Taggart Cojan Sorensen
New Hotels in New Orleans
By Hideaway Report Editor
July 1, 2019
New Orleans may have celebrated its 300th year in 2018, but it’s impossible to assess the city outside the prism of Hurricane Katrina. After August 2005, it was difficult to imagine such a devastated place ever returning to its former glory. But a decade on, it’s done that and more. The waters receded and young people flooded in — urban planners fresh out of college, people who had always wanted to live there, families looking for something different — all bringing their ideas with them. It was almost a startup mentality, if a startup could be a city. Best of all, they weren’t held back by what had been before; these newcomers helped unlock and broaden the scope of offerings.
New Orleans is more exciting than ever. The old stalwarts are still there, thankfully, but there are plenty of new kids on the block.
Suddenly, not one but two Israeli restaurants would open and thrive. Po’boys would get the international treatment and gain a following. A barbecue scene would be born. Mardi Gras Indian culture would not only resurge but thrive. Tremé would be the inspiration for a popular TV show, and second-line parades would happen every Sunday in spring. With all this change has come a flurry of hotel openings sprinkled across the city, from Mid-City and Uptown to the Central Business District and the über-hip Faubourg Marigny. New Orleans is more exciting than ever. The old stalwarts are still there, thankfully, but there are plenty of new kids on the block. We decided to make a return trip to one of our favorite locales to see which hotels have potential for Hideaway Report members.
The Eliza Jane
Joining a string of recent openings in the Central Business District, just a few blocks from the French Quarter, The Eliza Jane opened in September 2018. This striking four-story property is part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, and while we knew it wouldn’t qualify as a hideaway — it has 196 guest rooms and suites — we thought it might be a worthy addition to our New Orleans roster.
The hotel, which fronts Magazine Street, is composed of seven 19th-century warehouses that once belonged to different businesses: the Peychaud’s Bitters factory, Gulf Baking Soda, Peters Cartridge shop and the Daily Picayune, a local newspaper that printed from 1837 to 1914. Design firm Stonehill Taylor, the group behind The Whitby Hotel and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City, did a remarkable job converting them and making the most of the historic architectural details discovered in the process. Homage is paid to that history in ways big and small: Peychaud’s print ads have been turned into custom wallpaper, antique typewriters get a second life as decorative objects, and shower curtains highlight a New Orleans theme. The biggest tribute, however, resides in the hotel’s very name: Eliza Jane Nicholson was the publisher of the Daily Picayune and the first female publisher of a major metropolitan paper in the United States.
Our 4 p.m. check-in was polished and seamless, though no porter was on hand to take our bags. The reception area, with its hex-tiled floors, painted blue paneling and faux desk drawers, gave the impression of a modern version of an old-fashioned railroad hotel. Heading to the elevators through the immense lobby, we passed iron beams that bifurcated the long space, while ceiling tresses opened to the 60-foot atrium above. The airy effect made the 17-seat Press Room bar, on one side, feel larger than it really was. The cranberry-and-hunter-green lounge opposite was cozy and inviting with multiple seating areas. Before reaching the elevators, we were enticed to take a detour to the 2,000-square-foot brick courtyard. Black metal beams created the effect of a vaulted ceiling that opened to the sky, lush ferns hung from above, ceiling fans quietly twirled, and potted palms lent a tropical vibe. For dramatic effect, a black-and white-tiled fountain hosted a sculpture of a bathing Venus. The purple neon sign reading “Bisous,” or “kisses,” gave a moody glow to the Bisous Wine Garden, where guests can enjoy biodynamic and organic wines on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays after 4 p.m., weather permitting.
Our Editor’s Suite King was on the second floor, and the hallway to it doubled as a balcony overlooking the first floor. The 525-square-foot space opened into a beautifully wallpapered foyer and a separate living area in a palette of dusty rose and emerald green with cranberry accents. The living area consisted of a sofa, two chairs, a 55-inch television and a stand-alone brass bar with a Keurig coffee maker and a refrigerator. The curve-backed sleeper sofa, with its solid and floral upholstery, was the only element that missed the mark design-wise.
Separating the living area from the bedroom was a window in the wall, which served to open up the space (guests needing privacy can lower the blinds). The bedroom showcased floor-to-ceiling windows with heavy drapes. Two walnut nightstands flanked the king-size bed, while in the corner, robes hung from one of the two open armoires. (There are no closets, so hanging clothes are out in the open, which may turn off some guests.)
The highlight of the Editor’s Suite is the luxurious vintage-modern bath. With its white beveled subway tiles, black hexagonal floor tiles and brass fixtures, it felt like a Rejuvenation catalog come to life. Carrera marble topped a deep-blue wood vanity that held one sink but offered plenty of counter space. The enormous shower area featured a stand-alone tub and a large floor-to-ceiling window with generous privacy curtains. Bath amenities were provided by C.O. Bigelow.
Couvant, the hotel’s French brasserie, is housed within the building’s original Peychaud’s Bitters factory. We initially visited for lunch without reservations and were told there were no seats. When we suggested waiting at the bar, the seemingly inexperienced hostess told us that the bartender was too busy to accommodate us even though numerous barstools were empty. Offering us no choice, I suggested that we put our names on the list and come back. After showing my friend around the hotel, we returned a few minutes later to have a seat at the bar and wait for a table. Like everything here, the cocktail menu is New Orleans-inspired, with drinks containing hoodoo chicory, absinthe, bitters and rhum agricole (cane juice rum original to the French Caribbean). All the beers, both on tap and in bottles, are brewed in Louisiana. After enjoying a cocktail with an eco-friendly bamboo straw, we were seated and immediately offered a glass of wine and an apology for the wait.
Lunch consisted of a delicious soft lettuce salad with shaved foie gras, Port-truffle vinaigrette and hazelnuts, and Poisson Rouge “à la Niçoise,” a fillet of redfish, tomato confit, niçoise olives and basil. For dinner, later in our stay, I ordered a superbly cooked filet mignon au poivre, a 7-ounce Angus cut, with green peppercorns and cognac jus served with pommes frites. Save for the hostess, service was always on point.
With 196 rooms, this is not, by definition, a hideaway, but the layout of the property almost makes it feel like one — outside of the public areas, we never saw another guest during our stay. The hotel may be too big for the staff to remember your name, but The Eliza Jane is a beautifully designed and inviting option close to area attractions.
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The inspired design and historic architectural details.
The valet took 20 minutes to get our car; the coffee served at Couvant was middling at best.
Good to Know
The chandelier in the Press Room lounge is original to the *Daily Picayune*’s newsroom.
Rates: Lowest Rate: Queen Room, $320; Editor’s Choice: Editor's Suite, $500
Address: 315 Magazine Street
Telephone: (504) 882-1234
Hotel Peter & Paul
Downriver from the French Quarter, Hotel Peter & Paul is set in the diverse, artist-friendly Faubourg Marigny. This residential area has become a tourist hot spot in recent years, with bars, restaurants and the occasional food hall popping up. It had no hotel of note until Marigny resident Nathalie Jordi decided to develop one a few blocks from her home. Knowing that her neighbors were wary of gentrification, she involved them early on and got their buy-in. In October 2018, Hotel Peter & Paul opened to much fanfare.
Lauded as a “spiritual place” and “a heavenly hotel” by the press, the property is the result of a four-year renovation of the campus of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and school. The 71-room hotel encompasses a four-story schoolhouse, a convent, a rectory and a now-deconsecrated church, designed in 1860 by the Irish-born architect Henry Howard (see the review of his namesake hotel below). Each building offers guest accommodations except the sanctuary, which has been restored and kept intact as a space for community events. The restoration has been a passion project for Jordi, who clearly cherishes her neighborhood and the city at large, so for that reason, I wanted to love it.
Arriving in the early afternoon, I entered the hotel lobby on the bottom floor of the 59-room School House. A massive candelabra, imported from Sweden, was flanked by two grand staircases made of antique cypress. The subtle harlequin-patterned marble floors hinted at a design motif that would be repeated in one form or another throughout the hotel. The front desk was tucked away to the side and softened with cheery yellow curtains.
The porter helpfully checked our luggage, and the front desk offered a brochure of local businesses to patronize while we waited for our room. I was promised a call or text when our accommodations were ready, but the call never came. I returned for the 3 p.m. check-in and was escorted to the Mother Superior room (No. 607). It was located on the second floor of the seven-room Convent, an adorable light peach and mint-green Creole cottage dating to 1870. Looking forward to taking a step back in time as I entered, I was instead immediately hit with the smell of paint. As the porter ascended the Convent stairs, he explained that the storefront was being converted to an ice cream parlor and suggested I open the windows of my room to air it out. Unfortunately, the windows were painted shut.
The simple if spare décor of the Mother Superior room seemed designed to evoke the living quarters of the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross, who called this place home for more than a century.
The simple if spare décor of the Mother Superior room seemed designed to evoke the living quarters of the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross, who called this place home for more than a century. A somber icon hung on one wall, while wrought-iron cross finials stood on each corner of the king canopy bed. The seating area consisted of two chairs and a daybed, all upholstered in the Filtex gingham textiles, imported from Switzerland, that the hotel has used anywhere it could. (Even the television got the gingham treatment in the form of a screen cover.)
Furnishings throughout the hotel were picked up on buying trips through France, Belgium and Italy, and while creating a sense of Old World charm, they sometimes lacked New World practicality. The French provincial secretary was so tipsy that the lamp sitting on it nearly fell over when I placed my computer down; the nightstands, open as they were, revealed every crisscrossed electrical cord needed to power the Bakelite rotary phone and bedside lamp; and the three-panel painted screen that begged me to look behind it revealed an open door to the dark attic. (I had to lean the panel awkwardly against it just to keep it closed.)
But the most significant things were yet to come: Dust bunnies danced under the daybed, a used lip balm lay under the king-size bed, and crumpled contact lenses from the previous occupant had dried up on the carpet, molding and floor. Upon closer inspection, the rug looked as if it hadn’t been vacuumed in a fortnight.
With the paint fumes an issue and now cleanliness a concern, I called the front desk to ask about other available rooms. (“Oh, gross!” was the alarmed response.) I was shown two very different options, both in the School House. (No two rooms in the hotel are exactly alike‚ but they all share that ubiquitous gingham.) The first was an awkwardly laid-out bilevel space: In the center of the living room was an angled daybed that looked less than comfortable. A metal spiral staircase in the corner led to a cramped loft bed. Our second choice was a small, dark space in a converted attic on the fourth floor.
Despite our reservations about the Mother Superior, we chose to stay put because it seemed the most comfortable and had the largest bath. It offered an enclosed shower with a hand-held device and a claw-foot tub, two pedestal sinks and plenty of natural light. However, with only a small shelf across from the sinks, it lacked counter space.
While housekeeping cleaned our room, we visited the Rectory next door for a drink. The former priest’s home contains a café in the former chapel, the Elysian Bar restaurant (run by the team behind the popular wine bar Bacchanal) and a bright yellow sunroom in the back for breakfast. Five guest rooms are upstairs. Our bartender didn’t blanch when we asked for our French 75 to be made with cognac instead of gin, and the result was a smooth and skillfully balanced cocktail. We enjoyed our drinks at the bar, but the adjacent brick courtyard looked quite inviting.
Thankfully, when we returned to our room, the fumes were gone and the room was much cleaner.
That evening we had a late-night dinner and managed to get the one seat left, a corner sofa that made for slightly awkward dining. We enjoyed the European-inspired small plates created by chef Alex Harrell, a former protégé of Susan Spicer and the former chef of Angeline and Sylvain. Inventive dishes include pork scallopini with fennel soubise, confit new potatoes and roasted-eggplant salad, and grilled okra and crispy eggplant in harissa, crème fraîche, black sesame, roasted peanut and cumin crunch. Our fish special was delicious, but it was the gingham décor that will stay with me. On curtains, tabletops, pillows and lampshades, Hotel Peter & Paul has bet the house on this look, so you’d better like it.
Upon checking out the next day, the front desk followed up about our housekeeping concerns and reduced the bill by half, which helped to make up for the oversights.
Upon checking out the next day, the front desk followed up about our housekeeping concerns and reduced the bill by half, which helped to make up for the oversights. Our time there wasn’t complete, however. The hotel gives tours of the entire property five days a week, so we returned that afternoon to join a group of more than 15. With lots of oohs and ahhs and questions like “How much is a room like this?” it seemed as though most weren’t guests of the hotel. While we can’t deny that it was an informative tour, it is highly unusual for a luxury hotel to not only give tours but allow the public to traipse through rooms with their shoes on (the streets of New Orleans are not exactly known for their cleanliness). These tours may generate interest and work as a PR move, but a true hideaway is a respite from the tourist hordes, not a tourist attraction.
Hotel Peter & Paul is nothing if not unique, and unlike many properties, it looks the same in person as it does on the website. The problems we encountered were ones that are easily overcome, and the housekeeping lapses were likely unusual, as management was quick to resolve our issues. Once housekeeping improves and things function as well as they photograph, Hotel Peter & Paul will be an interesting choice for those seeking a New Orleans hotel of character.
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Local artisans customized the drapes, upholstery and armoires.
The copious amounts of gingham; the lack of cleanliness; the tour groups.
Good to Know
The church is used for community events, which guests can sometimes enjoy as well.
Rates: Lowest Rate: School House Petite, $170; Editor’s Choice: Mother Superior, $660
Address: 2317 Burgundy Street
Telephone: (504) 356-5200
HENRY HOWARD HOTEL
Across town, we had high hopes of finding a hotel in the Garden District, so we visited the newly opened Henry Howard Hotel, named after the aforementioned architect who built this double-gallery townhouse in 1867. It is now an 18-room boutique property surrounded by beautiful homes on Prytania Street.
We were welcomed on a rainy day in a quaint lobby by a friendly staff but not by a porter ready to assist with our luggage. Somewhat awkwardly, front desk staffers asked us to follow the hotel on social media and provide feedback, well before the stay had even begun. The suggestion felt out of keeping with the standards of a fine hotel, not to mention being premature.
Our King Royal Gallery, the property’s best room, was a few floors up from the lobby. It was accessed either by a steep stairwell or an elevator working at a snail’s pace. This forced several parties to patiently — or not so patiently — await their turn. The elevator shaft itself was dirty and in need of cleaning and a paint job.
Photos on the hotel website present a picture of a hotel that is more flattering online than in person.
Our room was large and the bed linens comfortable, but overall it felt awkward, somewhat empty and cold in its arrangement. The sink and vanity sat in the bedroom next to the armoire, with little space to hang or hold toiletries, while the bath, shower and toilet were cordoned off behind a door in a separate room.
There were a few charming features throughout: notably, the warm hardwood floors, the mosaic floor tiles in the bath, the New Orleans-themed toile wallpaper and the decorative trumpet above the four-poster bed.
Photos on the hotel website present a picture of a hotel that is more flattering online than in person. It’s nice to have a comfortable bed in a fun little hotel on a street in an atmospheric section of New Orleans, but there is nothing overtly special about the Henry Howard — not the service, not the ambiance. It’s a fine place for shelter, but the amenities were nonexistent. For instance, there was no restaurant at the hotel, and from what I could tell, their interpretation of a bar was the front staff mixing a cocktail from behind the check-in desk when they had the time and the ingredients. This hotel may appeal to an audience stretching to stay at what feels like an upscale, hip hostelry that is in keeping with local history and character, but Hideaway Report readers will be unimpressed.
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The very comfortable bed and linens.
The super-slow elevator and its surroundings.
Good to Know
Great location for walking around and sightseeing in New Orleans.
Rates: Lowest Rate: Queen Superior Room, $220; Editor’s Choice: King Royal, $290
Address: 2041 Prytania Street
Telephone: (504) 313-1577