Hotel Chais Monnet: Savoring France, Sip By Sip

This Is The Perfect Base In Cognac To Explore A Deliciously Authentic Region That Is Relatively Undiscovered—For Now
"Nourish The Good, Extinguish The Bad"

The first thing you notice about the Hôtel Chais Monnet is the architecture: a harmonious composition of old limestone buildings, modern glass-and-iron structures, and illuminated walkways—a stunning renovation of one of the oldest Cognac houses in France. The second thing you notice is the unusual lapel pin, in the shape of a lizard, worn by each member of the hotel's staff. It is an homage to a local hero: François I, ruler of France in the 1500s and patron of artists and artisans, whose symbol was the fire-breathing salamander and whose motto was, "I nourish the good, and extinguish the bad."

The Hôtel Chais Monnet is proud of its roots in the Charentais region of southwestern France, also known as Cognac country: an area rich in turbulent history, gentle natural beauty, delicious food, and--of course—the amber-colored firewater, distilled from local grapes, that is still produced there by small family enterprises as well as boldfaced corporate names. The hotel's location in Cognac, a charming market town just a few hours by train from Paris, makes it the perfect base to discover a part of France that even experienced travelers do not know well—yet. "Cognac the drink is known internationally, but Cognac the region is not," says Arnaud Bamvens, general manager of Hôtel Chais Monnet. "We want to change that."

The casual Brasserie restaurant, where the menu is built around local specialties. Courtesy of Hotel Chais Monnet.
The entrance to the Hotel Chais Monnet, with two of the hotel's vintage cars. Courtesy of Hotel Chais Monnet.
Original beams pop up in guest rooms at the Hotel Chais Monnet. Courtesy of Hotel Chais Monnet.
Cognac the drink is known internationally, but Cognac the region is not. We want to change that.
A Subtle Immersion In Local History And Culture

Guests of the hotel enter a world of understated elegance that is also a subtle immersion in local history and culture. Look up: The massive wooden beams that anchor the lobby and reappear in guestrooms are from the structure of the original chais, or storage building, of the Monnet Cognac house. Look down: The server in the casual Distillerie restaurant who brought your dessert of baba au Cognac (a lighter take on baba au rhum) is wearing Charentaise Twists, traditional footwear produced in a neighboring town. Look around: The candies served with afternoon tea in the Café Angélique are local specialties, and the tiny pots of lip balm in the spa and on your nightstand come from a centuries-old family firm nearby.

For visitors curious to know more about Cognac country, the Chais Monnet staff has put together a rich offering of excursions available only to hotel guests, from tasting visits at private distilleries to tours of local markets with the Michelin-starred chef from Les Foudres, the hotel's gastronomic restaurant. And to savor the experience, the hotel's bar, Le 1838, carries more than 400 varieties of Cognac, all of which go nicely in a tulip glass by the fire in winter, or in a "Summit"—a trendy local cocktail with ice, ginger and lime—on the terrace in the summer. "One of the specificities of this region is that, like Cognac, it is enjoyable year-round," Mr. Bamvens says. "There is always something authentic to discover."

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