Marie-Paule Nowlis has been appointed general manager of the 183-bedroom Sofitel London St James to oversee the completion of a £16.5m refurbishment of the neoclassical, Grade II-listed hotel.
Replacing Nicolas Pesty, who has moved to the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara in Cartagena, Colombia, as general manager, Nowlis has arrived in London from New York where she spent three and a half years, the past 20 months as acting general manager.
She is a loyal employee of Accor, the owner of the Sofitel brand, having joined the company as night manager at the Sofitel Strasbourg in 1989. She has risen through the ranks to take on roles including vice-president of guest experience and operations for Sofitel – Europe, Middle East, Africa, and brand director of Sofitel Legend.
Nowlis said she was “thrilled” to join the Sofitel London St James as the hotel prepares to showcase its transformation.
“My new colleagues are outstanding hoteliers whose knowledge of our guests and their needs has been key to deciding how each of the spaces around should evolve,” she explained. “Our vision will ensure this iconic Sofitel property continues to raise the bar in the vibrant London hotel market and we look forward to continuing to provide outstanding service tailored to the evolving needs of today’s luxury traveller.”
The extensive refurbishment of the hotel will involve a new look created by interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, who oversaw the original design of the hotel when it opened in 2002 on the corner of Pall Mall. Rochon, who previously worked on London’s Savoy hotel, is mixing modern French luxury with British heritage in the design.
Kickstarting the transformation of the century-old property, originally built to accommodate travel company Cox’s & Company, will be the launch of Wild Honey St James, the new eaterie from chef Anthony Demetre, to replace Balcon.
The restaurant will be a reimagining of Wild Honey in Mayfair, which held a Michelin star from 2008 to 2016. Demetre is working with head chef Simon Woodrow to create a French-based, contemporary menu featuring British produce.
Dishes will include grilled asparagus, Coolea cheese, toasted yeast and buckwheat; roast saddle of rabbit and slow-cooked shoulder cottage pie; and classic English custard tart with golden sultanas, pine nuts and salted butter.
The first bedrooms to be completed will open in the summer, with the premier Opera suite launching at the end of the year.
Funding for the refurbishment was provided as part of a wider £45m package from Barclays’ Corporate Banking team in Scotland, which included the refinancing of an existing financial arrangement.
Located in 120 sites, Sofitel Hotels & Resorts is Accor’s original luxury brand among a portfolio of 34 brands. Accor’s total collection of properties numbers 4,800 across 100 countries.