An unassuming gate, that we drive past twice, opens into a small, leafy courtyard dominated by our restored 19th century ‘manor’ hotel: the former Villa Notre-Dame de la Garde, one time residence of the principal of the French school opposite. Now re-christened La Villa.
We find the sparingly restored facade charming. We are relieved to discover, however, that the distressed charm ends at the threshold, and that the colonial character of the villa with its colonnaded veranda and original high beamed ceiling has been successfully re-interpreted indoors, within an informal contemporary aesthetic. A beautiful panel of patterned Athangudi tiles set into the stark grey cement floor of the foyer is an understated nod to Pondicherry’s Tamil heritage.
The Franco -Tamil interpretation morphs into modern chic in the six individual suites: two off the foyer, and the rest in a new annex accessed by a spiral staircase at the back of the garden. Of the latter, three open onto a swimming pool at the first level, and the largest suite occupies the floor above, accessed by yet another spiral staircase. Our suite on the lower level, has a lovely little glass enclosed terrace that is, sadly, unusable in the current weather. But the pool, with occupancy being low in the off season, almost feels private.
For all that luxury, the property’s USP lies in the service. Kavitha the young manager and her small band of efficient, caring staff leave no room for complaint. The lovely Reshma who manages the courtyard restaurant deserves particular mention.
The quality of food, served a la carte in the intimate courtyard out front, is a real surprise! In fact, from our limited perspective, we might rate it the best restaurant in the city. A grilled chicken and mango salad and a Cambodian Amok style prawn in coconut milk served in the shell, are both memorable. The flavour of the cardamom and espresso panna cotta seems too spicy at first, but our palate craves more by the time we scrape out the last spoonful. The standout for us is the chocolate ‘Namelaka’: a silky smooth and exquisitely dark chocolate mousse topped with a single scoop of tart orange sorbet.
To sum up, the pros: Excellent location in the heart of the French quarter, Impeccable service, great food, strong WiFi, the Fragonard toiletries and the fabulous, fabulous shower!
Cons? The absence of a liquor license (awaited). Not having wine to go with all that lovely food is tragic, although they do offer free use of minibars with limited alcoholic and soft beverages replenished once daily. The minimalist decor and the fact that they do not accept children below sixteen might be cons for some, but it wasn’t for us.
Disclaimer: Our stay was generously discounted, but opinions as always are my own.
PS: Thumbnail image courtesy La Villa