New Orleans is a city for Francophiles, a place that can feel more European than American on any given day.
And with the addition of the new Le Méridien New Orleans, which replaced the former W Hotel, even pillow talk has a decidedly French accent.
Although Starwood has operated the chain since 2005, Air France founded Le Méridien in 1972 in Paris. The brand is still Eurocentric, artsy and chic, with a sleek Mid-Century sense of design that is uber-contemporary in a Mad Men kind of way.
Le Meridien New Orleans' airy lobby space — Photo courtesy of Le Meridien New Orleans
The company spent $29 million to renovate the former W, a stem-to-stern redo of the 23-story tower that fluffed up the public spaces, bumped up meeting space to more than 20,000 square feet and reimagined all 410 guest rooms, including 22 suites.
The hotel is filled with locally created and inspired art and photography, a trademark of the brand and its Unlock Art program.
Local artists were commissioned to create designs for room keys, which – when presented at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art – get guests in for free.
There’s even an original video looping under the porte-cochère, an endlessly repeating whimsical piece of performance art that is surely going to drive the valet guys to distraction before too long. But it’s cool.
LMNO restaurant at Le Meridien New Orleans — Photo courtesy of Le Meridien New Orleans
Changes in food and beverage are also happy developments. As part of the brand's new culinary program, the hotel partnered with top gun pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini; you might know him as a judge on Bravo’s culinary competition series Top Chef: Just Desserts.
Check this out: The company pays Iuzzini to travel around the world as they open hotels and create a custom éclair recipe that reflects that particular city’s culinary cache.
For New Orleans, he researched at places like Maypop Herbs in the Marigny and consulted with pal Blake Abene at Square Root to come up with an éclair powered by spicy pimento, Herb Saint, sassafras (used in File gumbo), pralines and chicory coffee.
It sounds odd but tastes amazing. It's a mix of savory, sweet and spice that you can try in Longitude 90, the coffee bar/lounge at Le Méridien Hub – the airy collection of modules designed for conversation and usually known as a lobby.
There’s also a new restaurant: LMNO (Get it? Le Méridien New Orleans.), with Chef Mauricio Gutierrez at the helm.
Gutierrez hails from Colombia and worked most recently at The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Fla. LMNO is about “New American cuisine infused with touches of Cajun and Creole.”
The menu tempts with the likes of andouille fritters, an antipasto that reads like an inside-out muffuletta and sauces like Creole jus, black mint Cajun cream and Cajun lemon butter to pair with proteins from ahi tuna to skirt steak with a chicory coffee rub.
Bottom line is, Le Méridien New Orleans offers a different kind of hotel experience than the usual traditional sleep. Is it for you? Stop by for a drink, or an éclair, and see for yourself.