How does the Villa d’Estrées keep abreast of the competition on the popular Rive Gauche? Laetitia the manager’s reply emphasised the quality of service: the staff here are long-serving (and, we found, friendly); a sense of family prevails. She knows the reputation for a cool reception that hotels in Paris can have and wants to defy that: “If the guests are happy, we are happy.”
   But that’s not all. Villa d’Estrées manages to be elegant and contemporary without falling back on natural decoration. The reception-cum-breakfast room is decorated, Empire-style, in blacks and deep reds: rather dark, rather formal and rather beautiful. Our reporter’s room, number 202, mixed colours, textures and prints well without creating a headache. Wallpapers and colour vary in each room, as well as the artwork (an Asian theme in our room) and antique furniture – this is packed up in flea markets but looks far from flea-bitten.
   The area can be noisy at the weekends and unfortunately there is an Irish pub next door. However the bistro on the corner, Le Café, is also owned by the Chevance family and provides a decent bite to eat in the evening, If you’re on a tighter budget try the Chevance’s sister hotel, Hôtel Résidence des Arts, opposite.