New Orleans is experiencing its second post-Katrina hotel boom. First, the city’s classic properties freshened up. Now, visitors to the Big Easy are finding new boutique-style accommodations in old office buildings and forlorn flophouses.
The Q&C, which arrived on the scene last fall, is a bit of both. It’s housed in the former headquarters of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, whose major route moved between Cincinnati (Queen City) and New Orleans (Crescent City) – Q&C. The building was converted to a one-star hotel in 1986, closed in 2013 and re-emerged as this considerably more stylish Q&C.
Rooms are spread over two buildings divided by an alley that is open to traffic. One building includes the reception area and pub. The second, smaller building offers a comfy lounge area with large-screen TV and library.
The hotel is at the cusp of the rather dull Central Business District and the happening Warehouse Arts District, which features hot restaurants, important-looking galleries and the popular National World War II museum. The must-see French Quarter is an easy walk from the hotel, along with the pretty shops and streets of the Lower Garden District.
An understated steampunk vibe pairs the luxe accoutrements of a Victorian train (Chesterfield leather sofas, richly patterned wool rugs) with industrial touches (exposed beams and ductwork). I enjoyed the comfy tufted grey velvet armchair in my room, but found the graphic carpet and dark wood furniture a little too masculine for my taste. Artful accents included silhouettes of jazz legends Fats Domino and Duke Ellington, and a pair of paperback books with their covers mysteriously torn off, an aesthetic conceit echoed throughout the hotel lobby. When I pushed back the hanging barn door to my bathroom, I loved its spaciousness, the Carerra marble floors, two pedestal sinks and a large shower.
Not only is the Wi-Fi free, but guests don’t even need an access code to use the service. What a refreshing change.
If I could change one thing
My room was in the second building and I felt isolated and a little vulnerable in that location. In contrast to the main lobby, there were no hotel staff around and I never encountered another guest. It felt weird and a little eerie to come and go through the lobby in such solitude.
Eat in or eat out
The hotel’s Q&C Bar opens in the morning with a basic breakfast menu (eggs, bagels, French toast) then returns at 4 p.m. with burgers, jambalaya and pizza. But keen to explore the neighbourhood, I chose to wander.
I didn’t find much immediately around the hotel, but I enjoyed a drink in the nearby Warehouse Arts District at August, part of NoLa chef John Besh’s empire. For dinner, I tried the new Shaya in the Garden District. It’s helmed by chef Alon Shaya (in partnership with Besh) and specializes in Mediterranean small plates (I especially relished a serving of avocado toast).
Cane & Table in the French Quarter is another good spot known for its specialty cocktails and dishes such as peas and rice with Andouille sausage. For brunch, hungry souls might want to stop by the newly freshened Brennan’s, also in the French Quarter, to indulge in its signature dishes, including turtle soup and bananas Foster.
Q&C Hotel/Bar; 344 Camp St., New Orleans, qandc.com; 196 rooms from $119 (U.S.)
The writer was a guest of the hotel.