Here's How Hotel Bourbon/Bar Bourbon Became One Of The Hottest Spots in Paris
A rare historical account of how a major cultural brand was built, in the direct words of one of the property’s co-owners, Guillaume LeDonche
The story of Savoir Vivre takes place in Paris, and we can set its somewhat official start in the not so distant Summer of 2015.
It stars many beautiful characters from all kinds of backgrounds and life stories, but its main role goes to Arnaud Lacombe. After having studied Hotel Management in Glion (Switzerland), when our story begins, he was already the owner of Bronco, a restaurant opened in 2013 in the 10th district. At the time, this was a relatively underrated neighborhood, but Arnaud, being the visionary he is, had already understood that the Parisian food scene was rapidly changing, the “coolness” of its once defining neighborhoods being swiftly redesigned under the impulse of gentrification and new cultures.
Nevertheless Arnaud is a restless spirit, nourishing itself on the constant ruminations of new adventures and ideas, finding solace in defying himself, pushing his own boundaries to try and bring to the world his own vision of hospitality: bountiful in the type of friendliness and warmth you usually only find at home, always unselfish and devoted to bringing the best, most authentic experience possible: basically, keeping it real, at all times.
But back to the infamous Summer of 2015, when Arnaud, already meditating about transforming Bronco and its unused basement into something bigger, better and designed for something so simple, yet so hard to find (at the time) in Paris: pure pleasure, meets Guillaume Le Donche, another young, intuitive soul with stints at Lionel Bensimoun and André Saraiva’s “La Clique” and former owner of the Youngunz music label and bar Isolée in Pigalle.
In the meantime, literally at a stone’s throw away from Bronco, still on rue des Petites Ecuries, at number 43 (Bronco being at number 39), Arnaud secures two other spots: Vivant Table and Vivant Cave. At this point we are now in mid-late 2015, when a new creative soul, this time definitely a more graceful one, makes her debut in what will soon become Savoir Vivre. Her name is Graziella Buontempo and, at the time, she was Arnaud Lacombe’s girlfriend (don’t fret about the past tense, their current status has simply been happily upgraded to husband and wife). A true born and raised Italian from Naples having studied in Boston and at the time working as a copywriter in Paris, Graziella had already met Arnaud through mutual friends in 2008. Flashback to a couple of years later, in 2011, and a sun-filled summer weekend in Rome for their first date and one thing was certain: Graziella and Arnaud couldn’t stop talking about food (needless to say, a shared fondness for food is the recipe for eternal love). They make each other a promise: one day, we’ll open a restaurant together.
Naturally, Arnaud being now in 2015 the owner of former Vivant Cave and Vivant Table next-door to his first adventure, and both still loyal to their initial promise, the idea soon pops into mind: “Amore, let’s open a Pizzeria”. The chosen place is Vivant Table, with its stunning art-deco mosaic walls, vestige of its birdhouse past during Paris’ 1920s Belle Epoque.
Inspired by Arnaud’s energy and vision, just like him, to challenge herself, the idea was simple: tired of seeking out The Pizza, the one most reminiscent of her childhood memories, of the deep yet soft aromas suffusing her hometown of Naples and its ancestral techniques and ingredients, Graziella was going to bring her own vision of Pizza to Paris. The motto, spawning from that same need as her husband to create the most simple, honest and genuine experience possible, goes unchanged: staying true to oneself and the richness of colors and tastes of Naples and Italy.
After a couple of months of construction (the mosaic walls have obviously remained beautifully intact), training a Pizzaiolo (Neapolitan just like her of course), working with Chloé Desvenain (Fakepaper) to define the Pizzeria’s visual identity, and after a year of tireless research to source the finest (and often most unknown) ingredients exclusively out of Naples’ region (from peculiar tomatoes to out-of-this-world anchovies) and, most importantly, create all of the recipes drawing from both tradition and her mom, aunt and grandmother’s recipes, “Da Graziella” (Arnaud picked out the name ;) ) finally opens its doors at the end of November 2016. Little less than a year later, all the hard work, straightforwardness and energy pay-off, not without Arnaud’s keen eye for development and good advice, Guillaume’s assistance with communication, and, for some time, Marie-Clotilde Ramos-Ibanez’s friendly hosting (Guillaume’s girlfriend working next to Graziella at the Pizzeria): “Da Graziella” rapidly becomes a critically-acclaimed household name in Pizza, soon anointed “Best Pizza in France” by notorious guide “Le Fooding.”
After a brief moment of hesitation as to the future of "Vivant Cave", and after brainstorming more than one idea that (fortunately in some cases) will never see the light of day, something needs to be done about the place: first and foremost, find a young, new chef that will, at least at the beginning, kick start again the restaurant’s activity (after all, rent is due at the end of the month ;) ).
This is when Pierre Touitou, an old acquaintance of Arnaud and Guillaume, inaugurates his role in the Savoir-Vivre story. After training and deepening his knowledge at “Plaza Athenee,” “The Book and Library,” “Miznon” and “Aux Deux Amis” amongst other places, Pierre, with his enthusiasm and skillfulness for someone so young (he is then 23 years old) was the ideal candidate.
Barely a couple of months after Pierre took over the cramped but welcoming kitchen of “Vivant Cave”, now transformed into simply “Vivant”, and it’s a success…Pierre manages to play with what can only be compared to a college dorm room kitchen (he had an oven, a countertop and two tiny stovetops). He creates, deconstructs and continues to let the menu evolve incessantly with exceptional, in-season products, always calling on a beautiful dance between his Mediterranean ancestry and his passion for all-things Japanese.
The tone at “Vivant” is set right from the beginning, with the firm yet eager articulation of “Bonsoir Bienvenue” as soon as a person makes its way inside the tiny venue, chanted like a unified war cry by all team members led by Pierre and Clément Jeannin. The latter is the newest character in this wonderful story: a bright, always resourceful spirit that rapidly and skillfully ascended from waiter to house sommelier after a stint at “Téléscope” as a barista. Clément’s passion (besides being a master stuntman, air-trumpet player and thai boxer) is wine: he is intrepid in his selection, moved by the life stories behind each wine maker and behind each parcel of land (from France to Italy, from Spain to Slovenia) that brings that unmistakable, often surprising pleasure called wine.
Always on the lookout for novelty and uniqueness, while still cherishing the timelessness of certain vintage classics, Clément approaches wine with the ardor and painstaking observation that only true enthusiasts, and bona fide hard workers, possess. In little time, through the team’s perseverance and determination, and, obviously, with Arnaud’s ever present watchful eye, Guillaume’s communication support, “Vivant” becomes the press’ heartthrob, securing renowned culinary prizes like the “Prix de la Jeunesse” (Young Talent Award) at the Omnivore Festival in 2017 and the “Fooding d’Amour” from Le Fooding magazine.
For as much as these first two first projects are a success, the private club remains at the heart of Arnaud and Guillaume's ambitions and tireless, dynamic work ethic. After countless setbacks with the condo-owners (unfortunately a recurring trait of many eager projects in the heart of Paris), a decision is made: Bronco and its then still-unused basement will be merged with the basement of the next-door bar, the last business freshly acquired by Arnaud (the entrance to Bronco being at number 39 of rue des Petites Ecuries and the new bar being at number 37 of rue des Petites Ecuries).
The new spot already has a name: Hotel Bourbon, a house for sleepless souls (our fun way to define a club) thought and conceived by Arnaud and Guillaume.
Designed as a large apartment devoted to the celebration of party and pleasure of the senses, Hotel Bourbon is inspired by the best of the 70's (Willy Rizzo’s work soon became one of the main inspirations behind its design) defined through the prism of a fundamentally more contemporary vision. Uncompromisingly, Arnaud and Guillaume have designed this two-level space as their dream place: full of details and references, bargain-hunted art pieces and rare 20th century design works as well as tailor-made furniture.
The visual identity of “Hotel Bourbon”, playing on mystery and eroticism, stems from the collaboration between the artist Inès Longevial and Savoir Vivre’s graphic designer Chloé Desvenain (Fakepaper).
Opened in October 2017,with a range of eclectic residents in the likes of Azamat B, Celine Sundae, Teki Latex, Jean Nipon, Radio Hotel, Discomatin, Piu Piu, Aleqs Notal, as well as other international artists, and after having hosted many release parties (Bon Gamin, Sabrina Bellaouel, China Laroche) as well as international fashion brand after-shows (Miu Miu, Nike, Adidas to name a few), “Hotel Bourbon” is today a success, more and more people lining up in front of its bouncer every night…
Then, in February 2018, “Deviant”, the youngest addition to the Savoir Vivre family opened its doors. “Deviant” was conceived as a bar branching off from a restaurant, a Parisian trooper voyaging towards space in a shuttle taking-off every evening at number 37 of rue des Petites Ecuries, the throbbing heart of this group’s adventures.
“Deviant” is nothing more and nothing less that it’s next-door sibling “Vivant: its smallest details thought up by the latter’s members, its cuisine more raw than its older brother “Vivant”.
After three years of relentless work, success as well as more than one defeat (but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger), after three years of friendship, adventures, discoveries and love, this is only the beginning for Savoir Vivre…Arnaud Lacombe, the President (30 years old), Graziella Buontempo, First Lady and “Da Graziella’s” boss (30 years old), Guillaume Le Donche, Communications Director and Hotel Bourbon’s Creative Director (31 years old), Pierre Touitou, talented chef (25 years old) and Clément Jeannin, one-of-a-kind sommelier (30 years old) along with all of their partners aren’t ready just yet to take it easy and relax…