When L’Imperator reopened in Nîmes last year, newly named the Maison Albar Hotels L’Imperator, it was a reason for the southern French city to celebrate. And party they did— the reopening was timed for the famous Feria de Pentecôte, a week-long, music-filled extravaganza that’s one of the biggest festive events in France. This is the legendary hotel once frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner and Pablo Picasso. And after a $33 million investment by Maison Albar Hotels, it was given a new lease on life, retaining its original Art Deco flair while upgrading the 53 rooms, spa, swimming pools, and a trio of restaurants.
In fact, the Maison Albar Hotels L’Imperator recently unveiled the last of these eateries: the gourmet restaurant by renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire. This talked-about address joins L’Impé brasserie and the Hemingway Bar. Gagnaire already showed off his skills in devising a brasserie menu that includes a reinvention of classic dishes (like salt cod brandade), and at Duende, he’s also adapting the region’s local products and traditional plates. Think wild boar ragu, Mediterranean gambas, and cuttlefish carpaccio, paired with red Camargue rice. For dessert? A highlight is the Sicilian pistachio parfait served with walnut, avocado, and green pepper sorbet. At the helm in the kitchen is Executive Chef Nicolas Fontaine, who’s been working with Gagnaire for more than 14 years.
Maison Albar Hotels is a small group of five-star boutique hotels that showcases the expertise of a fourth-generation hotelier family. The company launched in Paris in 2014. The properties are set in strategic locations, like the flagship Maison Albar Hotel Paris Céline housed inside the former headquarters of fashion house Céline on Rue du Pont-Neuf.