Hotel Review: Le Gray, Beirut in Lebanon
Those of you old enough to remember the seventies and eighties will probably associate the Lebanese capital with a dark time in its history when it was constantly being torn apart by civil war. These days, the biggest risk you’ll face there comes not from a sniper’s stray bullet but from being trod on by the heel of a Christian Louboutin shoe or hit in the face by a Louis Vuitton handbag swinging off the arm of some chic local.
Beirut is back, and this time its weapons of choice, in the fight for tourist dollars, are luxury and style. The mediterranean city has reinvented itself as a mecca of high-end design, fashion and quality dining. And nowhere better exemplifies the new aesthetic than CampbellGray’s flagship hotel, Le Gray, situated in the upmarket central district just off Martyr’s Square.
The surrounding warm sandstone buildings echo the sophisticated, discreet vibe of this newly regenerated quarter. The hotel’s exterior is quietly understated, in the way of all things truly stylish. Inside, vibrant but tasteful paintings and installations by both local and international artists vie for your attention with highly imaginative, contemporary floral arrangements (originally designed by Mark Siredzuk who is also responsible for the fabulous displays at One Aldwych in London).
Le Gray offers a choice of 87 spacious bedrooms and suites (increasing to 103 this spring) which range from 40 to 220 metres square, with interior design by Mary Fox Linton in close collaboration with Gordon Campbell Gray. I stayed in a generously appointed Deluxe Room which handily features built-in sockets for every kind of international plug, so you can leave your adaptor at home, plus a complimentary Nespresso machine and iPod docking station. The bed was big, deep and oh-so-inviting but it was the über-cool dark granite bathroom which I wanted to lock myself into and never ever leave. Dual wash-basins, an oversize bath with an LCD TV at one end plus a generous array of high quality complimentary toiletries already had me smiling with indulgent anticipation. But it was the enormous and powerful walk-in shower with its ability to miraculously blast away the effects of last night’s delve into Beirut’s famous nightlife that really delivered the “OMG” factor. A well tuned housekeeping service saw to it that I had fresh fruit and flowers every morning as well as a nightly “room refresh” which, as my stay coincided with Valentine’s Day, involved the sprinkling of rose petals on the bed and heart-shaped helium balloons floating across the ceiling.
Besides 24 hour room service, there are three dining choices at Le Gray. The more casual ’Gordon’s’ restaurant/café on the ground floor serves a health-conscious menu day and night; it also has pavement seating so you can admire the beautiful people of Beirut from behind designer sunglasses as they saunter by. Those preferring a view of the heated rooftop infinity pool can opt for the light dishes and snacks available at the ‘Pool Lounge’. ’Indigo on the Roof’, meanwhile, is the most elegant option whose indoor and outdoor terrace seating affords spectacular views of Beirut’s fascinating skyline. For Valentine’s night dinner, my girlfriend and I were seated at a corner table that looked out across the towering minarets and spires of the mosques and churches which compete for the devotions of the Lebanese faithful. It’s clear from a quick once-over of the clientele that ‘Indigo’ is very much a destination restaurant, popular with the city’s fashionable set who want to be seen enjoying the excellent seafood and steaks (as well as the signature dish, Tajima Wagyu beef) served by suave English-speaking staff.
For liquid refreshment, guests are spoilt for choice too. The ultra-hip ‘Bar Three-Sixty’ serves swish cocktails to achingly hip locals until well into the night, accompanied by sounds selected by the hotel’s DJ; whilst the ‘Cigar Lounge’ offers a quieter, more relaxed and mature atmosphere. A young and stylish party crowd favour ‘Cherry on the Rooftop’ as their pre-club venue with its vibrant colour scheme and live music on various nights throughout the week.
The PureGray Health Club and Spa downstairs features a fully-equipped gym, six treatment rooms (including one for couples) as well as a wet treatment room. There is also an in-house beauty salon with a resident hairstylist available for short-notice bookings.
Even on a rainy out-of-season February evening, as we checked out of the hotel and climbed into the hotel’s refined Audi A8 that would whisk us to the airport in a little under fifteen minutes, a steady stream of limousines and exotic sports cars was already queuing at the valet parking stand to discharge its cargo of Beirut’s great and good. There’s no mistaking that Le Gray has already cemented its position as the number one address to have when staying in Beirut. Once word spreads of Lebanon’s rightful resurgence as the “Paris of the Middle East”, this highly luxurious, well appointed and supremely stylish hotel will feature ever higher on the wish list of the international fashion and design cognoscenti.
Rates at Le Gray start from $345 (approx. £281) per night for a Deluxe Double Room excluding VAT at 10% including English breakfast.
Address: Le Gray, Martyrs’ Square, Beirut Central District, Lebanon / Tel: +961 (0)1 971 111 / legray.com