First impressions of Ibsens Hotel were mixed. After a long train journey, we arrived expecting to find a newly refurbished hotel. However, the façade was still tattered, complete with its name in bawdy red neon lights, recalling the run-down two-star joints you find in the insalubrious areas of any city. Then we were told the hotel was too busy to honour our confirmed booking for adjoining rooms for the children. Were we in the right place?
The hiccup over the rooms was quickly ironed out with little fuss, and the seemingly brusque front desk staff soon revealed themselves to be straight-talking and practical.
The unimproved early 20th-century frontage remains a puzzle, because the interior ticks most of the boxes you might associate with a stylish Scandinavian hotel: sharp lines, tasteful, moody lighting, and nifty pieces of art and photography hung from the walls.
What sets the hotel apart, though, is the thought that has gone into placing it within its local environment. Too often, smart hotels exist in their own bubble, wishing their local community away.
Not in this case. Ibsens Hotel is located just north of Norreport station, amid residential housing, cafés, bakeries and boutiques. Before settling on the final motif, the owners and interior designers scoured the vicinity, looking for local flavour and sourcing products from local suppliers.
The result is an eclectic collection of second-hand books, antique pots and key tags from the local seamstress, along with locally sourced furniture – a mix of contemporary and antique – and smart grey cotton curtains. In keeping with this agenda, the neon red light was purposely left in place – once you're inside it all starts to make sense. If only they'd find a plasterer to spruce up the façade.
Rooms are graded by size – tiny, small, large and suites. The tiny rooms – a bold marketing strategy in an industry that so often tries to "big" everything up – are aimed at the single traveller, but even these are well appointed, with cable television, desk and shower.
Large rooms and suites are spacious, partly because there are no cupboards – instead the beds are high enough to store suitcases underneath. Angular, coloured lamps and cream blinds leave a stylish imprint. Ask for a view of the street rather than the courtyard, where you can feel overlooked by other guest rooms. One irritation is that the designers have taken minimalism a step too far. No minibar or tea and coffee? Well, OK. But no glasses or toothbrush mugs? The clean-lined, streamlined design may have overstepped the mark here.
The food and drink
You can munch well at two restaurants, one Spanish, the other Italian. The former, Pinxtos, offers tapas and heartier main dishes in convivial surroundings; the latter, La Rocca, is upmarket, offering antipasti, pizzas, pasta and delicious puddings.
In early evening, the reception is transformed by candlelight into an inviting place for a glass of wine or beer. The open-plan design, which dog-legs around a long bar, leads to secluded comfy sofas and chairs and a collection of vinyl records and a turntable.
In the morning this area is transformed into the breakfast room. The food is enticing – rows of attractively presented glasses of yoghurt, topped with muesli and jam, and freshly made sandwiches with fillings of salmon, brie, Parma ham or vegetables. At weekends, it's offered until 11am.
Free Wi-Fi or a computer in the study, where you'll also find rows of travel books. For Dkr75 (£8.30) you can have all-day use of the neighbouring Helle Thorup spa.
There are steps from the street to reception, and while the rest of the building has level access, no rooms are specifically designed for wheelchair users. Children and small dogs welcome.
Doubles start at Dkr1,194 (£133), including breakfast.
Ibsens Hotel, Vendersgade 23, Copenhagen, Denmark (00 45 3313 1913; ibsenshotel.dk)