The hotel’s lobby “hub” includes a bar and lots of comfortable seating. (Courtesy: Le Méridien)
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans. The city has since made a remarkable recovery, particularly in the revitalization of the downtown area with new restaurants, attractions, and several new hotels. One of them, the Hotel Le Méridien, opened this March with great fanfare, and offers a uniquely New Orleans spin on a large hotel.
Location: 333 Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
Background: After a multiyear, $29 million remodel, the former W Hotel in downtown New Orleans has been transformed into Hotel Le Méridien, with its grand opening March 5. The 410-room high-rise property combines the personality of a neighborhood boutique hotel with the resources of a large brand. The cool European interior design gives the hotel an international feel, but at the same time, local design elements, programs, and cuisine give it a properly New Orleans character.
A sample guest room, where rates begin at $185. (Courtesy: Le Méridien)
When to go: New Orleans is a fun place to visit any time of year, although the summer months can be excessively hot and humid. Mardi Gras is the signature annual event of the city, but Jazz Fest, the French Quarter Festival, and a dozen other happenings mean there’s always going to be a party somewhere in town.
The vibe: The hotel has a cool, fashion-conscious, “mid-century” European vibe, evoking Le Méridien’s origins in 1970s Paris. The décor and furniture is modern and minimalistic, but still functional and comfortable. Subtle design elements (like maps of the city integrated into wallpaper patterns) give the hotel a local feel, while still maintaining a sense of calm efficiency. Overall, the hotel has the vibe of an oasis that’s connected and yet somewhat secluded from the sometimes crazy city of New Orleans.
Getting there: Le Méridien is in downtown New Orleans, about 20 miles from the airport. Airport shuttles run $20 and take about 30 minutes. If you’re driving, keep in mind that valet parking at the hotel costs $42!
LMNO Restaurant, which serves New Orleans favorites. (Courtesy: Le Méridien)
The rooms: Le Méridien’s 410 guest rooms include 22 suites, some with sweeping views of boat traffic plying the waters of the nearby Mississippi River. All of the rooms have newly refurbished and redesigned interiors, with very comfy beds, open work space, and calming, muted colors (good for those suffering from a post-Bourbon Street hangover, or so I hear). The décor is modern European, with a touch of New Orleans in the artwork and accents. The “Corner Suite Guestrooms” are the best call if you’re looking for some extra space and awesome views.
The view from one of the rooms. (Courtesy: Le Méridien)
What I loved: Calling your lobby a “hub” seems like a bit of a marketing gimmick, but it works here at Le Méridien, with its expansive, comfortable setting between the front desk and the restaurant, with many nooks, bookcases, and couches providing good spots for solo work or a group meeting. The area is anchored by Longitude 90 bar, which serves Illy coffee by day, and wine by night. And there’s free Wi-Fi in the lobby (er, hub). I also enjoyed the room views over the river, the restaurant’s fantastic New Orleans cuisine, and the hotel’s cultural programs with the city.
A seating area in the hub. (Courtesy: Le Méridien)
Don’t miss: While everyone is sure to enjoy some of the city’s famous food, music, and booze, don’t miss Le Méridien’s “Unlock Art” program, which connects guests with the local arts scene. The program enables guests to use their room keycard as a free pass to the nearby Contemporary Arts Center, as well as the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Get information from the concierge about the latest exhibits and special events. After a walk around town on a hot day, don’t miss the chance to take a dip in the hotel’s rooftop pool and relax in a cabana.
What I didn’t love: While the hotel is a few blocks away from the all-night craziness of Bourbon Street, this is still downtown New Orleans, so expect to hear sirens and other street noise at night, even from the upper floors.
The front desk. (Courtesy: Le Méridien)
What you can eat: Oh man, the food in New Orleans… Le Méridien’s restaurants represent the decadent dining traditions of the city, beginning with their signature omelets and breakfast entrées at Le Marché, including a “Cajun-Spiced Parallel Eggs Benedict.” For dinner, hit up the LMNO restaurant for local favorites like gumbo and fritters, some barbecued pork belly, and a softball-sized sous vide short ribs entrée basted in a port wine créole jus marinade. On the odd chance you have room for dessert, the bread pudding with caramel sauce is tasty, and at some point, you have to sample the “Signature New Orleans Eclair” with tastes of sassafras, coffee-chicory cream, and pecan pralines.
What you can do around here: There is never, ever a problem to find fun things to do in New Orleans. The hotel is a few blocks from the French Quarter with its always-on selection of restaurants, bars, and jazz clubs. The hotel is also adjacent to the lesser-known Warehouse District, with an arts-centric collection of museums, galleries, and cultural centers. If you’re feeling lucky, Harrah’s Casino is right across the street.