PARIS • Until Monday morning, it was one of the ultimate insider addresses in Paris.
Hotel de Pourtales, where reality television star Kim Kardashian West was held up at gunpoint at 2.30am, sequestered and robbed of jewels worth millions of dollars, was a secret that thrived on word-of-mouth, private concierge services and password access.
Not actually a hotel, but rather what hotel executives term disdainfully as "residential accommodations", Hotel de Pourtales is hidden in plain sight - in a courtyard behind a pretty-enough facade with a burgundy door at 7 Rue Tronchet, an otherwise unremarkable strip of the Eighth Arrondissement between the Madeleine church and the Printemps department store. Nearby shops include Petit Bateau, Saint James and Jacadi. The Cafe Madeleine on the corner is friendly and always busy.
And inside are nine apartments that come with custom furniture designs by Carpenters Workshop Gallery and Philippe Starck, as well as the services of a concierge, private chef and personal shopper.
Run more like a club than a hotel, it has secret entrances and no website to speak of, and anyone who wants to stay there needs a recommendation from an existing client. It attracts those less concerned with price than finessing a balance between an overexposed public life and privacy. It is, in fact, often referred to by its guests as the "No-Name Hotel".
"It's not grand on the outside, but there's this spectacular wow factor inside," said Ms Sidonie RobertDegove, managing director, Europe & USA, at De Beers Diamond Jewellers, who has attended movie industry functions there.
What it did not have, apparently, was spectacular security.
"This would never happen in a palace," said Mr Philippe LeBoeuf, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Paris - "this" being the Kardashian incident and a "palace" being the ultimate hoteliers designation, which requires obtaining a "distinction" awarded by Atout France, the tourism development agency affiliated with the Ministry of Tourism.
Granted only to hotels that have achieved five-star classification, it entails fulfilling 31 criteria - spanning floral arrangements, lighting and air conditioning - over and above the 203 prerequisites for five-star hotel status.
Above all, a palace must meet stringent security requirements and pass a complex inspection process, part of which is conducted incognito. Public spaces in hotels are subject to police regulation. Private residences are not.
"Any palace hotel will have a minimum of five to 10 dedicated security staff," Mr LeBoeuf said. "We also have firefighters and that's just the beginning."
He declined to elaborate further, adding: "Most palaces have a very strict confidentiality policy. If anyone on staff so much as texts about a VIP guest, they're fired. We want people to feel secure and we mean business."
Still, the rates of Pourtales are competitive with palace hotels, running from about US$1,120 (S$1,540) a night for a 1,000 sq ft room to about US$16,800 for the nearly 3,790 sq ft, three-bedroom Sky Penthouse duplex with private garden and terrace that Kardashian West favoured. The late musician Prince is said to have reserved the entire building when it opened in 2010. Pop star Madonna slept there. So did actor Leonardo DiCaprio. And soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his family. During the recent Paris Fashion Week, singer Usher was there too.
The hotel was originally built as a private mansion. Commissioned by Count James-Alexandre de Pourtales, a Swiss aristocrat, banker and diplomat, the building that bears his name was designed by Felix Duban, who gave the building a quattrocento-style facade inspired by Florentine palazzos.
Completed in 1839, it was essentially a gallery for the count's private art collection, which included antiquities and masterpieces by Ingres, Rembrandt and Titian. A few bedrooms were thrown in for good measure.
By the time it was listed as a national monument in 2002, it had been an office building for 85 years.
In 2008, French entrepreneur Alexandre Allard bought it and an adjacent modern building for a reported €31 million. Now combined, remodelled and refurbished, the residence operates under new ownership and the company name No Address France.
A spokesman for the hotel said via e-mail that the residence has received no cancellations after the incident.
"Our clients' confidence is intact," she wrote, adding that clients who are recommended could reserve up to the last minute. She declined to address further questions, including those about the residence's business status, ownership, staffing and security measures, citing reasons of confidentiality.