International House Hotel and Loa Bar (New Orleans, LA)
As with many buildings in the Central Business District, exteriors and interiors tell very different stories. In this case, both are intriguing: The facade is an ornate twelve floors of early 20th-century Beaux Arts finesse, while the lobby is a low-lit haven for guests enjoying some tranquility and the various contemporary artworks that decorate the space (a Banksy mural is on display), all high ceilings, huge portraits, and oversized ottomans. The arty interior touches of designer L.M.Pagano create an evocative public space.
Loa, the award-winning lobby bar, likewise honors a mix of voodoo and local tradition, modern art and style.
The hotel is one tasteful block from Canal Street, the French Quarter and the Mississippi River all within easy walking distance.
The themes of the interior design, which meld local jazz and Creole references, continues throughout the various room types. The Cityscape Penthouse suite was typical, with light fabrics in the bedroom and bold patterned and rich red drapes and upholstery to set strikingly against minimalist, white fittings and fixtures. The suite has a balcony with sweeping views of downtown New Orleans.
The high ceilings again create a feeling of spatial generosity and design touches such as the floral brocade headboard and textured mirror frames hint at thoughtful design. The light tones and organic materials of the bathroom make for a spa-like feel and the balance of comfort and form is well struck.
There isn’t an onsite restaurant at the time of writing but I’ve heard that there will be a modern Greek restaurant opening soon. The score is mainly for the hotel bar, Loa. Bartender Alan Walter is known as something of a cocktail genius, and his seasonal cocktail menus always combine a wealth of surprising ingredients in somehow perfectly-balanced drinks. Have at least one pre-dinner drink here and revel in the unpretentious innovation.
The hotel does provide coffee and fruit in the lobby each morning, and there are dozens of great restaurants within walking distance.
Alan made us three different drinks (one of them non-alcoholic) and they were truly refreshing and unique compared to other upscale cocktail bars I’ve been to in the United States. The Corsican Quinquina Blanc spritzer is gently sweet from the pressed Natalbany cantaloupe juice, gently briny from the Castelvetrano olive and Quinquina blanc and sparkling water. I’ve gotten to taste a preview of a fall drink that’s primarily made with creme de menthe, cacao bitters and cucumber juice and it’s very unexpected, interesting but actually good.
The non-alcoholic drink Flannery O’Connor is made of Tickfaw truckbed watermelon juice, rhubarb-rose petal shrub, sparkling water. It’s a delightful fruity drink without being overwhelmed with the sugar since the shrub balanced it with acid and the watermelon is delicate. It’s a very refreshing and inspired drink.
International House Hotel
221 Camp St
New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone: (504) 553-9550