Style on Ice in the 18 ème: Kube Hotel, Paris
It is a place you must discover. You won’t come across it
in an ad. Perhaps you'll overhear people talking about it, or maybe
someone you know will tell you about it. But even with an address,
you’ll find it hard to find. Our taxi driver drove down Passage Ruelle,
stopped at the end of the street, turned and said, “There is no hotel
here.” He was about to take us back to where we came from when a man
came running up and tapped on the window. “Are you looking for the Kube?”
he asked and gestured back towards the middle of the block where we
could make out an old building behind a stone wall.
Off-the-beaten-path would hardly begin to describe the
locale, a dense, largely working-class community in the 18th
arrondissement where many immigrants from Africa, India, and the Middle
East have settled. Tourists rarely venture to this neighborhood on the
northern edge of Paris which -- albeit a walking distance from
Montmartre -- has none of the monuments or museums, haute couture
boutiques or haute cuisine restaurants that would earn it mention in a
And yet, the 41-room Kube has become one hot
destination. Or maybe cool would be more appropriate. Cool as in cold,
cold as in ice, ice as in the Ice Bar -- the first in Paris. Patrons who
wish to inhale the rarified air climb the swirling stairway to a
mezzanine level that overlooks the restaurant/bar below, pass through a
gallery lined with photographs of Innuits where they are outfitted with
parkas, gloves and caps, take a deep breath, and step into a frozen
Before them, a hexagon-shaped bar made of enormous ice
cubes and adorned with graceful icicles is serving Grey Goose vodka in
glasses made of ice, and cubes in the shape of armchairs are facing a
"fire in ice" spectacle of flames emanating from a great ice mirror.
Visitors have thirty minutes to sit before the fire or hang out at the
bar, carve their initials in the ice, and listen to music wafting
through the frozen air while the rays of the spectrum filter through the
A truly adventurous couple might opt to spend the
night in the Ice Bedroom next door where they can snuggle under blankets
of fur on a bed of ice enclosed by transparent walls of ice weighing ten
tons and sculpted by the renowned ice-sculptor Michael Amman. Most
visitors, however, after their half hour in the Ice Bar, exit down to
the more temperate climes of the restaurant/bar below where hip, if less
hardy, Kube clientele gather every evening to drink and dine accompanied
by the selections of Dan Adrien, a man of far-reaching and eclectic
Kube's DJ/ Music Manager Dan Adrien
(left) with DJ/guitarist Bruno Evin
|Music at Kube is continuous and of limitless
variety from swing to r & b to jazz to disco to Latin to rock to
pop to hip-hop. It emerges from speakers, some free-standing,
others disguised as lanterns, that project sound in the round,
enhancing the mood, but miraculously never inhibiting the
Light, as much as sound, defines the Kube
decor. Dramatic spots or washes of cobalt blue, brilliant red,
hot pink, and deep purple illuminate an otherwise black
background. As opposed to the all-white guest rooms, black is
the color of choice in public areas. Glass tabletops,
fur-covered barstools and portals, walls, ceilings, even the
attractive servers' uniforms are black. But there are also
masses of long silver streamers that drop from the mezzanine
ceiling or roof of the bar, each tipped with what looks like a
match-like glow. Actually these are fiber optics, strands of
flexible cable through which light travels. Wherever they end,
there is a point of light.
At the same time, video screens at either end of the
bar draw the eye with repeated sequences. There is the animated penguin
skating across a field of ice or opening a refrigerator door to reveal a
dancing ice cube that soon begins to melt. And there are abstract
designs: the computer chip that morphs into a geometric construct that
opens like a flower and endlessly re-forms in psychedelic kaleidoscopic
The images would be trance-inducing except that the
live-action scene is even more compelling. It is a lively mix of artists
and writers, people from the worlds of fashion, broadcasting, and
entertainment who regularly schlep up to this unlikely, out-of-the-way
neighborhood to partake of the Kube experience: the Ice Bar, the Sound
and Light displays, the interesting range of drinks, the excellent
brasserie-style fare, the "pousspouce" ("push--push") menu of tasty
combinations like croustillant with tomatoes and mozzarella, or chicken
and curry sauce on a push-up pop, as well as a host of special events
like the popular "Girly Wednesday" when the sound booth is turned over
to a woman for the mid-week night. Generally a well-known singer,
television or film personality, or professional DJ, she does the
selecting, spinning and mixing and decides what Kube will sound like on
a particular night.
On Sundays, the culmination of on-going showings by
artists of the avant-garde takes place. Through the week, a
participating artist's works will be on display in the
restaurant/lounge. Come Sunday, he or she will meet up with patrons for
the "Arty Brunch," an informal encounter where thoughts about the
showcased art or the larger art scene are shared over such delicacies as
tuna tartar and Viennese pastries in a specially designed buffet.
Nothing at Kube is ordinary.
Everything is extraordinary.
When the hotel took part in the annual autumn Art
Vida, it was with a group of video artists who projected their works on
the white walls of guest rooms and the courtyard fronting the hotel. An
original program in the city-wide art exhibition, it drew people who had
never been in the neighborhood before let alone heard about a high-style
hotel up there.
If all this makes for quite a story, there is an even
larger story behind it that began in 2003 when Jérôme Foucaud, a young
hotelier from St. Trôpez, came up to Paris with the idea of creating an
urban destination that would defy the expected. That was Murano Urban
Resort which opened in Marais the following year. A stunning study in
white with technological accents not seen in Marais before, Murano
swiftly became a favored site for fashion shoots and a gathering ground
for the cognescenti. Kube followed in late 2005; Murano Resort-Marrakech
(Morocco) in 2008. A fourth property on the site of an old hospital in
St. Trôpez is on the way.
A common style and attitude runs through the
properties of the small but singular brand: Murano Hotels and Resort
Group. They share a stark, neo-modern décor, high-tech features, a
pop-art sensibility and a luxuriousness that never precludes
playfulness. Futuristic on the inside (in lieu of room keys, the Murano
and Kube make use of guests' fingerprints), they are anchored in
traditional locales and undistinguished or formerly abandoned buildings.
A culture has emerged among the people who make up a
team that the laid back and soft-spoken but insightful Jérôme Foucaud
has assembled. They are young, energetic, and charismatic. The sense
they convey of being in on something special is palpable. Many move from
one property to another. All have a story to tell of how they came to be
part of this legend in the making.
DJ Dan Adrien is Jérôme's childhood friend from the
French Alps. Lorris Camarzana, whom we met at Murano several years ago,
was hired after writing to Jérôme that he understood "the spirit of the
place of dreams." Still in his 20s, he seemed more serious and mature
when he joined us for dinner at Kube and talked about the new project in
St. Trôpez where he was headed the next day.
"Many famous people come to Kube," he added, turning
to the subject at hand with the authority of a man who has assumed
greater responsibilities. "Especially in the fashion world. It’s not
only a hotel. It’s the bar, the restaurant, the ice bar. There is life
Lorris Camarzana-- he's assumed greater
responsibility in the Murano Group
Daytime Restaurant Manager Patrick
Toni: "There's a different
atmosphere here, unlike anything I experienced before."
The tall and fair-skinned Marie Eve Foulier with
luminous dark eyes and long black hair that falls over her shoulders is
Kube's press and events manager. Years before she and Jérôme had worked
at the same hotel in St. Trôpez. "Before he left, he organized a party
and invited all the staff to say goodbye," she.told us. "I stayed until
the end of the evening when he told everyone 'I’m opening a new hotel in
Paris called the Murano,' and he gave out cards."
She continued, "Two years later, when I realized it
was time for me to move to Paris and get on with my communications
career, I found his card and sent him an e-mail. And he wrote back to me
saying 'Okay, come to Paris and maybe we can think of something.'
"I took the train from Toulon, a four hour ride just
for one interview. We talked a lot, and at the end, he said, 'Okay now
I’m going to tell you. I’m going to open another hotel. Maybe I’ll need
someone with your qualifications. Let me think about it because it’s
still too early.'
"Less than a month later, he called me. And I started
|We were having lunch with Marie
after she'd spent the morning on a fashion shoot in the atelier
beside the Ice Bar with Aissa Maija. "She is a trendy young
actress in the French cinema who is going to be on the cover of
Modzik, a magazine that combines fashion and music," Marie Eve
said. "She uses our image, and we get to communicate data about
our hotel. During the shoot, I took the opportunity of talking
to her about 'Girly Wednesday.' She thought it was a wonderful
idea. So I expect to have her back. It’s a question of
connecting and branding. Everyone benefits."
Virginie Barbe had been connected to Kube for
only four months when we met her. And we never did get her story
of how she came by way of her position. But the vivacious
general manager with the voluminous red hair and the look of a
figure in a Renoir painting, is clearly a comfortable fit in the
Murano family. And comfort is a quality she strives for. "The
whole team tries to do our best to keep the Kube as a
comfortable place where people can relax and be themselves," she
told us over drinks at the bar.
Emerging through a portal of fur: Marie Eve
"But we also want to extend ourselves to be part of
the community, to participate in what goes on around us," she added.
"Here in the 18th arrondissement, there are many Indian people who
celebrate a special festival in the fall. They wear traditional costumes
and walk around through the streets. Last year we didn’t know about it.
We only found out when our guests couldn’t get to the hotel because of
all the traffic. But this year we will celebrate it with a special
Virginie Barbe, the G.M. with voluminous red
|She went on, "In this
arrondissement you have people of all colors, all ethnicities.
There used to be many arrondissements like this, but now
immigrant communities are increasingly on the outskirts of the
city. This is the last one in Paris where so many nationalities
live together peaceably.
"Jérôme liked the challenge of moving to a
place where no one had thought of opening such a hotel. That is
like him – he wants to be different; he likes challenges.
Perhaps because he is not from Paris, he has the ability to
stand back and look at it in a different way, to see which
neighborhoods are not typical and therefore more interesting.
"Our story is similar to the Murano's," said Virginie. "Murano
is in le Marais which, since the hotel opened, has become so
hot. And the 18th is going in the same direction. Others will be
1-5 Passage Ruelle
Paris 18 France
Phone: +33 (0) 1 42 05 20 00
Window view of buildings in the 18th
Photos by Harvey Frommer
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights