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Hotel Modern, Up Close
Renovated Lee Circle Hotel's Restaurant and Lounge Open This Weekend
WAREHOUSE DISTRICT - If you’re planning a stay at the Hotel Modern, be sure to pack your fancy pants. The newly renovated and rechristened hotel brings boutique luxury to the old Lee Circle YMCA. With the opening of the adjacent restaurant, Tamarind, and lounge Bellocq, Saturday, Dec. 16, the new digs also add to the already booming upscale dining scene of the Warehouse District.
The hotel, which remained open during renovations, boasts an aesthetic that combines Old World charm with New World style and that same juxtaposition also fits in the restaurant and lounge. NoDef got a sneak peek of the space this morning, as crews worked to put on the finishing touches.
Purchased earlier this year by a group of New York investors, the building’s current transformation s being overseen by European hotelier Klaus Ortlieb, known for developing other swank spots like the Cooper Square Hotel in New York and the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. The 10-story spot originally went up in 1959 as a 186-room YMCA dormitory. The property was opened as Hotel Le Cirque in 2001, known by many for the lavish light displays along the streetcar line at Lee Circle. Like the YMCA before it, the frantic light show is history. According to Da Paper, Ortlieb called the display “too Las Vegas,” opting instead to illuminate the grey building with a gentle orange glow.
At a reported renovation cost of about $50,000 per room, Ortlieb took out the heavy furniture and thick drapes and furnished the room in a lighter, more minimalist style, giving even the smaller rooms a more spacious and airy quality. Ortlieb also insisted that each room be decorated with pictures, books, and knick knacks collected from antique shops and thrift stores, which adds a familiarity akin to staying over at a friend’s house. And because houseguests don’t “check in,” the Hotel Modern has replaced the front desk with a library nook where guests are greeted without the usual transactions associated with hotel stays.
While the hotel is sure to attract out-of-towners looking to avoid the chaos of the Quarter, the restaurant and bar hope to lure locals from both sides of Canal Street.
At Tamarind, the hotel’s restaurant, the dining room is classic contemporary, outfitted with white table clothes and black hardwood chairs. The kitchen at Tamarind will be overseen by Chef Dominique Maquet, in collaboration with Chef Quan Tran. The two will combine their styles and influences to present a menu inspired by French and Vietnamese flavors and techniques. Maquet has generated a lot of buzz this year with the opening and closing of Dominique’s on Magazine, an upscale spot that got rave reviews from Esquire magazine and the food-savvy Saveur right around the time they shut the doors. That restaurant has since reopened as Apolline, and Maquet has taken his talents to Tamarind as he works on nailing down a new Magazine Street location.
The Hotel Modern secured the services of another high-profile pair when they tapped Cure founders Neal Bodenheimer and Kirk Estopinal. The pair will hope to expand the success one of New Orleans’ most notable cocktail bars and the anchor of the recent renewal on Freret Street. The focus at Bellocq will be on cocktails per se. Instead, the prime elixir will be c the cobbler, an icy concoction made with aperitifs like vermouth and madeira or digestifs like French absinthe. The result is an intimate speakeasy vibe, flush with bright red walls, plush chairs and sofas. Photographs by the bar’s namesake, the 19th century photographer known for his portraits of Storyville working girls in various states of undress, dot the walls.
With the help of established locals like Maquet, Tran, Bodenheimer, and Estopinal, the new Hotel Modern has all of the luxuries associated with an international hotelier like Ortlieb. But the space still retains a character that’s uniquely New Orleans, even if the bright lights are gone.
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