A New Orleans Classic Returns

Courtesy The Pontchartrain

The renovated Pontchartrain Hotel will finally give the city’s poshest ZIP code a hotel to match the neighborhood’s sophisticated reputation.

While New Orleans’s downtown neighborhoods have been experiencing a post–Hurricane Katrina development boom for years, decades have passed since the affluent Uptown has had a refined local hotel. Visitors to the Garden District, with its wrought iron–wrapped antebellum mansions, have had to settle for drab chain hotels near its perimeter. But in June, the Pontchartrain, once the moneyed district’s clubby hotel, reopened for its second act.

The 106-room, pale-gold brick tower was built in 1927 as a residential building, then became a hotel in 1940. It was Uptown’s work-and-play house, where judges met for blueberry muffins at the Silver Whistle Café, and Truman Capote told stories in the Bayou Bar. While living there, Tennessee Williams wrote much of A Streetcar Named Desire. But the luster faded, and eventually the hotel became a senior-living home.

Following a two-year, $10 million restoration, the new interiors are anything but contemporary. Furniture was custom-made and modeled after 19th-century European designs (think lots of rattan and freestanding lamps). The color palette—crimson, mint, gold, peony—was inspired by the hues found in the district’s most opulent homes.

The Pontchartrain has installed one of the city’s most laureled chefs, John Besh (Restaurant August, Domenica), to oversee the kitchen, along with executive chef Chris Lusk. Old-school regulars will be pleased that the menu at the updated fine-dining Caribbean Room features classic dishes first created at the restaurant, such as Crab Remick and Trout Veronique. The Silver Whistle serves breakfast, lunch, and coffee, and the Bayou Bar has an extensive whiskey collection, with jazz on the bar’s original Steinway. The only new addition is the Mississippi River–facing rooftop bar. “This isn’t an attempt to resurrect the past, but to honor it,” Besh says. “We’re rebuilding something that meant so much to so many.” Rooms from $179; 2031 St. Charles Ave.; 800-708-6652; thepontchartrainhotel.com.