Hélène Darroze’s favourite European hotel

Intimate dimensions and inimitably original style: they’re what a multi-Michelin-starred French chef likes in a bolthole, as Maria Shollenbarger discovers

Chef Hélène Darroze
Chef Hélène Darroze

The first time I went to the Hôtel de Silhouette was a few years ago for apéritifs with some friends. The hotel is as central as you can get; it directly faces the old market, which is the real soul of the city and is crazy-busy in the evening – it’s a big destination for pintxos and a glass of sangria or cava. There are famous bars around its edges and a handful of good ones inside. We thought this hotel might be a bit of peace in the midst of this very buzzy, trendy area, so we met up there.

The Butterfly deluxe suite at Hôtel de Silhouette
The Butterfly deluxe suite at Hôtel de Silhouette

I was enchanted by the garden where we had our drinks; it is lovely, with a lot of nice art scattered around. It’s not too big – nor is the hotel; I think it only has about 20 rooms, because the building is in the middle of town. But it’s shaded and very atmospheric, and they made us great cocktails and served some exceptionally good local ham, which impressed me.

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The first time I actually stayed was in winter, maybe a year after that evening. I was visiting my parents and I remembered that I had liked the garden and the location – the fact that it was part of market life but also just enough removed – and I was curious about the ambience of the hotel itself.

The garden with its scattered artworks
The garden with its scattered artworks

I wasn’t disappointed. The rooms are simple – this is not a five-star hotel – but they’re extremely comfortable. Some of them have Fornasetti wallpaper or colourful Turkish rugs. Some have light wood floors and some have tall French doors, because the building itself is quite classic; and all have lots of natural light. Contemporary design has been mixed with more traditional pieces, and some whimsy, and there’s a bit of a Scandinavian mood. I often see younger families there and always hear multiple languages, because people come from all over for the market. So the mix feels quite dynamic.

The Chambre Verte junior suite
The Chambre Verte junior suite

I was won over by a lot that first winter, but I have to say that to stay there in summer is so much lovelier – it’s just an ideal place to me. Biarritz has long, hot days and a beautiful beach, and so, of course, there is much more of a holiday atmosphere at the hotel. But best of all for me is that my children adore it. They’re made to feel really welcome and loved by the staff. Now they’ve grown a bit, but when they were younger and the market or even the street would get too busy for them to be out in, they would run around and play for hours in the garden at the Silhouette. They’re as happy out there as I am.

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