Hotel Review: The Roosevelt in New Orleans

Hotel Review: The Roosevelt in New Orleans
December 27, 2009
The New York Times

The Roosevelt, formerly the Fairmont, reopened in July after an 18-month, $170 million restoration and several delays, having been shuttered after the waters from Hurricane Katrina flooded the basement and mangled the plumbing and electricity. It was also rechristened a Waldorf Astoria property and reverted to the moniker of its heyday from the 1920s to the ’60s. Back then the New Orleans landmark was flamboyantly famous enough to serve as the model for Arthur Hailey’s 1965 novel “Hotel.”


The 504-room Roosevelt is set in the business district, a block from the western end of the French Quarter and just off the St. Charles streetcar line.


Our luxury suite had the usual suspects — flat-screen TVs (three), high-speed Internet ($12.95 for 24 hours), excellent king-size bed. But as we settled in for a visit a few weeks after the reopening, a list of missing items and a series of unhappy calls to the front desk added up. No TV remote, bottle opener, bathrobes or trash can. The cable needed fixing, the mini-refrigerator wasn’t plugged in, and the fake plants still had tags on them. There was no way to make coffee or tea, but that was, disappointingly, on purpose. The rooms have all been redone with the hope of recapturing the hotel’s history. You can see that effort in the classic light fixtures and photographs of old New Orleans, but the faux-marble-painted walls, heavy drapery and dark wood furnishings exude a stuffiness akin to a cigar lounge.


The smallish space had classic details like mosaic tile floors and a tub with silver claw feet, but the multi-head shower leaked small ponds despite my ensuring proper seals with the glass door.


One of the bright spots of the hotel’s 24-hour service was in-room dining. The delivered cart was transformed into a romantic table for two, the food was hot and dessert still frozen. The Abita Amber-marinated chicken ($23) was moist and flavorful, and the truffle fries addicting ($4). The extra charges — delivery fee, service charge and an 18 percent gratuity — seemed a bit much.


While management considered the summer a soft opening, the hotel’s Web site gave no hint that some touted features were still under construction. Thus it was a surprise to find the Guerlain spa, John Besh’s Domenica restaurant, the fitness center and the poolside bar/cafe all under construction during our stay. The legendary Sazarac Bar, however, seems to be a hit, and Teddy’s Café a better option than the Sazarac Restaurant’s breakfast.


With the spa and new restaurant now open and the famed Blue Room (where you could once hear Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra) serving jazz brunches on Sundays, the uneven preview performances should now be over. But the Roosevelt still feels as if it’s missing something from its glory days — especially at these prices. Nonrestricted rates in January, not including taxes, range from $179 for a deluxe, to $279 for a luxury suite, prices that may be a bit out of scale with other large hotels, like the W New Orleans, with January rates as low as $139 and the Sheraton New Orleans at $119, not including taxes.

The Roosevelt New Orleans, 123 Baronne Street; (504) 648-1200
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