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QUEBEC, QC—It’s something that’s never been seen before, says general manager Robert Mercure. He’s referring to the $70-million renovation of Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. the restaurant was closed, the lobby was closed, and all but a couple of hundred rooms were undergoing changes.
“We’re looking forward to unveiling it in June,” Mercure told CLN in an interview, adding that everything except the Fairmont Gold floor rooms should be completed by then.
This is more than a renovation: it’s a reinvention or repositioning of the property, said Mercure. “We’re maintaining the heritage, but adding more contemporary elements and design style to the hotel.”
Short, intensive reno
This massive renovation started just a year ago, in March 2013—almost all the changes will take just 18 months. Mercure described it as “an intensive renovation in a short period of time,” adding that one of the major challenges was co-ordinating everything so that it could be completed on schedule.
Restaurant concepts at the 618-room, 18-storey historic property will be totally redone.
The renovated Champlain restaurant will feature wood floors, and will be less formal, more accessible and more trendy, while still incorporating some classical elements.
For example, the restaurant will still feature Quebec cuisine, but new chef Stéphane Modat will incorporate some of the latest trends. And while the restaurant will still use serving carts, the chefs have come up with a dynamic new way to employ them.
The Champlain restaurant will have a private wine list and a private label Château Frontenac wine designed by world-class sommelier François Chartier.
Le Château Frontenac will still serve high tea, but with a new Quebec focus and interpretation. Teahouse Camellia Sinensis will create tisanes using local ingredients.
In the new bar, the mixologist will mix up “really amazing evolutionary mixology of cocktails from the region,” Mercure said.
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Two new restaurants
The new restaurants to be called 1608 and Le Sam are scheduled to open soon.
The new 1608 wine and cheese bar will occupy the rotunda area of the hotel, and will offer high end, premium wines by the glass along with a huge variety of cheeses from Quebec. The cheeses will also be available in the Champlain Restaurant.<
“Le Sam” is Samuel de Champlain. Mercure called the restaurant concept “bistro evolutive”. It will feature baked casserole dishes and regional foods, as well as an open kitchen.
Le Sam will be informal and family friendly for lunch and dinner, but will turn into a Jazz bar with live music in the evening.
Meeting space will be increased by 75 per cent, from 23,000 to over 40,000 square feet, using areas that were formerly part of the retail space.
“This is allowing us to bring back a large amount of convention business—groups that had grown too big for us will be able to return,” said Mercure.
The renovated space will include a private group check-in area and a group dining facility. Up to 500 guest rooms will be available for conventions.
Two thirds of the guestrooms will receive a full renovation including the bathrooms, while the rest will get soft goods renovations.
“We are keeping 200 rooms in the classic style we all know,” Mercure stressed. “Some people prefer traditional rooms.” He does not want to lose the existing client base which he describes as “formidable.”
A temporary Fairmont Gold offering will be available from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2014, located on the 9th floor of the hotel, and the renovated Fairmont Gold rooms should be completed by the end of June.
“Reactions from guests have been good—especially meeting planners. We have the strongest backlog of conventions sold in the history of the hotel,” said Mercure.