnan tea.
Operation seduction led by JJ Goodman, ebullient CEO of the London Cocktail Club & an enthusiastic Raymond Blanc
Obviously feeling a need to justify the presence of alcohol in a railway setting, Mr Petrovic described the bar as a great way for business people to network, a place for productive time. “Whether a good or bad day, it’s nice to relax over drinks – of course when consumed in moderation!” he hastened to add.
One of the guests, a banker (sipping an alcohol-free beverage) told Passion4Transport she would definitely be back at the bar on her next trip.
Making its (m)art
Today art is often used by businesses as an extension of their corporate image. It may serve to render spaces more aesthetically pleasing, to stimulate the workforce, and/or to impress visitors. For its new lounge, Eurostar has commissioned The Hospital Club to curate contemporary artworks, all for sale, on its generous stretches of wall.
Enter another dimension
Flanked by dynamic, bird’s eye views – Paris street and station panorama – the up-in-the-air lounge exists in its very own time and space dimension. The only downside – it takes longer to reach the Eurostar trains than from the previous VIP retreat, located flush above the platform. “But it shouldn’t take more than a three-minute walk and we’re confident the enhanced ‘experience’ is well worth it,” said Philippe Mouly, COO, Eurostar.
Very Important Passenger – Very Important Segment
Business travel is big business for Eurostar, representing “a very important segment for us, with Paris, Brussels and London as the key pivot points,” said Mr Petrovic.
Given the stakes a play – the niggling presence and popularity of low-cost flights, plus the impending arrival of a rail rival in the form of the German Deutsche Bahn (which obtained the right to run passenger services through the Channel Tunnel from the British and French authorities in 2013, but has yet to launch) – improving the business experience and perceived value for money is an absolute must if Eurostar is to stay the pace.
Indeed the Business Premier lounge forms part of Eurostar’s ongoing investment in its stations and services.
A new fleet of longer and higher capacity trains, the e320 by Siemens, cost the company an impressive €600 million. Check-in facilities at Gare du Nord are visibly expanding to cope with more passengers and ensure the smoothest possible flow.
Following on from the new London-Avignon/Marseille offer, introduced in May 2015, this year will see the opening of a direct route between London-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.