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Mama Shelter Paris – Just Too Cool

Mama Shelter Paris HotelTo see the cool side of Paris, see Mama Shelter. Forget the Eiffel Tower and ignore the Champs Elysees. The young, the weird and the beautiful wine, dine and, er, rendezvous here in the 20th - arrondissement and they make no apology for it.

Mama Shelter Paris – An Independent Review

Let’s start with the rooms. No, before that the lifts, decked out in black with white words raging across. No mention of La Vie en Rose around here. Instead text like blood, women, mouth, egg blaze into your retina and it becomes obvious that things are a little different around here.

The theme continues along the corridor, with word upon word swirling across the back carpet in the darkness.

Then the room itself, barely lit by a couple of bedside lamps with detachable Batman and Obelisk face masks. (A photoshoot playing out in the bar downstairs demonstrated just what they thought I should be doing with them. And it wasn’t an activity for one.)

For all the fancy design, though, the basics were still there: duvet, pillows, hot water, shower. There was even free wifi (plus an apple TV gadget complete with keyboard to use if you fancied) and a range of free movies to distract your attention away from the bare concrete walls.

Mama Shelter Paris Room

Bedside Masks

The real piece de la resistance was the restaurant downstairs. Not the pizzeria (by all accounts excellent) with its traditional chequered tablecloths and fresh, heaven-smelling oven.

No, the restaurant further back, a Philippe Starck creation. This place takes the “less is more “approach to lighting, feeds it steroids for months on end, dopes it with EPO and sets up a string of blood transfusions until the point where you can’t see a thing and you’re in danger of losing your footing as well as your metaphor.

Mama Shelter BathroomOnly the staff seem to know what they’re doing and whom they’re doing it with in the darkness.

Slowly, my eyesight recovered to reveal a few telling details. Illuminated swimming aids hanging from the ceiling. Eclectic yellow chairs. And a line of waiters stroking each other’s hair. I couldn’t quite decide whether this was part of the performance or whether I’d caught an inter-staff relationship blossoming beneath the gloom.

Away from the drama, though, the food was divine, with Mama providing some comforting Parisian staples (think oysters in shallot vinegar and bloody steak with crisp straw frites.) Yet astonishingly, and refreshingly, Mama also offers up experiences from further afield. (One waiter recommended Japanese whiskey over cognac as a digestif. #somethinglikethathasneverhappenedbeforeinFrance.)

Mama Shelter Paris Overall

All in all, Mama Shelter walks the uber-cool line in terms of both design and staff, and it’s a tough line to tread. While the reception staff were flawless, the breakfast team pushd that attitude a little too far. You have to be ready to stand up for yourself.

Then again, this is Paris. And, with a shrug of the shoulders, it’s not really designed for the shy, retiring type.

Mama Shelter Paris Inflatable

Hanging Inflatables

What I loved

-The surprise factor. It’s good to see something different when you travel.

-The funky, detailed maps introducing the 20th arrondissement amid a sea of black on a page

-The i-gadgets and film choices

-The cocktails – from Old Fashioned to Kool and the Gang

– The in-room microwaves. Not sure why you’d need one but good to know they’re there.

Things to Know

–        There’s no help with luggage nor help with the steps on arrival.

–        Get to breakfast early. It closes fifteen minutes before it should.

–        Avoid if flashing lights, masks and other such paraphernalia are likely to keep you awake at night

–        There’s no room service

–        You’ll need to travel to reach central Paris – but then again the 20th shows you the city’s unusual side and has plenty to keep you entertained.


172 rooms with a 24″ iMac with TV, radio, web and free wifi

Doubles start at a very reasonable 89 Euros but rooms are hip-squeezingly on the small side. Splash out into the luxe rooms if you can and if you really want a wild weekend – check out the suite for 299 Euros. Eye-popping design.

Read more about Paris

Mama Shelter Pizzeria


Disclosure – I paid a reduced rate to stay at Mama Shelter Paris for review purposes. As ever, editorial control remains mine all mine. No mask required.

 Would you stay in Mama Shelter? Would you wear the masks?

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8 Responses to Mama Shelter Paris – Just Too Cool

  1. A Montrealer Abroad March 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    The “closes 15 minutes early” deal is actually quite common on France. The finish time is always the time employees leave – meaning that they have to close up shop a bit before that.

    Infuriating and absolutely nonsensical. And very, very French!

    • Abi King March 27, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      Aha! Well, forewarned is forearmed!

  2. Sarah March 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    I would, but I would do so knowing that there is fair chance no less than six hidden cameras are likely recording me. Seems consistent with the place.

    • Abi King March 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      That hadn’t even crossed my mind. Although you may well be right! ;-)

  3. Erica March 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I love the sound of Mama Shelter. And I like that the hotel is located in a neighborhood that’s not popular among tourists. Makes for a more interesting stay.

    • Abi King March 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

      It definitely does. And they have great information about it too.

  4. Abby March 25, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Well, part of me just felt French for the first time in my life. Just tonight, I didn’t stop by Whole Foods because with only 15 minutes until close, I worried that the people who worked there needed to go right at ten, and I didn’t think I could shop in that short of time. HA! But the rest is me in a nutshell. I lived in the East Village for years in NYC because of price, although I never felt hip enough for my surroundings….

    • Abi King March 27, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Well, that made me laugh! Vive la not-quite-cool-enoughs!