Last February, a devastating fire gutted Market Square's NOLA on the Square and its sister space, the champagne-focused Perle. What could have been a total disaster instead prompted a nearly five-month renovation. "We took all the things we wanted to make better," says Big Y Restaurant Group beverage director John Ajay, "and we did that."
At the same time, says bartender Michael McDavid, "We are sticking with what we do well. You know what you're getting when you walk in here."
Indeed, the "new" NOLA is a brighter, more dynamic space whose main bar retains its classic New Orleans vibe. The cocktail list stays true to its roots as well: The 1937 Sazerac is an echo of its creation at New Orleans' Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel. Newer cocktails like the Bayou Melonade (Wigle Ginever, lemon-lime soda, melon-infused ice) are a contemporary nod to the Crescent City.
NOLA's transformation is most noticeable upstairs. The new Speakeasy is — I hate to use this phrase — a Man Cave, with plush leather chairs, a bourbon-focused whiskey list of more than 30 bottles, and a big-screen TV.
"It's a really nice brother-sister thing we're going to have with Perle," Ajay says.
Perle received a facelift too, featuring an expanded selection of vintage champagnes that are housed in a custom-built champagne closet. While most champagne is a mix of various wines, vintners do bottle year-specific bottles in special years. The oldest vintage at Perle is a 1982 Dom Perignon (the year Perle managing partner Peter M. Landis was born), and the 1985 Taittinger artist-series bottles feature the Pop Art work of Roy Lichtenstein.
All in all, the building's booze, features and special attractions (among them live music and great food by chef Leonard Pisano) are much as guests remembered, but amped up quite a bit. "It's all in high-definition now," says Ajay. And he's not just talking about the TV.