My friend in Paris, a man of considerable sophistication, approves of the Hotel Sezz. "The rooms are stylish, sexy," he says. "It's the kind of place a man would take his mistress in the afternoon."
I don't know whether he is speaking from personal experience, but I am reminded of his words when my taxi pulls up at the Sezz. The Sezz takes the notion of discretion to a whole new level. For a start, it is in the 16th arrondissement, the sort of well-heeled neighbourhood to which locals retreat when they tire of the tourists cluttering their city. The streets are lined with elegant art nouveau apartment buildings; the only thing that sets the Sezz apart from its neighbours is an unobtrusive sign out the front.
The Sezz is not one of those hotels where half a dozen doormen are lined up to greet you. With just 26 rooms, the hotel does things on a smaller scale. When you walk through the front door, there is not even a front desk to greet you.
Instead, head to the left and you come to the tiny cubbyhole where the friendly staff work the phones, efficiently organising any request you have. If you turn to the right, you come to the elevators that take you to the rooms.
It is not until later that I realise if you are stopping at the Sezz for an illicit romantic encounter, this is exactly the kind of set-up you want: a hotel that lets you enter without having to speak to any staff. My friend clearly knows what he is talking about.
The Sezz's most in-demand suites have stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, at the time of my stay they are all taken. Instead, I am shown to a sleek room at the front of the building. It is not huge, but it is stylish in a masculine way.
The walls are exposed grey stone, the dark wood furniture is all sharp angles and severe lines, with plenty of leather and chrome in evidence. A splash of colour comes courtesy of a thick green rug. The low-rise bed, positioned firmly in the centre of the room, adds to the sexy mood, although the lack of a bedside table is disconcerting. If you were here with a lover and cracked open a bottle of champagne, the only place to rest your champagne flutes would be on the hard floor.
The muted grey colour scheme continues in the bathroom, which is all sleek sophistication, apart from the whimsical little rubber duck perched by the large bath tub.
My favourite touch, however, is the range of full-size Acqua di Parma toiletries laid out before me. These high-end violet-scented toiletries are among my favourites, and rarely show up in hotel bathrooms. I half suspect they were chosen because their golden packaging goes so well with the decor, but no matter why they are there, I am happy to see them.
There is a lot to love about small hotels, particularly the personal service. The flipside is, they cannot compete with their larger rivals when it comes to amenities.
The Hotel Sezz has no restaurant as such, although the breakfast room doubles as a champagne bar in the evening. However, when I pop down there one evening, only one table is occupied, and the atmosphere is far from convivial. I skip the coupe of champagne I was planning and instead head back up to my room and order a tasty club sandwich.
I am told there is also a small hammam in the basement, which I am keen to try, but somehow the time slips away from me.
Ultimately, what makes the Sezz a turn-on for most guests is what will turn some others off: its location. You are well away from the tourist trail here, although still fairly centrally positioned. With the metro just a few blocks away, getting around is no issue.
There is also not a lot in the immediate neighbourhood. If you are looking for a village-type feeling - dining every night at the charming little bistro around the corner and greeting the local baker each morning - this is not your place.
On the other hand, if you are looking to discover a different side to Paris, this is a good place from which to discover hidden gems, such as Passy's rue de l'Annonciation, a pretty cobblestone street where you will find one of Paris' favourite patissiers, Aux Merveilleux de Fred. Drop in and pick up the ingredients for a picnic at the covered market on the corner of rue Bois-le-Vent or, for a different type of shopping, stop in at the exclusive Franck et Fils department store.
If the top item on your to-do list is some romantic strolling - through the moonlit Trocadero gardens, for instance, or along the banks of the Seine as the Eiffel Tower stands guard above you - then the Hotel Sezz is perfectly positioned.
And if you are planning to stay in - with your own spouse, or someone else's - you are in the right place.
The writer stayed as a guest of Mr and Mrs Smith.
GETTING THERE Fly to London Heathrow and then to Paris (80 mins); see britishairways.com.
STAYING THERE Double rooms start from $477. Bookings can be made through Mr and Mrs Smith (see website).
MORE INFORMATION mrandmrssmith.com.
- FFX Aus