We never really tire of visiting New Orleans. But we were lured once again recently by the notable opening of its newest boutique hotel, The Eliza Jane – which we found to be a pretty groovy addition to the already happening NOLA hospitality scene.
The intimate digs are tucked into the heart of historic French Quarter, with the block-long brick facade gracing Magazine Street being the result of seven traditional “shotgun style” warehouses joined together. The former Peychauds Bitters and The Daily Picayune, which blossomed in the 1800s, are among the most recognizable.
Of course, at a time when the sanctity of the press itself is under incessant attack, the hotel-as-homage-to-the-printed-page is particularly zeitgeisty. It’s right there in the name, actually – Eliza Jane Nicholson being the first female publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States. The Press Room bar, outfitted with cranberry wood and crocodile leather stools, plays to the theme in the classiest way possible.
Designed by Stonehill Taylor (part of the Moxy Times Square team in NYC), the hotel is part of the Hyatt Unbound Collection; and the focus was clearly on maintaining aesthetic authenticity in relation to the historic neighborhood. The space doesn’t disappoint. An open atrium is done up with massive wooden beams and exposed brick, all part of the original foundations, resulting in a hotel, bar and restaurant that all marry French joie de vivre and New Orleans iconoclasm. We also loved the geometric tiling, and the lush velvet couches tucked into seemingly every corner.
The bedroom interiors share common threads of rich woods, gold trim and whimsical shower curtains covered in costumed Mardi Gras revelers from Napoleon’s France. Those same shower curtains, by the way, are already on back order. Small, sweet touches like that abound: Peychauds Bitters is memorialized in custom-made wallpaper, featuring decades of print ads.
Couvant in French means “smoldering” – and the French brasserie on the ground floor lives up to its name, but with hints of old Southern charm. Breakfast and lunch are served in a sunny room with lush banquettes and mosaic tile accents.
Dinner, though, becomes a candlelit affair, where local oysters nestle in a bed of crushed ice, followed by moules frites or filet au poivre in single serve cast iron pots and clean white plates – but they’re easy to share. Crispy house made frites pair perfectly with the rich sauces, and no one minds if the silverware lays forgotten on the table. Other excellent classic French dishes include Lyonnaise salad, foie gras ‘au torchon’, skate a la Grenobloise, and, most importantly, a killer filet mignon steak frites.
But its worth mentioning that the surprise star of the show is a simple dish called the Grand Aioli: perfectly plump local shrimp, hand shaved country ham, a selection of baby carrots and radishes all garnished with a pot of creamy rich aioli ready for dipping. For the French, it’s been a long time picnic staple; and when the weather makes it feasible, it’s the perfect dish to share with friends on the hotel’s verdant outdoor patio – preferably sipping an absinthe frappe.
That same terrace is something of hidden work of art itself, with yet more of the aforementioned geometric tilework, and an alluring sculpture tucked into the back corner. It’s a luxuriously bathing woman with the word “bisous” lip up in neon letters just above. It translates simply to “kisses” – and when our stay came to an end, we checked out of the Eliza Jane feeling loved as only the French know how to love.