24-hour Room Service: Pantone Hotel, Brussels
Wake up to the power of colour.
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 06 April 2012
The Belgian capital is one of the most rewarding continental cities: formidable cuisine, quirky culture and grand architecture provide enticing dimensions to any weekend break. The problem I have always had, though, is finding somewhere characterful to stay. The default weekend hotel room is Euro-corporate: tens of thousands of boring beds are dedicated to diplomats, politicians and lobbyists from Sunday to Thursday nights, leaving space for you and me on Fridays and Saturdays. Granted, you can get some excellent off-peak rates, but the overall experience feels somewhat beige.
Which is where the Pantone comes in. Avi and Ilan Haim, the brothers who own the world's first Pantone Hotel, brought in Michel Penneman, who also created the city's Thewhitehotel. Clearly, a designer with the spectrum at their disposal could wreak polychromatic mayhem, but Penneman, while celebrating the potential for both stimulation or sedation, has shown restraint – the details here are as important as the big splashes. Breakfast is more Impressionist than Technicolor, with flashes of sky blue, minty green and orange restricted to the serviettes.
The lobby – which doubles as a breakfast area – is visible through big picture windows that share the Pantone catalogue with the outside world. Yellow, lime green and turquoise "ball chairs" (comfortable shells) provide ideal seating to hatch plans for the day.
That this is more a budget hotel with attitude than full-service Eurocrat heaven is indicated by the modest number of staff, and the colour of the money you will need for a night. On Monday, you could book a double room for just €69. Get there before the world wakes up to the power of colour.
Berckmansstraat, part of a straggle of near-continuous roads running east from the Brussels Midi terminus, was previously a humdrum street tangential to the glorious core of the city. Today it has a spring in its step. The Pantone is just beyond the ring of boulevards that wraps around the inner city. Twenty minutes' walk will get you from Eurostar platform to Pantone. From Brussels National airport, a cab will whisk you to the hotel in about 25 minutes.
Most of your meanderings will take you north from here, across Waterloolaan, but Louise Metro station is a five-minute stroll away.
Close your eyes, and you will be back in Château Corporate: robust mattresses, restful cotton, double-glazing. But, with colours that change from the bottom floor to the top – from blue via green to red and bronze – guests are encouraged to pick the palette that suits their mood. Your team colour accompanies you from the lift to the room but, once inside, the colours are subdued – apart from a work of art above the bed that comprises a dramatic, blown-up photographic fragment of Brussels. Naturally, if you want to assess the shades outside your room, there is a flat-screen colour TV.
The bathrooms are as practical as they are colourful, inviting you to sing a rainbow in the shower.
Hotel Pantone, 1 Place Loix, 1060 Brussels, Belgium (00 32 2 541 48 98; pantonehotel.com)
Double rooms start at €69, excluding breakfast
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