A French Quarter favourite, Soniat House in New Orleans is a peek into bygone days situated on a chilled-out section of Chartres Street; it’s an antique-laden base camp from which to explore the buzzy Big Easy.
French Quarter location
Beautiful historic former residence
Two leafy courtyards
A copy of La Bouche Creole cookbook by Leon Soniat, and SilverSmith and GoldSmith members receive a free welcome glass of champagne
In the know
Also need to know:
In-room massages can be booked and a DVD player is available on request.Browse pieces procured on owners Frances and Rodney’s trips to the Toulouse, Paris and Leon in the shop on the grounds. Add gilded sconces, crystal-covered chandeliers, buffets and other 18th-century artefacts to your collection.
Bring an old-school fan to wave while you sit in one of the rockers, like the good ole days. Pack a polaroid camera to capture Nola’s mix of architecture. Start with a photo of Soniat House, it’s a typical Creole townhouse.
Lightweight linen slacks and a button-down shirt for Mr Smith and a knee-skimming, full-skirted eyelet dress for southern belle Mrs Smith.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
I grew up in New Jersey, far from the world of grits and grillades, y’alls and debutante balls. But I’ve got a bit of a crush on the South. I lived in Memphis, New Orleans, and Shreveport – for more than three years, and I’m intimately familiar with riverboats and racinos (race tracks with slot machines), big hair and bigger waistbands and fried everything – which, I’ll admit, can be a good thing.
For better and for worse, I love the South. And I love New Orleans most of all. So, in spite of my lingering head cold, I left Mr. Smith, my dog and a mountain of work and boarded a plane to the Big Easy with the giddiness of a schoolgirl playing hooky.
And the Soniat House, the boutique hotel where I’d be staying, was just the sort of civilized crash pad I was looking for in an escape. Located in the up-all-night French Quarter, but as my taxi drive pulled up onto a quiet stretch of Chartres, I realized this wasn’t the Quarter that I was familiar with.
Sure, Soniat House’s red brick façade, green shutters and wrought iron balcony are in keeping with the surrounding architecture. But this charming trio of 1830s townhouses has been converted into a 33-room hideaway for travelers keen to experience New Orleans beyond the buzzy Bourbon Street crawl.
Ringing the doorbell, I was greeted by a white-jacketed porter who took my suitcase and escorted me to the registration office. Confession: I’m the type of self-sufficient traveler who likes to be in possession of my bags at all times. But somehow, it seemed right to let go. And, instead of checking my iPhone as I waited, I was content to quietly take in the scene as dusk settled on the leafy courtyard within.
Check-in taken care of, I climbed the winding staircase to the second floor to my Deluxe Room that opened onto a balcony overlooking the courtyard. The room itself was small, but well laid out, with just the right amount of flourishes – a floral upholstered headboard with a gauzy overhang, an antique dresser, and an impressionist style painting over the mantle – to lend personality, without venturing into the territory of fussiness.
Plans for the evening focused on checking out SoBou, a gastropub newcomer from the Commander’s Palace family of restaurants, and, as I walked along Chartres, I had the feeling that the city, like me, was a bit under the weather. The late-night revelers seemed to be nursing their hangovers in the aftermath of Halloween and Voodoo Fest, a weekend-long music and arts festival. Or, perhaps, it was just that I was several blocks from the always-raucous Bourbon Street.
Grabbing a seat at SoBou’s bar, I chatted with head bar chef and ex-New Yorker Abigail Gullo over yellowfin ice cream cones, oyster cocktails, and a fizzy scotch cocktail dubbed Paris Between the Wars. Ending the night with a shot of Abigail’s homemade Negroni, I headed back to my hotel and briefly considered a glass of wine in the inviting first-floor lounge before tucking in beneath my Egyptian cotton sheets.
Feeling well-rested the next morning, I was ready to explore the bordering neighborhoods of the Marigny and the Bywater. But first, breakfast. I’m not usually a breakfast person, but the breakfast at Soniat House is one worth staying in bed for. I rang the front desk and within 20 minutes, warm buttermilk biscuits, homemade strawberry preserves, fresh-squeezed orange juice and café au lait were delivered to my door – on a silver tray. I happily tucked in while plotting my day’s adventures.
New Orleans is a city that’s slow to change, but the Bywater, even on a Tuesday morning, was filled with laptop-toting entrepreneurs, juice-drinking yogis and artists who don’t work regular hours. I happily wandered for a few hours, taking in street art, popping into shops and admiring the Creole cottages, before grabbing lunch at Booty’s Street Food, where the menu is inspired by street food from around the world. And because I was in New Orleans, I was persuaded by my waitress to try the Bywater Bomber: a haute take on a frozen daiquiri with pineapple, orange, lime juice, rose water, Booty's bitters and Old New Orleans Rum.
Midday drinking calls for a siesta and the hushed ambiance of the Soniat House – and those gorgeous Frette linens – were the perfect setting for an afternoon nap.
Energized, I freshened up for dinner at Mariza, an Italian-inspired eatery in a cool, industrial space back in the Bywater. Frenchman Street, a bar-lined stretch of the Marigny where locals go for live music, was a tempting after-dinner activity, but I decided instead to return to the hotel and investigate the lounge and honor bar.
Finding the cozy lounge empty, I took my glass of red wine up to the second floor, gliding down the antique-lined corridor and out to the Chartres-facing wraparound balcony. The street was quiet, save for a ghost tour, which was just wrapping up. I sat, sipped and listened, content to know that I still had one more breakfast in bed to look forward to – and already plotting my return with Mr Smith.
1133 Chartres Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116, United States
0.6 mi / 1.0 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Internet services
- Room service
There’s no restaurant at Soniat House, but a down-home Southern Continental breakfast is served either in your room or in the coutryard each morning. Tuck into fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits with home-made strawberry preserves and a café au lait in the leafy courtyard or back in your boudoir.
Have a pre-dinner cocktail or nightcap on the wraparound balcony, while you ponder which jazz club to scoot off to.
The courtyard is available for guests 24 hours a day, breakfast is served here starting at 8am.
Breakfast can be served in-room starting at 7.15am. Soniat House's famous buttermilk biscuits are served from morning until 11pm – heap on the strawberry preserves.
An honour bar is set up in the drawing room with premium liquors lining the top of the three-tiered rack. Whip up a tipple and relax in the casual antique-lined drawing room, or have a cocktail delivered to your room.
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