Review: The InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hôtel
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To The Point
There was plenty to like about my stay here, including a lovely room and delightful service. The Pros: Beautiful hotel, great location and gourmet dining outlets. The Cons: Bad Wi-Fi and the layout might be difficult for folks with mobility issues.
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During a trip to France this summer, I spent my last night at the InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hôtel. I’d actually stayed there several years before when it was part of Regent Hotels, but was eager to stay again now that it’s part of IHG.
The hotel is a landmark in Bordeaux, dating back to the 1770s, and was designed by the same architect who built the Grand Théâtre (now the opera house) just across the Place de la Comédie. Though it originally belonged to an aristocratic family, the building became a hotel in 1902 and was expanded and renovated by Regent under the eye of hotel designer Jacques Garcia in 2007, taking over some adjacent 18th-century buildings. Some of his other high-profile projects include La Mamounia in Marrakech, the NoMad Hotel in New York City and Hôtel Costes and La Réserve in Paris. As you’ll see, Garcia is known for extravagant, flamboyant interiors and the InterContinental Bordeaux did not disappoint on that count. The hotel was taken over by InterContinental in late-2015, decorated again by Garcia, and has a total of 130 rooms and suites now, as well as two restaurants, two bars — one of which is on the roof — and a sumptuous spa.
With such a short stay, I wanted to be in the city center. The end of July is right in the heart of the high season in France, and room rates were starting at 375 euros (~$440 at the time) for a room in the starter Superior category and 441 euros (~$517 at the time) for a Deluxe room.
Luckily, I have the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, and one of its best benefits is an annual free night at any IHG Rewards Club property worldwide. The current sign-up offer on the card is even better than that — 80,000 IHG Rewards points when you spend $1,000 within the first three months, and the $49 annual fee is waived the first year. That free night can be used the same way as points to book an award night since the availability is the same. To redeem it, log into your IHG Rewards account and look for a link that says “Free Night Status.” As you can see below, I already used mine, but if you have the card and still have your own free night, the “Chase Anniversary Free Night” should come up as one of the options along with paid rates and points rates when you make your booking.
Amazingly, there was a room available the night I needed for either a redemption of 45,000 IHG Rewards points or my anniversary free night — I could also have chosen a Points + Cash option ranging from 40,000 points and $50 to 25,000 points and $135. While I decided to go for the free anniversary night, this would have been a decent redemption value at a rate of 0.98 cents per point, which is well above our current TPG valuation.
Though I could have used my IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card to earn 5x points per dollar on my hotel bill, I ended up using the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and earning 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar instead. That way, I could always transfer the points to IHG, but also to any of the program’s other travel partners if I wanted to. I would only be paying for incidentals, like a meal or drinks anyway, but if I expected a bigger bill, the extra two points per dollar with the IHG card would have been more of a consideration.
When I made my reservation, I asked for a single bed, but as it turned out, I would have a family member staying with me that night. I emailed the hotel’s reservation desk about two or three weeks in advance asking for a room with two beds if possible. They replied immediately saying it would not be a problem.
Check-In and Lobby
The InterContinental Bordeaux sits right on a main square in the historic heart of the city, not far from La Bourse and the riverfront, and just a short walk from the medieval district. As you can see in the photo below, the building is quite imposing and beautiful.
We arrived at 12:30pm and the doorman promptly stepped up to our taxi and took our bags as we entered. The check-in desks are right inside the front door, as is the concierge stand. Also inside is a parlor-like sitting area that leads to the hotel bar, as well as some display cases showing off items like jewelry and other accessories.
Reception was not busy and we were checked in immediately. The friendly agent welcomed me to the hotel, thanked me for my IHG loyalty — I have platinum status thanks to the IHG credit card — and said we had been upgraded to a Deluxe room, an extra $77 in value thanks to how high rates were running at the time. The agent then called a colleague over from the bell desk to show us to the elevator and to our room.
As I mentioned, the hotel comprises several 18th-century buildings, so no two rooms are alike and the hallways can be labyrinthine. If you have any mobility issues, notify the hotel in advance so you’ll be given an accessible room, as some of the corridors contain stairs between buildings.
In fact, our room was up a small spiral staircase, which could be an issue for some.
The hotel has 130 rooms including 44 suites, and no two rooms are exactly alike in terms of layout. The hotel’s site says Deluxe rooms are 377 square feet, but to be honest, ours felt smaller than that, though you can judge for yourself from the pictures.
Garcia’s style here had a mid-19th-century Empire aesthetic, with deep-toned colors and lots of extra upholstery and ruffles. While it might feel over-the-top to some, given the hotel’s neoclassical bones and grand public spaces, I thought the décor felt just right. The entrance to the room was a small vestibule with a portable luggage rack.
I had asked for a room with two beds, and while there were indeed two twins, it ended up being really tight. I loved the headboard, which reminded me of Napoleon’s hat, as well as the red-and-white wallpaper on the wall behind it depicting pastoral country scenes.
To either side was a small nightstand with its own lamp, and a wall-mounted reading lamp for good measure.
The carpets had a delicate but bright floral pattern of red, white and blue. Wall panels were painted in mauve and white, with patterned runners in gold, white and blue between them.
The room had a huge window framed by flowing striped curtains, pictured above. Just in front were two classic wooden chairs and a side table with a complimentary bottle of water.
Our view overlooked one of the hotel’s central courtyards, which was nice and quiet, and the windows actually opened, so we could enjoy some fresh air.
On the wall opposite the bed was a vanity area. Next to that was the closet.
To be honest, there was not much closet space — certainly not enough for two people — but since we were just there for a night, it didn’t matter too much.
The closet also held a mini-fridge and a coffee maker.
Some of the shelves held wine glasses and wines from Bordeaux, of course.
The flat screen TV was on the wall between the door to the bathroom and the foyer.
I would call the bathroom lavish because of the marble that seemed to line most surfaces.
The bases of the sink and the bathtub were in a dark-hued wood, while the sink top and the edge of the tub were in a striking black marble. The wall of the shower-tub combo was in white marble.
The hotel stocks Agraria products that I really like since they smell fresh and clean without being overpowering.
The WC with the toilet was a small room of its own off to the side, also with marble walls and floors.
One downside to the bathroom: the bath top is pretty high, so if you’re short, it’s hard to get in and out of, especially when you’re wet and it’s slippery, so be careful!
While I usually prefer a spare style of décor — the room felt packed to the edges thanks to all the chairs, curtains and that precariously placed TV — it did not feel too cramped. The huge window made a difference, as did all the different patterns and colors.
Food and Beverage
The hotel fields an impressive collection of drinking and dining outlets. The most famous is the Michelin two-star Le Pressoir d’Argent, which was taken over by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in 2015. The décor is like a Baroque seaside fantasia, and there are prix-fixe and à la carte menus to choose from.
The tasting menu is currently 175 euros (~$209) and includes six courses, plus a plethora of intermediate bites. Among the à la carte options is French lobster cooked with lemon leaves, sweet corn, zucchini and chanterelles for 120 euros (~$143). The sauce for the dish is finished in the silver Christofle lobster press from which the restaurant gets its name. Though pricey, the presentation alone is worth it — I had it during my last stay, though with different seasonal accompaniments. There are 550 wines to choose from to accompany your meal.
If that doesn’t suit your budget, the hotel has a casual brasserie on the ground floor adjacent to the lobby, with a two-story dining room and an outdoor terrace right on Place de la Comédie. It, too, is under the aegis of the celebrity chef and is called Le Bordeaux Gordon Ramsay. The menu is Continental, with options like steak tartare, fish and chips, lobster bisque, beef Wellington and a few burgers, plus desserts like chocolate fondant and lemon meringue pie. Two-course lunch menus start at 29 euros (~$35).
The main bar is located at the back of the lobby level in a two-story atrium with a glassed-in roof — it’s one of my favorite spaces in the hotel. The furniture looks like something Oscar Wilde might have picked out for a garden party, but in a good way.
Thanks to a bright green palette, lots of natural light and mirrors, everything about the space is bright and whimsical.
The all-day menu here includes everything from tea and coffee drinks to salads, crepes, sandwiches, burgers, Arcachon oysters and Aquitaine sturgeon caviar.
I’ve saved the best for last. During the summer, the hotel opens up a rooftop bar called Night Beach that is a perfect spot for catching great views of the city as the sun sets.
It’s open from 12:00pm to 2:30pm for lunch, and then as a bar and club from 7:00pm to 12:00am. The lunch menu contains a smaller selection than that of the lobby bar, mostly of simple dishes like salads and sandwiches.
At night, the place is packed with visitors and locals alike. The music is thumping, but doesn’t feel too clubby, and the pages-long cocktail list has an interesting, eclectic mix of classics and creative contemporary concoctions, like one I had with bourbon, vermouth, ginger and blueberry — it was kind of like a newfangled Dark & Stormy meets a Manhattan.
There’s also a Jacuzzi up here that guests can use, but no one got in it while we were there.
The one downside is that the rooftop bar doesn’t take reservations. The concierge said they try to give priority to guests, but that didn’t seem to be the case on our visit. Instead, we just waited in line with everyone else, though we lucked out and got a table quickly because we were a small party of four people. I will also say, despite the wait, the staff were very friendly and courteous. We only had time for a quick drink, but our waiter had them out fast and got me the bill within seconds when I asked for it.
Now for one major grievance: the Wi-Fi. Guests get free Wi-Fi here, and when it works, the speeds are good.
However, it rarely worked. More often than not, my screen went to this (below). It was extremely frustrating and I had to be careful not to lose any work on emails in case the system went out while I was using it. I didn’t bother complaining to the staff since my stay was so short and I was out for much of it, but if I’d been there longer, I would have.
The major physical amenity to mention at this hotel is the top-floor Spa NUXE Les Bains de Léa, which was truly stunning. It feels like you’re walking into a lavishly restored Roman villa, complete with life-size sculptures, wall frescoes and geometric tile mosaics. There’s also a beautiful gallery just past reception.
There are separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, a hammam and a sauna. But the pièce de résistance is the two-story indoor pool. It’s not large, but it is stunning, with enormous red pillars and a replica of Ingres’ La Source hanging provocatively over one end.
Up on the second floor is a lounge area where you can have tea and snacks — there are outdoor seating areas on individual rooftop decks as well. Spa-goers can use the outdoor Jacuzzi at Night Beach, though it wouldn’t be my first choice. A small gym is up here as well.
I did not have time for a treatment, but options include body wraps, facials, massages and various combinations ranging in price from 55 to 510 euros (~$66 to $609) and incorporate signature Spa NUXE products.
I thought my stay was fantastic and I was able to get great value from my anniversary free night exactly when I needed it. The historic hotel still looks beautiful and fresh thanks to good upkeep and a spruce by designer Jacques Garcia. The spa feels elegant and secluded, though treatments were expensive. The food and beverage outlets are varied, with options ranging from moderately priced continental fare to blow-your-budget Michelin-starred gourmet menus, and that rooftop summer bar is a real stunner.
The feather in the hotel’s cap was just how friendly and efficient the service was. Everyone I spoke to was polite and cheerful while the staff I met at reception were kind and efficient — they printed our boarding passes and promptly sent them up to the room, patiently pointed out sights on the map, explained how to use the tram system and made check-in and check-out a breeze. Truly, the service was wonderful here and it set a fantastic tone for the stay overall. While I still quibble about the poor Wi-Fi, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.
Have you ever stayed at the InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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