The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

The Hôtel de l’Abbaye,
A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

Arthur Laeuffer may be “only” 32 years old, but he has an overwhelming desire to create, and above all to share, what motivates him: beautiful things. Things to admire and things to taste. Having developed an appetite for the visual and culinary arts in his early years, this ‘jack of all trades’ has thrown himself into what could easily be described as a once-in-a-lifetime project. A stone building, tucked away in the heart of the historic Ainay district of Lyon. Formerly a primary school, this place, with its extraordinary exterior, situated opposite the basilica of Saint-Martin d’Ainay, was just waiting for its saviour. Someone who would give it back its soul. The idea of l’Hôtel de L’Abbaye was then in its infancy. To see his desire for “a family atmosphere with a little Italian touch” come to fruition, Arthur Laeuffer would have to be patient. It was to take him two years from discovering the property was for sale to opening his establishment. Two years of intensive work between putting together the financing, obtaining the building permit, carrying out the works, recruitment and, last but not least, the decoration and furnishings. For this was a man who wanted to design the project to suit his personal style and who, as keen antiques enthusiast, embarked upon a relentless quest for each perfect object. To the point of gathering together a veritable furniture repository – certainly impressive – but lacking coherence. The result has earned its place in the annals of happy endings. The young owner (finally) accepted the outstretched hand of the decorators at Maison Hand who, in addition to bringing coherence to the Hôtel de L’Abbaye, incorporated their sense of style and discoveries from their travels. After an uncertain start on the cooking front, it was decided that it would be Chef Jérémy Revel who would make his debut at L’Artichaut – the establishment’s restaurant. Now he is bringing his talents to bear to illustrate the desire of the thirty-year-old for fine family cooking. The hotel could finally get up and running. A few months after the opening it is already a success with its first guests, both passing visitors and people from the local neighbourhood.

L’Hôtel de L’Abbaye, 20 Rue de l’Abbaye d’Ainay – 69002 Lyon.Reservations: by telephone on +33 (0)478 056040 or on the website www.hotelabbayelyon.com. L’Artichaut Restaurant, 20 Rue de l’Abbaye d’Ainay – 69002 Lyon. Open: Tuesday to Saturday, from 12.00 to 14.00 and from 19.00 to 22.00.

The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

Arthur, would you introduce yourself, please?

Arthur

I’m passionate about the arts, I think that’s my guiding principle. Among them, the visual and culinary disciplines are the ones I prefer and for which I have the greatest aptitude! It’s the desire to create beautiful things and to share them that drives me. I’m lucky to have parents who are adventurous and who took us, my brothers and sisters and me, on exciting road-trips across France. They introduced us to the expertise and the multiple cultures of our land.

What is your background?

Arthur

I grew up surrounded by fields, in Annecy-le-Vieux, in “an Indian reservation” to quote my grandfather, who lived there when it was still a village. Living in the heart of the countryside, I became passionate about the farm, the fields and the animals. After I graduated from high school, I went to college in Lyon. I obtained my bachelor’s degree at the IUP and then a master’s degree in management and project management. My first job: setting up and controlling consultancy projects in industrial SMEs to improve deadlines, costs and quality. Then I turned to cooking. My first job was in Luxembourg, at the Brasserie Mansfeld. Then I honed my skills at the Clos des Sens. After this experience, I became interested in street-food and worked for The Roster, a burger restaurant, which only works with very fine products. After this three-year professional culinary break, I set myself the challenge of renovating 24 apartments with my brothers and then managing the rentals. At the same time, I had been looking for a building in Lyon, Annecy or Paris since I started my university studies to develop a project that would suit the location.

Tell us the story of this historic building. How did you acquire it?

Arthur

I discovered the building on the internet. There was an advertisement on the website of the notaries of Lyon concerning the sale by auction of a former primary school by the Hospices Civils. I visited it. And I was stunned. Astounded by the classrooms with removable ceilings with neon lights, covered with a grid of fibreglass on all the walls. Not to mention the garish colours and the linoleum on the floor. A true public building as we know it, hidden in a beautiful historic envelope. I marvelled at the potential and began to make plans to bring this little palace back to life. I wanted to give it a family atmosphere while adding a little Italian touch.

The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

What were the stages in the development of the Hôtel de l’Abbaye? How long did it take in total?

Arthur

I found the offer to sell in February 2017, and we opened in July 2019. So that is a little over two years. In total it took seven months of reflection, preparation of the file for purchase and financing. Thirteen months to prepare the building permit and obtain it. Nine months for the works and the development. I started recruiting in May for an opening in July. With the uncertainties about the deadlines for the end of the works, I didn’t make a fuss about the opening commercially. So, we had a soft opening, focusing on the quality of their stay for our first customers. Today, we stick to the same philosophy. Even six months later.

What was your philosophy, what was your motivation for creating it?

Arthur

The desire to create my own house, with the impression that it has always been here. Which works well, as the results show!

Why did you choose Maison Hand for the decor?

Arthur

Right from the start of the project, I was receiving messages from Maison Hand (and others) offering to collaborate with me. I said no. I wanted this project to be a reflection of me. I went to decorating shops, plumbing and electrical suppliers, and even the Milan furniture fair. I went to antique shops, garage sales, the Canal Flea Market… Over the months, I built up a whole furniture repository, adding family pieces such as my grandfather’s desk (which now takes pride of place as the reception desk). But in the middle of the project, I realised that it had become difficult for me to make decisions. I had a lot of problems with making things coherent. So I called on Maison Hand to take over all the work I had been doing. Pierre-Emmanuel and Stéphane brought consistency, a real common thread and above all, their touch. On the second floor, in seven guest rooms, they were even able to express themselves freely!

You, yourself, are a treasure hunter at heart. What impact did this have on the final result?

Arthur

It brought some soul to the place. Guests settle in, feel comfortable right away. The objects have a story. I like to travel, to explore. Here, the objects come from “everywhere”. In lsle-sur-la-Sorgue, I found this beautiful Mushroom chair by Pierre Paulin. In an auction room, a rocking hippopotamus for children. In the Colmar museum, engravings by Martin Schongauer. In another auction room, watercolours by a famous artist from Lyon, Pierre Peloux, who made works for the silk company, Brochier.

The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

A large part of the decoration is the result of my discoveries. Maison Hand were marvellous when it came to assembling and combining everything to obtain this result.

The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

Tell us about your Chef, Jérémy Revel. Why him?

Arthur

It’s not easy to recruit a chef for a project, especially when you’re self-taught. We had to find someone who wanted to take up the challenge, starting alone in the kitchen to create a real identity and make L’Artichaut a benchmark in Lyon. Before him, I had selected someone else, but unfortunately, they left before the opening of the restaurant. I had already met Jérémy during this initial recruitment session. He came again for the second round. After he prepared a convincing Sunday meal for our families and friends, we decided to integrate Jeremy into our establishment. Originally from Lyon and Alsace, Jérémy spent his childhood in old Lyon. He discovered his passion for cooking through his grandmothers. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to Chef Guy Tivard, a former chef at the Pyramide (in Vienna), who maintained the three stars at Fernand Point for more than 20 years. At the age of 23, he opened his first restaurant Le Verre en l’Air. After a successful career, he decided to go to Belgium, where his mother, an artist, had settled. There he set off on a new culinary culture. With L’Artichaut, our restaurant opposite l’Abbaye, he’s returning to his roots in Lyon.

What kind of cuisine do you offer at L’Artichaut and Café Basilic?

Arthur

A family cuisine devised by the Chef and myself. We have combined our sensibilities and histories and selected our suppliers with great care. Our signature dishes are Artichoke foie gras, Lobster, Bouillabaisse and Ile flottante with Bourbon vanilla. A real trip down ‘Memory Lane’!

Tell us about your neighbourhood, Ainay. How does your establishment fit in?

Arthur

The Ainay district is one of the oldest districts in Lyon, along with the Vieux-Lyon. Many families have been there for several generations, and after 100 years of activity, the public primary school was part of the landscape. Gaining acceptance for the project wasn’t a forgone conclusion. We started with a public meeting. More than 100 people came, including the mayor of the 2nd arrondissement, M. Broliquier. We presented our vision. We showed inquisitive visitors around the site all the way through the build. Since the opening, many people from Lyon have come – mostly by chance – to discover or rediscover this forgotten place. Some even take advantage of the hotel!

Which places in Lyon do you automatically advise your guests to visit to enjoy their stay in the city to the full?

Arthur

The Brasserie George, a majestic establishment that can seat 700 people and was founded 180 years ago. Les Mauvaise Herbes, a vegetarian restaurant with a fine wine list, located at the bottom of the slopes of the Croix-Rousse, and the Bistrot Abel. That was where I ate every day while the work was going on!

The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown
The Hôtel de l’Abbaye, <br>A Jewel in Lyon’s Crown

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