After a four-year, $20 million rehabilitation project, ASH NYC and New Orleans resident Nathalie Jordi transformed the 19th century St. Peter & Paul compound in the Faubourg Marigny—consisting of a church, rectory, convent and school buildings—into the remarkably beautiful 71-room boutique Hotel Peter & Paul, which also features the Elysian Bar.
The entire complex features custom fabrics, created by a 100-year-old Swiss textile manufacturer using gingham in a rich color palette of colors derived from 14th to 18th century religious paintings. The colors complement the gorgeous, original stained-glass windows that lord over the courtyard. Off-white linen and Baroque-style wood furniture and antique adornments also complement the original feel, created by New Orleans architect Henry Howard, who designed the original structure. The resulting transformation is a masterstroke of understatement; there is no signage indicating that any major change at the site ever happened, save for the inviting golden glow of amber light that illuminates the entire space.
The Elysian Bar offers several dining spaces including a handsomely-decorated parlor, progressing to a gorgeous nook called The Sun Room featuring larger tables in an area that looks like a Vermeer painting. The bar area, adorned in a lobster mushroom light, feels like the best-kept secret in town. The stunning courtyard is also a tempting dining option.
The Elysian Bar, run by the crew from Bacchanal, wisely enlisted Executive Chef Alex Harrell, formerly of Angeline. Hailing from Alabama, Chef Harrell’s first experience with food came directly from the source: his grandparents’ farm, where he learned to appreciate fresh, regionally-grown vegetables. Later, an academic pursuit of a biology degree led to his appreciation and understanding of the ecology, environmental science, fresh water systems, and field research which continues to inform his passion for connecting with purveyors of local food sources. Two decades back, after becoming disenchanted with academia, a summer stint at a Florida beachside restaurant evolved into a career that set Harrell on the path to becoming a chef. Along the way he had some rather impressive mentors. He considers his apprenticeship with Chef Susan Spicer at Bayona his graduate school, for instance.
“There are certain things I do on a daily basis where I can still hear her instructing me the first time. That evolved into how and why I do certain things. She’s been an incredible mentor to so many chefs that have come up in New Orleans. She played a huge role in setting me on the path—showing me the direction, teaching me how to operate a professional kitchen.”
After a stint in Charleston, Harrell returned to New Orleans to open Sylvain, then eventually established his own place, Angeline, to great acclaim. Elysian Bar finds Chef Harrell in yet another intimate space; the kitchen doesn’t have a walk-in refrigerator, which inspires a thoughtful precise approach that he considers more of an inspiration than a challenge. Harrell describes his stylistic approach as being primarily Mediterranean-influenced, interpreted through a Southern lens.
The menu at Elysian Bar is an eclectic array beginning with small plate options. Whipped ricotta topped with marinated squash and tapenade, and fried Brussels sprouts with smoked almonds, pickled raisins and bagna cauda were both appealing. Chicken liver pâté is garnished with a vibrant Louisiana strawberry and beet mostarda, served with rustic toasted bread procured from Bellegarde Bakery. Okra and eggplant form a more perfect union enhanced by the crunch of peanuts and a flavor punch provided by harissa.
Large plates focus on hearty, savory dishes such as chicken leg confit garnished with salsa verde, marinated heirloom tomatoes, olives and stewed white beans. Crispy beef cheeks served with broccolini in a hot and sour broth garnished with eggplant are punctuated by the sweet tang of pickled peaches. Pork scaloppini procured from Home Place Pastures is served with fennel soubise, new potatoes, eggplant and is flavored with pickled mustard seeds. My favorite dish was the Gulf shrimp cooked in a Calabrian pepper compound butter fragrant with toasted cumin, coriander, and fennel, served in a cast iron skillet and topped with toasted breadcrumbs. Every plate was gorgeously presented and delicious.
The libations at Elysian Bar showcase classic combinations including an entire menu of low- alcohol preparations and a small, but perfectly matched selection of wines.
Elysian Bar is meant to be enjoyed as a leisurely, elegant dining experience imbued with old world charm—a special place to enjoy the art of conversation accompanied by great food in cozy, unique setting.
2317 Burgundy Street, (504) 356-6769, Coffee Shop: Monday – Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Restaurant: Sunday – Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Bar closes one hour past restaurant time.