WHAT’S IT LIKE? This five-star hotel has an unassuming front, tucked away on a cobbled street in the heart of Lyon’s old town. A Small Luxury Hotel of the World (SLH), the property is made up of just 61 rooms dispersed throughout the four buildings that make this a truly unique setting. The architecture is mainly Italian Renaissance, like most of the old town, and the wine bar, just behind reception, is the oldest part, made up of a series of dramatic alcoves that date back to the 17th century.
The entrance to the hotel is straight off the street, with a glass-walled passageway leading to the heart of the property – a large, glass- and steel-domed atrium surrounded by Italianate archways on the floors above. It is a sight familiar to a tourist in Lyon, as it mirrors the city’s famous traboules – ancient alleyways that criss-cross the old town, creating shortcuts for workers in the know. Every traboule is broken up by beautiful, private courtyards fenced in by towering stairwells. The Les Loges restaurant located in the marble-floored atrium was awarded its first Michelin star in February this year under the direction of head chef Anthony Bonnet.
On arrival I was greeted by one of the hotel’s three Golden Key-bearing concierges who was incredibly helpful throughout my stay, recommending and booking evening meals and sharing insider’s knowledge of the best way to spend an hour off in Lyon. Check-in was quick, and I was given a flying tour of the hotel’s facilities on the way to my room.
WHERE IS IT? On early mornings the hotel is about a twenty-minute drive from Lyon’s airport, however traffic will often thwart this. Since the hotel is located in the old town, you will need to warn your driver, as passage to the UNESCO-protected Vieux-Lyon is limited and cars need special passes or to be granted access. The hotel is also a short walk to Fouvière Hill, which overlooks Vieux-Lyon, and is set just behind the Saône river and the peninsular beyond, with its squares and shopping streets. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk over both the Saône and Rhône rivers to the commercial hub of Part-Dieu where the famous Les Halles food market is located.
ROOM FACILTIES All 61 rooms are all different, and they are split between five categories – small mezzanine, classic, superior, junior suites and apartment suites. All rooms have flatscreen TVs, safes, fluffy bathrobes, slippers, toiletries by French company Pure Altitude, hairdryers, minibars and free wifi. The mezzanine rooms start from 22 sqm and are recommended for solo travellers, as they could feel a little cramped for a couple. However they are beautiful spaces, with sunken Philippe Starck-designed oversized bathtubs (a feature throughout many of the rooms) by the windows, beds on an upper level and a small workspace and sofa below.
Classical rooms start from 25 sqm and are finished either in a contemporary, linear style or a more opulent Italianate design, in keeping with the setting – painted headboards and red velvet furnishings complete the look of the latter.
I stayed in a superior room (around 30 sqm), these have queen-sized beds and roll top baths in the middle of the rooms (there is a separate shower). Frescos adorned the walls and antique wood furniture completed the heavily stylised Renaissance look, though this made the long room feel quite dark. Junior suites are from 35 sqm and can be set on several levels, with beds at the top, baths on a mezzanine, and a lounge area below. The rooms, which were designed by artist Hervé Thibaut, range from having a modernist, industrial design to others styled on traditional Venetian opera boxes. Apartment suites are far larger, at 65 sqm, and have plenty of space for in-room dining, entertaining or meetings.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The cavernous lounge behind reception is all leather armchairs and atmospheric lighting, and the bar set behind the arches is flooded with light from the street. It’s a nice spot to have a cocktail and some snacks for an intimate meeting or a pre-dinner aperitif.
Back in the atrium, a look at Anthony Bonnet’s menu at Les Loges clears up why he was awarded a Michelin star recently. Specialities that focus on local produce are key here – there is fish from nearby Lake Geneva, seabass from Brittany, Bresse chicken in sorrel cream and typically rich dishes such as the cannelloni of oxtail with marrow bone and truffle in a strong stock, confit of milk-fed lamb and lobster cooked in beef fat. Mains are from €35 and the restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm-9.15pm. Le Café-Epicerie has a street entrance and a private dining room.
The food is hearty and rich, with lots of typical dishes. When I ate there on a Saturday night the place was packed with diners, with the steel-topped bar at the entrance propped up by those sampling from the extensive wine list. I started with the Ardoise de charcuterie presented on a slate board, and escargots (both €12), followed by loin of pork (€22) and rack of lamb (€24), both served with rosemary mash. The dishes were generous portions of succulent, tender meat – a simple but satisfying meal, which showed off the quality of the produce.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The private rooms off Café-Epicerie can host up to 100 delegates for a meeting – complete with audio-visual equipment, white boards, projectors and a lectern – or for a banquet. They are atmospheric spaces with huge paintings and antique chairs. The wine cellar can also be used for group tastings or a reception, while the apartment suites are ideal for small meetings.
LEISURE FACILTIES The small but perfectly formed spa has an open relaxation area, which gives the feeling of being outside because of the slate and cobbled floor and walls of glass overlooking the gardens outside. The pool is a little Moroccan in feel, with white, green and blue tiles in geometric patterns and a beautiful stained glass window letting the light in. There are two treatment rooms, Turkish baths and a gym. Pure Altitude products are used for treatments.
VERDICT For travellers that want to combine business and leisure, Cour des Loges is ideal because of its proximity to the business centre of Part-Dieu, the burgeoning new Confluence district on the peninsular and its setting in the old town. The service was excellent, not least because of the concierges who were keen to share their knowledge, and the unusual setting made for a memorable stay.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 61 rooms split between mezzanine, classic, superior, junior and apartment suite categories.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The roll top baths in the superior rooms and original features and frescoes.
PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in May started from €251 for a mezzanine room.
CONTACT 6 Rue du Boeuf; tel+ 33 472 774 444; courdesloges.com
For a look at how France's second city is raising its profile as a hub of research and innovation, see Lyon's Quest in the April 2012 edition of Business Traveller.