Real estate group Pichet, lifestyle hospitality company Ennismore and visionary Philippe Starck have collaborated on Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes, a new hotel in the city’s historic Chartrons district.
All Bordeaux residents are familiar with the sumptuous stone façade stretching across 81 Cours du Médoc. Built in 1871, the Hanappier and Calvet winery was extended ten years later by architect Charles Brun in the Neo-Gothic style. Today, the structure comprises thirteen crenellated bays framing the main entrance and a gable bearing the United Kingdom’s coat of arms set above the arched doorway – a nod to the city’s historic commercial links with the British Isles.
For two centuries, the building was at the beating heart of the wine trade in the area, which is intrinsically connected to its industry and art. The Garonne River flows nearby, facilitating global trade and exports of fine wines, cognac and brandy stored in the 22 vaulted cellars lit by gauze spouts. In 1966, however, a fire destroyed the cellars housing a century’s worth of grands crus classés.
In 2018, the Pichet family entrusted the property to Starck, who, accompanied by Jean-François Le Gal of architecture firm Advento), renovated the historic facade and started work on a refining and extend the site. It now houses an elegant Japanese-inspired restaurant, creating a true link between past and future, East and West.
“Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes is a château built with high-quality stones and brickworks of elegance, where you live more because you are loved cared for,” says Starck. “Here is real life, the fertile one that always evolves and thrives on encounters – and often the most unlikely become the most likely. It is no longer a possibility but a certainty that Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes is our necessity.”
Patrice Pichet, Chairman and CEO of the eponymous group, comments: “Following in the footsteps of the Château les Carmes Haut-Brion winehouse, the choice of Starck for the architectural design and artistic direction was an obvious one for us. Through this project, history and modernity come together to arouse emotion and offer an experience marked by strong, immersive novelties.”
Born of a purely French spirit, Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes has, according to Starck, “the refinement of an oxymoron”. “We are in the presence of extremely graceful architecture dating from 1870, which belongs in the tradition of Bordeaux’s chartreuses and is, at the same time, somewhat strange,” he explains. “Even stranger things are going to happen here; fertile encounters that are more the result of a collision than of a bourgeois desire to attune. And so begin the optical and mental games that are so dear to me.”
From the entrance with its pointed-arch glass door, opens up a diorama of Bordeaux and Japanese atmospheres. A surprisingly cosmopolitan place, where everything lives together and overlaps; the soft, earthy colours naturally derived from the local stone and brick, the modernity of the rough concrete reminiscent of the original building’s warehouses, the deep carpets and rugs with their organic patterns, the sophistication of the Japanese art of living, the warm light diffused by the lampshades and lanterns that line the entire space as a unifying element.
The hotel generates its own energy. It is an honest and poetic place, aware of the past and belonging to the future, where it is good to live, work and be entertained all year round. Warm and refined as its surroundings. The 97 guestrooms and suites have been designed by Starck as cocoons, intimate spaces bathed in soft, harmonious light. Here too, priority is given to noble, natural materials – leather seats, wooden doors, boiled wool curtains – and to earthy colours, as well as to clean, essential lines, particularly in the bathrooms. Everywhere, the mind is drawn to trompe-l’oeils and mental games such as the hollow-moulded concrete walls, whose poetic message is reflected in the adjoining mirrors. Several rooms and suites open onto private terraces planted with lush greenery, and two of the hotel’s suites can be connected for special events, giving access to a terrace on the building’s roof-façade.
“This hotel is a warm place, with a rare quality of staging and lighting,” Starck reveals. “Above all, it is a place to feel extremely well, a place that is clearly French and Bordeaux, but that will transport you elsewhere, to a totally invented elsewhere where a few more or less real landmarks literally float by.”
Meanwhile, the hotel’s Chef, Masaharu Morimoto, was born in Hiroshima, Japan and draws inspiration from Japanese tradition as well as innovative culinary techniques. The result is surprising and refined cuisine based on the subtlety of Japanese products and the excellence of French gastronomy. The menu features maki, sushi, sashimi and Morimoto’s signature dishes such as lacquered duck, alongside oysters from the Arcachon Basin, and desserts.
To discover the Japanese chef’s cuisine, Morimoto Bordeaux offers several dining options. The 180-seat restaurant extends like a majestic theatre, punctuated by red Bordeaux brick columns and elegant glassed-in wine cellars. Starck imagined it as a “place made above all for the people who will live there, a place of encounters that transports us to an elsewhere, an invented elsewhere”.
Morimoto reveals: “I’m thrilled to bring the Morimoto experience to Bordeaux, a city steeped in culinary tradition and innovation and a region of magnificent wines. Morimoto Bordeaux presents a harmonious blend of Asian and French flavours, taking diners on a unique culinary adventure.”
Starck adds: “Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes is born from a love story between East and West. In the West are the terroir, the roots, the experience and the talent of Bordeaux. The unexpected comes from the East, from Japan, with another talent, another tradition, another experience that has found its way here like an exotic bird coming to nest. East and West are not blended in but superimposed.”
East is superimposed on the West by strong motifs: pagoda lamps nestled in lanterns, calligraphy and contemporary Japanese art. As is traditional in Japan, guests can also dine at the sushi bar, where chefs prepare Franco-Japanese specialties in the restaurant’s scenic open kitchen.
In a nod to the confidentiality required for the business that has made Bordeaux a crossroads for the international wine trade, Starck has imagined a space at the edge of the restaurant, housing a table for eight that can be privatised by means of Japanese panels. Once a month, the salon will become a discreet gastronomic table where guests can enjoy a food, wine and sake pairings specially created by Morimoto and his team.
As in Japan, where bistros – Izakayas – and wine bars are an integral part of the culture, the bar offers creative cocktails, spirits and fine wines, as well as sake and Japanese beers. The cellar is a tribute to the origins of the building, housing over 10,000 bottles, including prestigious Bordeaux wines alongside a curated international selection.
Conceived as a natural continuation of the restaurant, the 200m2 tree-lined terrace – open and protected from the hustle and bustle of the city – can seat 70 diners. These spaces come alive at nightfall to become the festive, privileged rendezvous for late afternoons and weekends; a DJ will be on hand from Thursday to Saturday evenings from 9pm.
With a swimming pool, spa, hammam, sauna and fitness room, Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes’ wellness area is a welcoming place bathed in light and dedicated to holistic wellbeing. The swimming pool, with its large windows opening onto the terrace, unfurls its 45m2 pool under a warm wooden ceiling. The space includes a steam room and an infra-red sauna.
The spa’s four spacious cabins – one of which is double – offer a wide range of treatments designed to enhance the wellbeing of body and mind, such as a number of targeted beauty rituals – ancestral, serenity or slimming – foot reflexology, shiatsu, sophrology and guided meditation sessions.
Le Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes has also partnered with the French brand of contemporary vegan cosmetology, Codage, for its beauty and wellbeing offer, featuring cocktails of active ingredients adapted to each skin type. The fitness area, open 24/7 to hotel guests and members by subscription, is equipped with high-performance training machines for wellness-minded athletes.
Bathed in natural light thanks to their proximity to the tree-lined central patio, the two conference rooms – Studio I and Studio II – are available for seminars and private events. Comfortable and elegant, both spaces provide tailor-made event services and technology. Available to hire as a combined 112m² space or separated into two, more intimate studios, the rooms are entirely flexible in configuration, ideally suited to everything from theatre-style presentations to small meetings or large-scale banquets. The restaurant offers a varied menu for coffee breaks, lunches, dinners and cocktails.
General Manager Bruno G Tailly concludes: “At Mondrian Bordeaux Les Carmes, our guests are taken on a real voyage thanks to the culinary talents of our chefs, the different combinations of flavours and the techniques they use. But also thanks to the unique atmosphere of the place imagined by Philippe Starck.”