Sometimes you need a chain hotel – you’re arriving late at night and you want a bit of room service so that you can quickly run through that presentation for the morning with some reliable (if often expensive) wi fi, while you quickly run an iron over your shirt. However where possible, we at Viewport try to stop at somewhere that is a bit less reliable (only in the sense that it is an unknown) but with a bit more character. While on a visit with a client to Brussels to recce out some venues for a possible event, we thought we would spend a couple of nights in town. A visit to the very sound website for “hip hideaways” (their words) i-escape.com and top of the list and easily within budget (rooms start at 117 Euros) came the newish (opened second half of last year) Hotel des Galeries. And it is the business. Absolutely chuffing loved it. It’s a small 23 room hotel bang in the centre of town, on the corner of the Rue des Bouchers (groan…trying to get down the street while avoiding restaurant touts is your main activity) and the beautiful mid 19th century Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, the glazed one hundred metre long elegant shopping arcade.
As you step into the narrow lobby off the street, you feel like you might be entering the reception area of a trendy publishing house or design company, with a fresh faced young person sitting behind a Mac at the desk. It certainly does not shriek hotel … And then armed with the key card, it’s straight up to that 3rd floor duplex suite (go on, stretch your budget, it is worth it). You’ve kind of got two sitting rooms – one on the landing and then one inside your room. Your bed is up the stairs on the top floor in the eaves. It’s all painted white and sage green with wooden floors. The design is great and not at all overdone – none of those daft luxe touches that you may find in an expensive chain hotel, and no mid-century modern clichés in sight. The bathroom has a huge bath tub and room for two in the shower (just in case you’re not here for business) and walls of trapezoidal Camille Flammarion tiles – she studied ceramics at the Royal College of Art in London. Of course, the Brucie bonus is the Malin and Goetz toiletries. Back downstairs in the morning, is a jolly decent breakfast – smoked salmon, fresh juices, yoghurts, amazing baguettes and jams. At lunctime and in the evenings, this is turned into a chic but very friendly restaurant serving pigeon, pigs trotter croquettes, artichokes stuffed with goats cheese and under the direction of Antwerp chef Julien Burlat (well not known to me, but some of you may have heard of him?). So although there is no room service, you don’t have to brave the Rue des Bouchers to get fed. Or just opposite is old school restaurant Taverne du Passage for a tasty Carbonnade de Boeuf. This is not the hotel if you want to hang out in a lobby and be seen, which of course is just one of the reasons why it’s pretty near perfect. I am just a bit surprised that it’s not quite a bit more expensive.