After a two-year renovation, New Orleans’ storied Pontchartrain Hotel is back in business.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD: While the French Quarter draws more crowds, the Garden District is perfectly content to be what it is: a quiet oasis tucked under the branches of sprawling oaks and dotted with time-capsuled cottages and antebellum mansions. St. Charles Avenue and its streetcar line slice through the district, easily whisking residents and visitors to shopping, dining, and nightlife in other areas of the Crescent City.
THE VIBE: Flanked by large-potted banana plants, the lobby exudes sedated opulence, which carries into the 106 guestrooms. Each is outfitted in soft colors and sumptuous fabrics with mixes of bold patterns and textures. Add antiques and original art, and it all manages to come off quite current.
THE DIGS: Since it first opened as luxury apartments in 1927, the Pontchartrain has lived through many changes. In the 1940s, it became a hotel. In its heyday, it hosted movie stars, literary luminaries, and powerful politicians. It changed ownership in 2014 and reopened last summer after a major renovation focused on adding modern amenities while holding onto the architectural heritage and historic character of the property’s glamorous jazz-age beginnings.
Insider’s Tip: Enjoy a drink in the parlor off the Caribbean Room as you sink into the velvet sofa beneath the lone portrait, an oil of Lil Wayne smiling down at a slice of mile high pie.
Eat-in Options: In a city known for its abundance of eating and drinking options, it’s no surprise that the Pontchartrain has multiple choices under its roof, all overseen by chefs John Besh and Chris Lusk. The Bayou Bar, original to the hotel, retains its warm wood interior accentuated with a massive mural showing a golden and green Louisiana wilderness scene. The rooftop bar Hot Tin is a new chapter in the hotel’s offerings (it was once the penthouse) and pays homage to playwright Tennessee Williams who penned a portion of A Streetcar Named De-sire while living at the hotel. A cozy, intimate “artist’s loft” vibe and sweeping views of the mighty Mississippi and downtown New Orleans from the outdoor terrace marry perfectly with clever cocktails like the Ponce de Leon, a spicy-tart mix of rujero pisco, allspice dram, cinnamon, lime, and grapefruit.
The masterstroke in the reimagining of the hotel was the reintroduction of the Caribbean Room restaurant, closed since 1994. An exotic tropical motif dominates the sophisticated space; ferns and philodendrons drip from baskets overhead, and verdant banana-leaf-print carpet lies underfoot. Floral drapes and white wood paneling frame the dining room. It all evokes memories of a time when the city’s “who’s who” packed the place for special meals (and when folks dressed for dinner—jackets are still required for men). But it’s the combo of reserved yet attentive service and Chef Lusk’s fusion of familiar and contemporary dishes that really put the polish back on this gem.