From minibars stocked with local spirits to bars serving vintage negronis, Experimental Group hotels put drinking at their heart – a joy to look forward to in the post social-distancing era. Globetrender learns about the company’s journey from cocktails to over-night stays, why co-founders bring benefits and the art of holistic curation.
What is the Experimental Group?
Experimental Group is a “hospitality collective” comprised of young entrepreneurs who operate hotels and F&B outlets across Paris, London, Verbier, Menorca, Ibiza, Venice and New York City.
In what ways are you innovative?
Our hotels aim to immerse guests in the true experience of the location where they are staying, so they can live life as if they were locals and our hotel is their home-away-from-home.
At the heart of Experimental Group is food and drink. It’s where we started and something that is never a second thought. So, our hotels are always feature a bar and a restaurant with rooms above.
Across everything, we focus on the products. For instance, at each one of our properties, mattresses are crafted by the same local French artisan and minibars are curated in a very unique way – we source unique local liqueurs and spirits so guests can discover products that may be unknown to them.
What do each of the co-founders bring to the table?
Even though we are all different, we can all do pretty much what the other ones does. It’s a complementary partnership that ensures we can move from property to property with the same appreciation for what needs to be done.
However, we of course all have an area of expertise. Olivier Bon has an eye for design and he often curates every single object present in the rooms, bars and restaurants.
Pierre Charles Cros has a talent for la bonne cuisine and often works alongside our chefs to find the best tools and machinery for them to cook better and perfect their technique.
Romée de Goriainoff has a knack for wine and coffee – he always knows about the most interesting winemaker or coffee roaster.
Xavier Padovani, who joined later, has a love for liquors and spirits with a soft spot for vintage spirits.
When it comes to the more business side of things, Romée excels in our research and development department and alongside Pierre Charles. They are excellent at sourcing funding. Olivier, alongside Xavier, often work on our social media and marketing, while Pierre Charles oversees the building sites.
Together we convene at every angle of hospitality and every one of us excels at networking.
What was your journey from bars to restaurants and hotels?
It was an organic progression. In 2007, we started with a cocktail bar. Then we opened a wine bar, and a restaurant and then it just made sense to move into hotels.When we first started, our main focus was that our guests enjoy themselves. This was the sole objective. This was the case in our first bars in Paris and London, and then in our restaurants.
From that moment on it made sense to take the next step and welcome guests to our “house” and make sure they have a good time from the moment they wake up, until when they went to bed, and through the night.
When, where and why did you launch your first hotel?
Grand Pigalle, our first hotel, opened its doors in Paris in 2015. It was a great opportunity to take a hotel that had to be completely refurbished with views over the Sacré Cœur in one of the few real “up and coming” neighbourhoods of Paris. With 37 rooms, it was the perfect size for the first hotel an opportunity we couldn’t miss.
Do all your hotels have bars and how are they unique?
Bars are where we started, so yes. It was a natural thing for us to put in each hotel. Each one has its own design, a new menu every season and they all take inspiration from the local area and history of the building.
In Paris, the Grand Pigalle Hotel has Wine and Dine, a wine-focused bar, while Hotel des Grand Boulevard has the Shell Cocktail Bar and the main island bar of the restaurant. There is also a roof topbar, the Shed.
The Henrietta Hotel in London has two cocktails bars. They have a great selection of cognacs and offer an extensive selection of vintage spirits with a focus on vintage negronis from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.Experimental Chalet in Verbier has a cocktail bar on the first floor and night club – the Farm Club – next door. The bar of the hotel has a focus on local spirits.
Il Palazzo Experimental in Venice has a bar called the Experimental Cocktail Club Venice. There is a cicchetti bar with a focus on bitters and amaro and the Experimental Cocktail Club has a focus on rum and Italian liqueurs and spirits with a selection of vintage spirits and vintage Negronis on the menu.
Experimental Menorca has two amazing bars and uses a rotovap [lab rotary evaporator] to distill things that grows on the property, as well as using local spirits.
How do your hotels standout against the competition?
Our hotels are unique in many ways. The best way to describe it is that every single detail has been carefully curated personally by us. Firstly, we work very closely with the hotel designers. We share our vision and we accompany the designer in every step of the design and build process.
From every single light bulb, from every speaker’s position, from every bottle in the mini bar, the mattress, the towels, the soap, the restaurant glasses and the forks to the music, the drink menu and the food menu, we test everything before agreeing to launch it.Everything needs to be to our standards. Today, we feel people stay with us because they trust we have curated all the best things we could source for them. This is exactly what happens when you stay with us.
Our hotel locations are also unique and often in an area that is frequented by locals-only so our guests can get the full immersion.
Finally, our staff are what makes the difference. We truly believe that it is down to our crew. We want our team to be mindful of our guests, in tune with their needs and proactive to anticipate what a guest might require before they even ask for it.
Yet at the same time, our staff know how to respect our guests’ privacy. It’s about the right balance so they feel at home while staying in our hotels. That unique blend works well and delivers the Experimental Group experience.
Describe the guest experience at your newest property?
Experimental Menorca was launched last year. It is an amazing agriturismo that operates as a farm. You check in nice and early, grab the keys to your villa, and while we bring the luggage over, you take a walk to the herb garden and say “hi” to the chef, Alex, who’s preparing lunch by picking the herbs he needs.
A receptionist brings over a cool drink. You take a walk to the pool with Alejandro who will show you around. Once you’ve walked around the farm you may grab lunch at the pool and chill for a while.
In the early afternoon you will catch up with Alejandro at reception to organise your dinner by the falaises, as tonight – following a local wine tasting – you will have dinner at one of the most unique spots on the property: a little hidden away, about a ten-minute walk from the main restaurant. It’s the best spot to enjoy the sunset.
After dinner, a nightcap at the bar and to bed. An early breakfast can be enjoyed at the main finca before a leisurely horse ride on the horse trail that runs around the island. That should get you started. On the other hand, you could also sit by the pool, read a book and sip on a negroni.
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